When I was a teenager, I became addicted to my old school paper datebook. I loved all of the columns, neat and full of “to do” lists and activities. I adored the weight of it, and the way the different sections were all color-coded and orderly. I remember opening it in math class, when the lecture was too boring to follow, and just staring at all that I had done and would do. For a girl with control issues, the datebook was a dream. I could lay my life out on paper and force it to make sense.
My favorite days were the days full of multi-colored ink. I felt industrious and accomplished, and yes, at 15, looking at all of the drama class rehearsals and after-school clubs, I felt pretty popular. All of those columns and dates covered in my girlish handwriting were proof to my eyes of my involvement with other people. When I had a full day, I wasn’t invisible.
My datebook is now electronic, but the feeling of accomplishment is still there for me when I see a day full of meetings. I still love seeing an orderly progression toward the elusive state called “Done.” My inner teenager adores the days when I have networking events that involve seeing the other “kids” in the small, cliquish world in which I do business. I dress up, put on my lipstick, and charm my way through the room – all the while setting up more appointments for other days.
A day full of meetings and appointments leads to a night when my brain finally stops the hamster wheel and allows me a true rest. On those days, I have proof that I have done enough.
After all of these years, I am an expert at making my professional life fit into those hourly boxes. I can prepare for the meetings in advance because I can see what I am going to need to do or say or take with me. Most importantly, as I move from one meeting to the next, I can prepare my mind. I know just what to do to make the most of that time. When I set my mind on a goal, I rarely fail.
I realized today that I haven’t applied this technique to my writing life. I haven’t made writing a priority. Unless it occurs as part of a meeting with other writers, writing rarely ends up on the list of things that must be accomplished that day. I allow myself to make excuses, to put off the very thing I most want to do until it is more convenient, or until I am feeling inspired. When I do sit down to write, I often flounder as I try to figure out where I’m going with my plot. I didn’t take the time to prepare for my meeting with the blank page. In those moments, it is clear that simply showing up isn’t enough for me.
Until today, I didn’t really connect how my datebook and to-do lists inspire me. As much as I would love to be the sort of artist who easily works outside the box and colors outside the lines, I know that I am not that person. My idea of heaven has always involved office supplies, a good filing system, and a full calendar. I like order, and I need to make that work for my writing.
So tonight, I’m adding writing to my to-do list. It’s going right in there with all of the other meetings and appointments I can’t cancel. I’m going to have to schedule time to prepare for what I want to say. Making time now to write is a commitment to the writer I want to be now, and to the writer I wanted to be when I first started filling up datebooks in high school. These appointments are among the most important I can put on my calendar.
I may even change all of the font colors to make them pop.