A weird side effect of working ahead

I’ve noticed this in the newspaper business, where you’re always working on tomorrow’s paper. Sometimes I have to keep reminding myself it’s not tomorrow already.

After I’ve spent a whole day reading or writing “today” on stories that will appear Wednesday, and after awhile I start thinking it’s Wednesday already. I need to reassure myself that no, I didn’t miss that appointment I had at 4 p.m. Tuesday, because it’s still 2:30 and I have 90 minutes to get there, I’m not almost 23 hours late.

And now, working on a story I plan to release in March, I’ve started catching myself thinking that it’s February already. Fascinating.

I’m trying to work ahead so that the next Myke Phoenix story is finished (at minimum in draft form) when the new one is released. I completed Night of the Superstorm on the day before I released Invasion of the Body Borrowers. Now I’m working through Duck Man Walking, which debuts March 3.

People who write about setting goals often will say that it’s beneficial to envision yourself as already successful. What does success look like? Set your mind and grow into that vision. I’m finding that if I set I mind thoroughly enough while you work ahead, you need to extract yourself from that vision to get back to real life.

Because the story that comes out Feb. 3 is finished, I have to keep reminding my mind that it’s still late January. I find myself thinking I missed Valentine’s Day, but it’s still weeks off. It’s the “tomorrow is today” syndrome played out over a span of weeks instead of hours.

I suspect that’s a beneficial side effect of having a deadline – beneficial because when the task must be done by a certain time, a sense of urgency builds up. This common phenomenon first rears its head in school – try pulling an all-nighter for a project that’s due in a week; it’s a lot harder than pulling one the night before the deadline.

It’s important to stay in the moment and remember to live today fully, but dipping a toe into the future can help make the next moments more focused.


Lessons from our pooches in living life to its fullest

Willow The Best Dog There Is™

My friend Wally Conger writes about his furry friend Cheyenne’s unceasing enthusiasm for eating the same kibble every day for years.

I think if we pay attention, our canine companions teach us many things about making the most of our finite time on this planet.

Wally had one of those a-ha moments while preparing the meal for Cheyenne the other day:

Don’t you wish you could harness her kind of passionate eagerness for each day?

Because as someone whose name I’m too lazy to look up once pointed out, expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles.

Even the little day-to-day stuff you take for granted can bring inspiration and opportunity.

Read the whole post here.

TANSTAMT: There Ain’t No Such Thing As Multi-Tasking

I heard someone say the other day there’s no such thing as multi-tasking.

What this phenomenon is – “doing several things at once” – is really a constant shifting of attention from one project to another. One moment this item has your full attention, and the next moment that item has your full attention, and the moment after that an entirely different item is on your radar screen. Then you rotate around and this item has your full attention again, then that item and the entirely different item, and so on.

But is it your full attention? It takes a while to get into a rhythm on any task. Do you really get fully into that rhythm before you stop abruptly and work on something else? Would you be better served by focusing entirely on the first item until it is completely addressed, then moving on to the second one, and then the third?

Because you don’t have the time taken in the constant start-and-stop of momentum to deal with, perhaps it would be more efficient to “single task” the to-do list. Allot time to each of the tasks, but work them one at a time rather than “all at once.” The way the brain works, you’re really doing them all one at a time anyway, but with a scattered focus.

I suspect Curly in City Slickers had it right: The ultimate secret is: “One thing. Just one thing.”

10 good questions

• What will you do with the time that’s left?

• Why are you here?

• What is the best use of your gifts?

• How can you make the world a better place?

• How can you make your life a better life?

• What makes you happy?

• What makes you free?

• What gives you life?

• What are you going to make?

• When are you going to make it?

To attend the breeze

The conversation outside my window begins as dawn’s first light begins to creep overhead. Clearly the birds are communicating. Just as a puppy can get a general sense of its owner’s message from the actions that accompany the words, we may think we understand the birds’ language, but not the words – if words they are.

Is there a place left on Earth where the birds can speak without the drone or whine of a manmade motor in the distance? From time to time we experience blessed silence for a few seconds, until the next vehicle whines along, either somewhere far away or up close and personal. And in those few seconds of silence are the value of living in the country; in the city is constant artificial sound/noise.

Odd that, with my hearing not what it used to be, I would write about the joy of silence, since living in silence is a gnawing fear for any lover of words and music. Not being able to hear or comprehend the voices is a frightening prospect, but being in a place where silence reigns is joyful. No – not silence, but the absence of mechanical sounds, a place where the breeze is not drowned out, a place where the breeze can be heard and attended.

Words. And music.

“Where your treasure is, there lies your heart.”

What have I poured my treasure into?

Words. And music.

Books and books and books of words about fantastic adventures and noble lives and strange mysteries and new life and new civilizations.

And music of all shapes (sounds?) and sizes. Recordings from yesterday, recordings from 40-50 years ago, recordings from the beginning of recording.

Words. And music.

The words are messages in bottles, stories and thoughts preserved in a time machine from the time before everything changed. And so are the recordings – music from another time. How exciting it might be to have words and music from the future, but the future has not happened yet, any more than the past still exists in another dimension. We have the power to go there at the tips of our brains – because the power of the imagination is unlimited. We imagine the music of the future and convert it into the music of today.

There is something to be said about not turning on the computer for the first hour or so of the day, or even – dare I? – until I get to work in the morning, leaving the home computing until I get home at night. When I turn it on in the morning, all of these voices scream silently for attention – waiting to tell me what they know or sing/play me a tune – and so I sit mesmerized by natterings and unimportant words and music.

If, instead of slipping on the computer in the morning, I sat and wrote, or pulled one of the voices around me off the shelf, could I enrich my morning beyond the reach of the glowing screen? I so suspect.

In fact, I wrote the above words yesterday morning, with pen and paper, sitting in a chair and listening to the chattering of red-wing blackbirds instead of staring at the glow.

The mantra of carpe diem

“I was reminded of this in a conversation with a friend named Joe White. Joe is perhaps best known for his message on the cross where he carries on his back a cross that would typically take six men to move.

“Joe has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and in a recent conversation he reminded me that he was more fortunate than I was. He was clear that today might be the last day he had to live. I could live under the delusion that today is just one day of many still to come.

“The gift of his cancer was the value of today. Perhaps in a way that few of us ever do, he engages each day fully committed to seize the divine moment. The mystery of those moments is that they look so ordinary from the sideline and only become extraordinary when we enter them.”

Erwin Raphael McManus
Seizing Your Divine Moment