Brain weasels and cosmic two-by-fours

Recently I’ve been struggling with what my friend Lisa calls “brain weasels”: those insidious negative thoughts that chew on your brain and make it near-impossible to feel good about yourself or (in my case, at least) get anything done.

Because I’m an idiot sometimes (I’m saying that in an affectionate way, mind you, not in a brain weasely way), I occasionally forget what works for me and stop doing it. For example, I’ve been reading Julia Cameron for years, but only in the last year or so actually tried doing morning pages, and they did help focus my goals and intentions for the day. Then I stopped. Why? I have no freaking clue.

A few days ago I started a new habit, which is to read a book on writing or creativity or some other nonfiction in that vein, while I eat breakfast. This has so many advantages over watching HGTV or reading fiction* or a random magazine, I can’t even begin.

I’ve been dipping in and out of an amazing book for writers and other creative types who want to make a living at their art for some time: Managing Your Inner Artist/Writer, by my friend Matt Buchman (he writes award-winning romance and teaches on many subjects). In it, Matt talks about setting goals (as opposed to having dreams, which are also important but not in your direct control). I’ve written down my goals (and dreams) before, but this morning I realized it was a good time to do it again.

Cosmic Two-by-Four #1: Writing things down makes them real. I know this about To Do lists, but forgot it when it comes to really thinking through what I want and need to do, and making that intent real but writing it down.

I wrote down both goals and dreams (and moved some goals to dreams because I realized I wasn’t quantifying them properly, although that was because I’m already in the middle of doing them). The goals are do-able if I apply myself. Some of the dreams are pretty achievable if I stick to my goals; some of them are outrageous ones that hell, could happen, but certainly not if I don’t apply myself, and even if I do. But if you don’t dream it, I believe you’ll never achieve it.

And then, for some reason, I got hit with the second revelation, which was powerful enough that I grabbed a second sheet of paper because it needed to stand on its own.

Cosmic Two-by-Four #2: Every time you compare yourself to someone else and feel like a fraud**, remember that there are people who look up to you and are trying to get to your level. Be the person they think you are.

Despite my revelations, I’ve still been pharting around this morning, so I’m’a gonna post this and actually look at getting some work done. You know, those there goals!

*Reading fiction is essential for writers. But reading fiction first thing in the morning for me results in hours lost in the book. If I look up, blinking in confusion at the real world, four hours later, that’s…not the kind of productive day I was planning to have.

**This was the first time I identified my feelings of inadequacy as feeling like a fraud. Possibly this is Cosmic Two-by-Four #3—and it’s definitely something I need to consider further.