Random header image... Refresh for more!

Clearing the Decks


Ah the fine art of self-sabotage that some of us (cough, cough) are known to practice so diligently as to become masters. I myself am particularly adept at one excellent self-sabotaging strategy, the “I’ll just clear the decks” approach. (Explained, along with other excellent self-sabotaging behaviors, in The Write Path.)

Let’s say you have some important creative work to do. For example: A book. A book you care deeply about. A book that is the most challenging work you’ve ever done. It is hard. I mean: It is hard. The molding of it, the shaping of it, the finding a way through the experience, the writing into a place of knowing. It is so hard that one plots ways not to work as one simultaneously proclaims (to oneself) passion and commitment for the work. (And by “one” I mean me.)

Thus the “I’ll just clear the decks” approach.

I’ll get serious, I’ll buckle down, I’ll really start to work once I take care of all the little stuff that’s currently cluttering the “decks.” For example: Those 30 pounds of peaches we picked this weekend that need to be skinned, pitted, sliced and freezer-bagged. The peach-juicy counters that now need to be cleaned. Which makes the OTHER counters look bad by comparison, so, yeah, those. And the floor. Better put a load of laundry in. While I’m at it, I might as well strip the bed and change the bed linen. I need to make that appointment with the dental hygienist. And take a picture of those weird cucumbers I just went out into the garden to pick so I can post in instagram. And then look at what others have posted. And check my newsfeeds for the latest Trump catastrophe. Read the latest WaPo story. I’ll just scan the first few dozen comments. And now, gee, it’s 3 pm, and I can’t start in on serious work this late.

Thus concludes a successful day at self-sabotage.

(Sound of reveille) Good morning! Those decks I cleared yesterday so I could jump in and write today? Wouldn’t you know it, they’re cluttered again.

But right now, this very moment, as soon as I post this on my blog, I AM GOING TO WORK.


1 Sharleen Nelson { 08.16.17 at 6:06 pm }

This is all so painfully familiar. But I guess the upside to my self-sabotaging is powering through all those pesky chores.

2 Lauren { 08.16.17 at 6:14 pm }

Yup. Back when I first started writing, I had a “vintage” refrigerator with no ice defrost in the freezer. Defrosting was my go-to activity when I was trying to avoid writing.

3 Theresa { 08.16.17 at 6:19 pm }

Are you a mind reader?!? Goodness, this is me to a T!

4 Lauren { 08.16.17 at 6:21 pm }

I am channeling our collective behavior, Theresa!

5 Dean { 08.16.17 at 6:43 pm }

At least you don’t have a class to teach.

6 Lauren { 08.16.17 at 10:22 pm }

Ah, but I do, Dean. I no longer teach at UO but I teach at UW, in Portland and in Europe.

7 Ruth { 08.16.17 at 7:04 pm }

The teaching life. This is often my approach to grading. When viewed a certain way, I guess that grading is a creative endeavor (thoughtful, helpful, encouraging comments take creative juice). It is certainly never a ‘clear the decks’ action. sigh.

8 Lauren { 08.16.17 at 10:24 pm }

As a teacher myself, I must admit this is also my approach to grading.

9 Lauren { 08.17.17 at 5:25 pm }

If I could write the sound of this post resonating like a gong in my all-too-easily distracted writing brain, I would. I also avoid writing by reading about other writers’ writing routines. Up at 5! Write until noon! No interruptions! Sigh. Must be nice. Impossible, but nice.

10 Lauren { 08.17.17 at 5:41 pm }

Ooh. Reading about how other writers write as a way to avoid writing. I like it! Of course, somehow you managed to write a WONDERFUL book, Lauren, so I guess you work sometime…

11 Colleen { 08.19.17 at 2:38 pm }

So familiar! I have a room full of UFOs (unfinished objects, in “quilt-ese”) and finally have told myself I must finish one old project before I can start a new one. That worked for exactly one object. There are just so many beautiful new projects that must be started one after another! On the plus side, all those pieced tops that need to be quilted and bound do look pretty sitting on the shelf…

12 Lauren { 08.21.17 at 2:56 am }

UFOs! I love it. This must be why you like the “discipline” of those quilting retreats.

13 Colleen { 08.23.17 at 9:05 pm }

that and the wine 🙂

Leave a Comment