First things first – then what?

See? No beard.

A Guest Post by Adrienne Caughfield

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will quickly recognize that I am not Brian. (I’m sure my lack of a beard gave this away – not to mention the fact that I am female.) He is taking a well-deserved vacation and has asked me to step in on his behalf. Because he’s a friend and I’m an incurable ham, I was happy to help out.

Like the other contributors to While We’re Paused, I have a rich fantasy world that demands expression.  So far, however, I haven’t contributed either to the blog, or the new e-zine, or anything else. Part of that is reticence at revealing my work to an unknown audience. But the main problem I have is simply that my writing remains unfinished.  Although I occasionally take my imaginary friends out to play, for the most part they paddle aimlessly in the murky mental pool at the back of my brain.

This is because, quite frankly, I am a busy woman. Several different tasks and identities spar for my attention at any given moment in a day.  For instance, above all else, I have a responsibility to function as a Christian. That is an inflexible part of my existence, but it encompasses pretty much everything else, so it takes less time than one would think. (Or all my time, depending on how you look at it.) After that, I have a household to maintain, a husband to nurture, and two sweet but demanding children to raise. (If there are any other kinds of children, I have yet to meet them.)  Next in line is my part-time teaching gig, which still seems to demand full-time devotion. Then come the lesser priorities, which wrestle for my time: creating new lectures for some distant semester, my attempts at satisfying the twin academic demons of Publish and Perish, and at long last finishing the fantasy novel(s) I started well over twenty years ago.

How does one budget time for all these ventures? That’s a good question, and I’m sure that somewhere out there lies an answer. However, my main concern lately is how to stop knocking at the windmills of my own creation so that I can tackle something more substantive.

Example: the children are tucked away in bed, dreaming of rainbow-colored unicorns. I have two, maybe three, precious hours of time to myself. So what do I do with it? Write the next thrilling installment? No; I can hear the low chuckle of a smear of grape jelly on the kitchen counter, threatening to become the next Blob. I don’t have Steve McQueen around to take care of it for me, so I go downstairs to finish off the intruder with an enthusiasm expressed by those who have far more important things to avoid. By the time I’m finished, I can no longer see straight and the only thing I really want to study with any intensity is my own pillow.

My attempts at productivity during the day aren’t much better. On days I don’t teach, my youngest daughter is also out of preschool. For some reason, she persistently assumes that my primary responsibility is for her upkeep. The day’s events include myriad trips to the potty, making macaroni and cheese, changing outfits after eating said mac and cheese, opening several containers of play dough, scraping play dough out of the carpet fibers in the living room, and having a tea party with some hydrocephalic purple mongoose from her My Happiest Pet Shoppe collection.

Obviously I have issues.

It would be easy for me to complain that there are simply not enough hours in the day to do all I want, but since every other human on the planet has as many hours as I do, the complaint seems disingenuous. What it all seems to come down to is that question of priorities. What is truly important? The Big Things (faith, family, work) I have nailed down. The problem is the little stuff – and, ultimately, my own writing is frequently tossed into the “little stuff” pile. The problem is that it is just as easy for me to consider checking Facebook as being of equal value in that pile as finishing another chapter. (And usually such inane pursuits prove to be of even greater value, given the amount of time I read Facebook rather compared to anything else.)

From this point, I think any number of possible solutions could be correct. For example, I could put together a lecture one day, work on my ongoing

Well this would up the stakes a little....

biographical project the next, and explore the vast purple grasslands in my mind on the third. But I must discipline myself to do so. No excuses.

And that’s what it truly comes down to. So many people with dreams of becoming a writer – or anything else – are derailed by a lack of discipline. Writing, like anything else worth doing, takes work. It is a job and must be treated as such. Otherwise, the aspiring author ends up doing exactly what I do: striving to complete the advanced level on Minesweeper. It’s good mental candy, but hardly as satisfying as work well done, and of ephemeral worth.

This is something that has gnawed at me for a while now. For that reason, I’m grateful to Brian for taking some time off. Putting all of this in print provides some accountability; it’s harder to excuse sloth when I know others will soon be asking what I’ve written lately. This column is like my first twelve-step meeting. My name is Adrienne, and I am a procrastinator. My comfort lies in the fact that I might encourage those who suffer from the same disease. That, or else others can take their comfort in the fact that I’m less organized than they are. Either way, I have served a purpose.

Here’s hoping that I have more to share soon. I think my imaginary friends are calling.