Getting ready to get ready is that thing people sometimes do, when we really want to do X, but we build it up in our heads that before we can begin, we must first do A through W.
Usually when I find myself getting ready to get ready, it’s because X is something big and important and daunting. So I make plans to do X, I try to figure out a really good methodology for accomplishing X, I even buy some X-related things … all of which are pretty good delay tactics for never actually doing X.
X might be a lot of different things. It might be exercising, in which case you might read a lot about different exercise regimens and maybe even buy some equipment … without ever exercising. Or it might be meditating, in which case you might read a lot about meditating and buy a nice cushion and a shawl and some guided meditation CDs … again without any meditation taking place.
In my case, I’ve been getting ready to get ready to write my next book for more than a year now. My first book, Be Less Crazy About Your Body, was honestly pretty easy to write, because I knew what I wanted to say: we've been conditioned to be obsessed with how we look, to actually hate our bodies, and there’s no rational reason for it, and it’s hurting us so badly … so here are some things we do to shift the pattern.
The intro for that book basically sprang complete from my head one afternoon, and though I did put a lot of effort into writing the book, it was mostly about shaping, editing, and adding more 30 Rock references. Challenging, but fast, and also super fun.
This next book, though -- Be Less Crazy About Love? Well, it takes a bit more ‘splainin. My goal is to help women understand how we have been brainwashed into being obsessed with love and thinking that our lives are incomplete and we are worthless without it. Which leads us to settle for pale imitations of love, spin our wheels in terrible relationships, and tap-dance our asses off trying to make bad things workable. All of which is painful as hell and also a colossal waste of our time, talent, and energy.
And, like being obsessed how we look, it’s just not necessary at this point in human history. We can make love a force for good in our lives just by changing the way we think about it, de-prioritizing it a tiny bit, learning to see it as a part of life, not the point of life.
This message is a harder sell. Everyone can get behind the idea that hating your body is irrational, hurtful, and self-limiting … but there are a number of people who can’t or maybe don’t want to see how being hyper-focused on romantic love is just as bad an idea. Even just sharing my thoughts on this with a few of my friends, I’ve encountered some surprisingly strong resistance.
But it’s also not like love is always terrible and useless, the way that body-based self-hatred is. Sometimes our beliefs about love and the way we participate in it come together in a way that royally fucks us, but sometimes it's truly wonderful, too. So it’s not like the answer is just to shut off the love valve. It’s like the difference between alcoholism and compulsive overeating. Both are complex, but you can give up alcohol entirely, while you are gonna always hafta eat. Having a shitty body image is painful and unnecessary, full stop. But not so love. You have to sift through it with a finer comb.
Anyway … yeah. It’s complicated. And I’m spending a lot of time not really making progress on any writing that will end up in the book, but more just trying to figure out what to say and in what order. It’s hard in a way that writing has rarely ever been for me. Hence: procrastination. Distraction. Getting ready to get ready.
What does that look like for me? It’s kind of funny …
- I make a lot of Platonic Ideal Schedules where I’m meant to get up at 5 am, meditate and yogafy myself till 6, then write until it’s time to go to work. This, of course, sets me up so that if I don’t get up at 5 am any particular day, I’m screwed. Also, if I’d have executed this plan half as many times as I wrote it down in my journal, I might be on book three by now.
- I spend a lot of time thinking about whether I should write on the computer or freehand. Google Drive or Scrivener? In my regular journal or in a dedicated notebook? Outlines? Mind maps? Index cards? I can spend a hilarious amount of time debating this methodological approach stuff with myself.
- I moan to my friends about how impossible it is to get into a good routine when I’m traveling a bunch for work, or when work is really busy, or around the holidays, or when it’s cold outside, or when I’m premenstrual, or or or.
- I debate whether I need to figure out a way to get a month off so I can go back to Costa Rica and have a big chunk of time to focus on writing this book and nothing else. This is typically followed by daydreams about swaying gently in my hammock on a deserted beach and how amazing it is to snorkel over a giant coral reef and the magical quality of the Costa Rican butterfly population.
So … I’ve set it up in my head that unless I get up before dawn and have a perfect routine and an optimal technical setup and at least an entire month to focus, I’m never going to be able to write this book.
And it’s so, so stupid … because obviously there will never be a routine that I can hold to perfectly. There will always be busy times at work and business trips and shiny new notebooks and software and workflows to try. But all of that is 100% tangential to the basic task I need to achieve which is just fucking sit down and write this book that my heart tells me is important to write. Even if it’s painful, even I’m not perfectly ready. Because, really, there’s no such thing, right?
So, instead of trying to figure out when I can write, I'm going to just write whenever I can. On airplanes, in hotels, first thing in the morning instead of cuddling up with the internet. Not everything I come up with will be decent or useful, but some of it is bound to be, right? Law of averages.
And how about you? Are you getting ready to get ready to do something important? What would a real step forward look like? Can you take it today? Do tell!