Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Today, Tonight, Tomorrow

I've got a lot on my mind these days. Running my own business is not really "hard work" (I've been fortunate that way) but it is, for lack of a better word, "worrying". There are lots of things to think about, lots of small things that need to get done. So I've been making to-do lists of these little things recently, which has been an interesting experience.

My lists are not very sophisticated. I just jot things down on a piece of paper and look at that piece of paper when I begin the working day at 8:00 am. Then, when I'm not writing, or editing, or talking on the phone to my authors, I do things on the list, crossing items out as I go. I mark things that have to get done the same day, but most things can also be left for the next day. As the end of the working day approaches, "doing something" just means moving it to tomorrow's list.

One of the reasons I'm doing it this way is to let me relax in the evening. Why worry tonight about what you have put off till tomorrow? It's a nice slogan. (You haven't really "put it off", of course; you've just planned to do it later.) As with writing, it's important in all things to be freed from worrying about things you are not working on at the moment. But some people find that they can only stop thinking about one thing if they're doing another. And that can be a problem in the evening, when they're actually too tired to do anything.

The standard remedy, I expect, is to watch television. It is a way of "occupying" an otherwise worried mind. The problem, of course, is that as soon as the TV is off, the worries return. And now you can't sleep. Again, just as in writing, you need to learn to trust yourself to do tomorrow the things you're worried about tonight. Just as a writer cannot experience every moment of not writing as a lack progress on their text, so too should we not experience every moment that we're not sending or paying a bill, booking a flight, setting up our email accounts, as a lack of productive work. Every body needs simply to be able to rest.

So, at the end of the day, before I pick up my daughter to take her to the skating rink and go for my own daily swim, I make a quick list of things to do tomorrow. I resolve to try to get them done then, i.e., tomorrow, not tonight. I find the swim to be more enjoyable. I'm better company for my child. My dinner tastes better. And if I do find myself watching TV, well, even that's more enjoyable too. And, yes, I also sleep better.


fjb said...

"...a writer cannot experience every moment of not writing as a lack progress on their text..." I don't think I've ever seen such an anxiety-easing formulation of something that is obviously, even trivially true. Thank you.

Thomas said...

You're welcome. Wittgenstein said that philosophy is really just a set of reminders. If my reminders also ease anxiety, that's great.