Yesterday was the first official day of Finishing Blitz. Bolstered by the massive success of the Great ClutterBust, I created Finishing Blitz on the suspicion that I’d be blown away be what I accomplished by the end of the week program.
What I did not expect was to be blown away on the first day.
I’m still wrapping my head around it.
The day before yesterday was my “trial run” day, from which I learned a lot and resolved to make some adjustments to my morning routine in order to make the 9:00am check-in call without carrying my half-
eaten bolted-down breakfast in tow. Sure enough, with said adjustments, I reported at my desk promptly at 9:00am yesterday for a short-but-lively first work session check-in call with several other enthusiastic Finishing Blitzers, and spent the rest of the two hour session working on my book.
(And yes, you can still join us if you want.)
It’s been over a year since I touched the manuscript, so “working on my book” translated mostly to simply getting reacquainted with it: reading through the first 15,000 words or so, making some light edits, revisiting the chapter outline, and basically assessing where I am in the project. I was pleased to find that, although I’m definitely in want of a good editor (referrals welcome!), and there’s still a lot of work in front of me, things perhaps aren’t as chaotic as I’d previously thought.
This buoyed my spirits, but the best part was simply noticing the shift in mindset that’s happened as a result of committing to these daily morning work sessions — a shift that is nothing short of miraculous.
As background, let me explain that my whole life I’ve been resistant to schedules.
Back in my obsessive-teen-dancer days, my time was quite rigidly structured around daily dance classes (usually twice-daily or more, in fact). This is a physical requirement if one wants to achieve and maintain the strength, flexibility, and sheer facility required to perform at a high level. A common saying in the dance world is, “Skip a day and you know it; skip two days and your teacher knows it; skip three days and everyone knows it.”
After an injury sidelined me from my planned dance career, however, being free from this kind of enforced schedule felt like a sort of miraculous gift — my consolation prize for not being able to dance. I’ve bristled at putting constraints on my schedule ever since.
Yesterday, though, I had a paradigm shift.
When I was planning Finishing Blitz, the idea of committing to 9:00-11:00am work sessions six days a week sent a thrill of panic down my spine.
What was I thinking?? Could I actually do this?? Was I going to deeply regret this crazy idea??
I thought about the job I had teaching nursery school after college, in which I was required to drive a half hour in traffic to clock in at 8:00am, Monday through Friday. I loved working with kids, I loved the school, and the other faculty and staff were wonderful, but oh, how I hated having to be there at 8:00! I learned my lesson that year, and in the two-plus decades following I’ve become quite intentional about structuring my life to avoid alarm clocks unless I have to catch a plane (and even then, only when absolutely necessary).
Yesterday, though, I found myself actually looking forward to my “enforced check-in”! In fact, I felt almost giddy! It reminded me of my dating years, and the anticipation I’d feel before going on a date.
*Bing!* That’s it!
“I have a date with my book!” I thought to myself.
In a flash, what had previously felt like a cage, suddenly felt like a gift.
My morning work sessions, far from being a horrible burden, are my date with my art! They are my date with my muse, my date with my dreams.
That chunk of time in the morning is not some kind of punishment (as those 8:00am clock-ins at the nursery school sometimes felt); it is my gift to myself.
Suddenly I understood Steven Pressfield’s concept of “turning pro” like I never had before.
I’d first encountered this concept in Pressfield’s best-selling book, The War of Art (highly recommended). What is “turning pro”? Here’s how Pressfield described it in this interview on LateralAction.com (and btw, I just discovered he has an entire book about the concept, titled [wait for it…], Turning Pro, which I ordered on Amazon just now):
Turning pro is a state of mind; it’s a mental shift from the weekend-warrior attitude of an amateur to the hard-core self-discipline of a professional.
My friend Cathy took up golf at thirty-three. She was absolutely terrible. But she loved the game. One day she said to me, “Steve, I have just turned pro. I mean my attitude toward the game. I may still suck, but every time I go out there, I’m going to dress like a pro, think like a pro, practice like a pro and play like a pro. I will not let myself get away with any excuses or give anything but all I’ve got. I’m a freakin’ pro, baby!”
Within a year, she was a five-handicapper.
“Yeah, yeah,” I always thought, “But I’m an artist. I must be free! I can’t be tied down!”
Then yesterday, after just two days of two-hour work sessions, I finally got it. I thought with regret about the years and years in which, devoid of a regular work session commitment, I let my time flow down the drain into activities that felt important in the moment, but left me with nothing to show for it.
I mourned for all the articles and books I could have written, but didn’t; the art I could have made, but didn’t; the songs I could have composed, but didn’t. So sad! So tragic!
Then I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and turned my gaze in front of me.
Instead of focusing on all that I didn’t accomplish in the past, I thought about what could be possible for me in the future.
With a consistent, sustainable practice, it doesn’t matter if I finish the draft of my book by the end of Finishing Blitz, because I know the book will. Get. Done.
Still, life has a way of throwing monkey wrenches into the works. Last night I was struck with a terrible case of insomnia, achieving no more than four hours of sleep altogether.
I’m exhausted. I seriously considered “calling in sick” to my new “job,” heading straight back to bed after the 9:00am check-in, and committing to putting in 2 hours later in the day after I’d (hopefully) gotten more sleep.
It almost happened, but I was so fired up to write this blog post that I chose to do that instead. Realistically, if I had gone back to bed, I probably would have had a hard time sleeping, thanks to the ideas buzzing around in my brain, and the heavy feeling of work-not-yet-done weighing on me.
And thankfully, Recent Past Me was smart enough to create Finishing Blitz, thereby building in an “enforced check-in” that other people are counting on me to host.
External accountability, baby! It ROCKS!
Without that 9:00am check-in call on the Official Schedule, I’m afraid bed would have won. Instead, I wrote over 1,600 words, and will probably sleep a whole lot better when I take my nap later (which I am hereby publicly committing to do!)
But that’s not all! It gets better!
Confession: I put a disclaimer on the Finishing Blitz sales page that the times for my work sessions are subject to change. I seriously thought I might want to push it back by an hour to make the sessions run from 10:00am-12:00pm, instead of 9:00am-11:00am, so I left open that possibility.
In fact, after just two days I have decided to change my work session times. To my utter astonishment and delight, however, I’ve decided not to make the sessions start later, but instead to make them run longer: starting tomorrow my sessions will be three hours, from 9:00am-12:00pm!
Last month I transformed my identity from Person With An Embarrassingly Messy Studio/Hopeless Slob, to Person With A Spacious, Relatively-Uncluttered Studio, On Its Way To Becoming A Beautiful Studio.
This week I transformed my identity from Person Who Can’t Quite Commit To A Regular Schedule And Struggles With Time-Management to Pro.
I hereby declare May 1, 2014 as the day I turned pro. I may still suck, but I am showing up to do the work like a pro. I will not let myself get away with any excuses or give anything but all I’ve got.
(And thank god for Finishing Blitz, to help keep me true to my commitment for the next month and a half!)
PS – Yes, you can still join Finishing Blitz if you like. And yes, it’s truly Name Your Own Price.
PPS – Do not fear offending me if your funds are limited. I’m still kicking myself for the Name Your Own Price opportunities I didn’t take when my funds were tight, out of fear of offending the offerer… only to discover later that plenty of people paid less than the number I was so afraid would offend. If you want to join us, join us — I’ll welcome you with open arms and authentic thanks.
(Think about it: any payment you offer is more than I would have earned if you didn’t register at all!)
Click here to join the most loving, supportive, enthusiastic bunch ever, and finally get stuff DONE and/or start that creative practice you’ve been longing for.
PPPS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
What a wonderful blog, Melissa. You continue to inspire me with your growth. I just got back from a marvelous five days in Atlanta, and I am ready to join you. Count me in on Finishing Blitz.
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Ah, yay, Jenni! Welcome back, and I’m so glad you joined us! 🙂
Christina Nelson says
Ever since I started working from home – with a flexible schedule no less – I find it very difficult to get out of bed. I have gotten MUCH better to either working or making art when I do get upstairs…And my commitment to my Morning Productivity Hour (a schedule of chores I HAVE to do before starting the day has been pretty consistent (she says with stuff in the dryer and an unmade bed) But you are absolutely right. I need the discipline of a TIME on the clock. Tomorrow. Promise.
Melissa Dinwiddie says
It’s amazing how liberating it feels to tie myself to a regular work schedule! Having that time “container” makes me feel safer, too, as I know I’ll get back to my work project each day. 🙂
Thank you for this, Melissa! In all honesty, I didn’t sign up at first because funds are so tight this month and I didn’t want to insult you. But everything you wrote spoke and applied to me, so I’m in! Can’t wait to start.
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Oh, yay! I’m so glad it worked out, Debra! 🙂
Charmaine Diedericks says
Can so relate to this post Melissa. I have a huge resistance to any form of schedule or control, that’s why I hate working for someone. I think it stems from the fact that I was totally over-controlled as a child and even as an adult! Can’t even get myself to bath at the same time every night! Still a long way to go for me on this one!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Baby steps, Charmaine. Believe me, much as I wish I could have gotten to this place years ago, it just wasn’t going to happen until I was ready. It’s been countless baby steps to get me here. 🙂
And always, my Rule for Everything is: Whatever works [for YOU] is right! 🙂
I so needed this, the whole paradigm shift of turning pro. With a failed business in my past, I have been so overwhelmed by all the information out there on starting an online business. It has kept me prisoner, and kept me from making the last final tweets to launch. I am a pro. Suit up and show up. Every day. The finishing blitz sounds awesome but with money nonexistent as opposed to limited I shall be out this time. But soon….. Thanks for being a bright spot in my inbox.
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Yay Karen! I’m glad this article was helpful. 🙂
Good luck on the launch!! If you get a few bucks together between now and June 11, feel free to hop into Finishing Blitz anytime. 🙂