The Purge Challenge

Year of the Goat? Bah, more like the Year of Get Shit Done, at least in theory. From the goal setting summit of November the year ahead looked clear and easy thanks to that NaNoWriMomentum, but by the holidays I had started coasting. I wasn’t hitting my write everyday goal and my 3:30am work habit melted to a passive hobby. The little rewards that I gave myself for completing a morning writing session started happening in anticipation of the writing: Twitter time, reading (endless) writing blogs, general cyber wandering. All those time sinks that I granted post-writ started happening pre-write. Oh, I made good excuses for why I deserved them, but like most excuses they were bullshit.

An odd thing was happening though, I felt like a writer. Even though I wrote very little. That writerly feeling kept me going through my slowdown and consciously, for the most part, I told myself this was part of the process buddy! It isn’t. It wasn’t. The only part of the process it belonged to was the not being a writer process. Yet there I was feeling engaged and writerly just by reading blogs, following author convos on Twitter (even subtweets), but doing little actual writing.

After a few weeks I had to admit, I wasn’t getting shit done. That wiped out the writerly feelings and left me wondering about the power of my delusions. I ignored that question and focused on the practical problem, why did I feel like a hardworking writer when I wasn’t.

I had followed a twitter convo between authors about the Ditch Diggers podcast and went looking to see if that post was live. It wasn’t. However, episode 2 was so I gave it a listen and a big ol’ knowledge bomb went off. At about 40 minutes in Matt Wallace starts railing against communities and certain members of communities. He says, “…they want the perception of it. The experience of feeling like a creative person who does this but they are not actually pursuing it because they have this awesome synthetic substitute for it. As long as they can get their community fix they don’t need anything else.” Bing-bam-damn! That explains all the bullshit writerly feelings. I had fallen for the “synthetic substitute” of being a writer.

That evening and the next day I was still rolling this around in my head thinking about what to do when Medium, my good pal, linked me to The Purge: What happens when you unfollow everyone on the Internet by Helena Price. Her story is a powerful read about breaking free from compulsive behaviors that erode our productivity. One of my favorite bits, “I found myself checking my empty feeds out of habit.” Holy shit! This was connecting dots and patterns for me. It made me think of all the times I sat on Twitter aimlessly swiping down like some slot-junky at a casino. Swipe down noise-and-lights nothing good. Swipe again noise-and-lights… repeat until I hit that jackpot of a sweet tweet and then I’ll stop… right after just one more swipe.

That habit exhausted me, usually because I partook when I had downtime. But if this is the Year of Get Shit Done, even my downtime needs to be productive. In her post Helen details all the productivity gained with her unfollow experiment (go read the results they are astounding) and I thought why not give it a try. Only three days into The Purge Challenge and it has been a huge help. I’m reading more, getting more done around the house and best of all writing again. I broke out the first act of Remainders and finished three essays. This post was written on my iPhone as Michelle walked Felix to Sleepyland. That used to be Twitter primetime. Now it’s Get Shit Done time.

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