So it occurred to me today that it’s July. Yes, I realize I’m a little behind and the explosions ricocheting around my neighborhood last weekend should have been my first clue, but whatever. Point is, it’s July, and there are probably quite a few of you out there slogging your way through Camp NaNoWriMo. Did you know that I tried it myself a couple years ago? Well, I did. And even more pertinent to the conversation, I wrote an entire series of blog posts about it:
So, in the interest of finding something entertaining to post this week, I’ve decided to feature one of those humorous articles. This particular post is about a lovely creature I dubbed the Impatience Demon, and while it was written with Camp Nano specifically in mind, I think many of you will be able to relate. The tips I give at the end for how to vanquish said creature can be applied to any aspect of writing, editing, or even just life. Enjoy! 😉
Camp NaNoWriMo and the Impatience Demon
By Kisa Whipkey
Originally Posted on 7/19/13
All right, week 3 of the REUTS Publications Camp Nano Team Competition is ending, and I’m starting to look like the stress ball I’ve become. My hair has definitely taken on a few more strands of silver, Carpal Tunnel has taken up permanent and painful residence in my right wrist, and I’m pretty sure my blood is now caffeine. And don’t even get me started on the pounds I’ve packed on thanks to stress-eating several tubs of ice cream. Yeah, I told you this wasn’t going to be pretty.
Turns out, there’s a downside to curing the Perfection Plague. Just when you think you’re free and clear, it appears. Spawned from the depths of river I-Can-Actually-Do-This located in 50,000-Words-in-a-Month-is-Nothing land, the Impatience Demon will take every shred of patience you have and maul it into nonexistence. And if you’re already an impatient person, well, sorry to say, you’re just doomed. You may as well have a bullseye tattooed on your forehead, because it’s coming for you, and, like the Grim Reaper, there’s no escaping it.
(What? Every camp needs a good ghost story, doesn’t it? 😉 )
I’ve never considered myself a patient person. In fact, before I discovered the beauty of headphones, I was that kid that asked, “Are we there yet?” every 5 minutes on a road trip. So it’s not surprising that Camp Nano’s Impatience Demon found an easy target in me. What is surprising is the level to which it pushed me, sending me so far off the cliffs of bitterness and resentment that I became paralyzed. I’m sure you can guess what happened to my word count after that. Yep, last week was definitely not my shining moment, productivity-wise.
What does an Impatience Demon haunting look like? Well, something like this:
You wake up feeling slightly sick to your stomach but sure you’re going to get things done. A few deep breaths and you’re good. You’ve got this. Until you realize that, oh crap, you have to go to work or that empty refrigerator isn’t going to get filled.
Grumbling, you punch in to your daily sentence at the Dreaded Day Job, only to get slammed with things that interfere with even thinking about writing, let alone sneaking a few minutes to do it. But you push through, growing more and more resentful with every paper that lands on your desk.
Eventually, your time is up and freedom is yours. Except, oh yeah, you have to put gas in the car. You roll up to the gas station, and it’s got a bazillion idiots all lollygagging around the pump like it’s an ice cream social. When it’s finally your turn, you run into problems with your rewards points, say “screw it” after a few failed attempts, pay full price and head home — only to get stuck in traffic. Every jerk on the planet decides to cut you off, because, apparently, understanding the concept of merging lanes isn’t required to obtain a driver’s license anymore, and you end up inching feet at a time until that 7 mile drive feels like 200 and you’re pretty sure you could have walked home faster.
You step in the door with a few minutes left before dinner, but you still don’t get to write. There’s a pile of bills you have to deal with first, and you watch your bank account dry up like a puddle in a drought. That’s Okay though, you didn’t really want to eat this week anyway. It’s now dinner time, so you scrounge around in what’s left of last month’s groceries and concoct something passably edible.
Now you get to write, yes? Nope, because there’s laundry to fold, dishes to clean, people to pay attention to, and oh yeah, your DVR is about to implode. You tackle all of these things, growing more and more irritated at anything that stands between you and the computer until finally, you get a moment to yourself to write. There’s only one problem, you can’t concentrate.
Focus? Yeah, you kiss that goodbye as it floats out the window on the laughter of the Impatience Demon.
Sounds a lot like the Procrastination Monster, doesn’t it? Except for one major difference — the Procrastination Monster gets its power from distraction, while the Impatience Demon’s comes from a lack of control. You want to write during an Impatience Demon attack; you just can’t, resenting everyone and everything that keeps you from getting to your manuscript.
I was actually shocked at how quickly I went from happily going about my daily routine to uttering streams of expletives worthy of a sailor over every little thing. I have never hated folding laundry so much. Or checking social media. Or answering emails. Or even watching TV! And you know there’s something wrong if I’m resenting the DVR. That’s when I figured out I was being haunted, that my impatience had reached such a toxic level, I was in danger of burning everything to the ground in frustration.
So I did the only thing I could — I walked away. I disconnected from everything, buried my head in the proverbial sand for a couple days and pretended the Demon didn’t exist. Not my smartest move; it completely backfired. When I came back, the Demon was still waiting for me, except now it was armed with a mess-load of things I was behind on.
But if I failed to exorcise the Impatience Demon, how is this lesson helpful? Because, Grasshopper, I didn’t fail.
Yes, I lost the battle, but admitting that I lost allowed me to find my fractured focus, pick up the pieces, and glue them back together with a renewed sense of purpose. I called on all the Martial Arts training I’ve had to find discipline and all the tricks from decades of fighting depression to forcibly change my thinking back to the positive. Essentially, I stripped the Demon of its power. And you can too.
When you find yourself starting to drown under the avalanche of things you can’t control, hating everything around you and sending your loved ones scrambling for cover from your fire-breathing nastiness, try this:
Step 1) Find an appropriate outlet for all that pent up rage.
Go for a run, punch something (preferably not your loved ones), escape to the library, the beach, or anywhere that grounds you in tranquility for a few hours. You’ll feel the Demon’s poison leech from your brain, and when you return home, you’ll be ready for step 2.
Step 2) Remind yourself to see the silver lining.
This step is the hardest. It takes a lot of will power and self-realization/acceptance to change your thinking. But it is possible. All it takes is stepping outside of your negative thoughts, realizing that your perspective is skewed, and forcibly changing your thought process to focus on positive things instead. (I make it sound so easy, don’t I? Trust me, it’s not. It’s taken me years to even become moderately capable at it.)
For example, say you’re royally ticked off about having to do the dishes, your thoughts swirling around an image of breaking plates on the wall. Recognize that thought as negative, realize that your emotion is far more violent than the situation warrants, and press pause. Now, try to think of what’s good about this particular activity, like the fact that you won’t have smelly dishes stinking up your kitchen, the feel of the warm water, or the smell of the soap. Once you have that positive thing in mind, press play again and your thoughts will take on a rosier disposition. See? Not that hard once you figure it out. The hardest part is recognizing when your thoughts take that turn down Negative Lane.
Step 3) One step at a time.
Now that you’ve let go of all your angst, the Impatience Demon is gasping for life. You’re just about free from its clutches. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, like everything is out of your control, take a deep breath and focus on a single task. Forget everything else. Put blinders on and just get that one thing done. Then move on to the next task on the list, focusing entirely on that one, and so on. Before you know it, you’ve conquered the entire list! Pretty slick, huh?
And there you have it. A simple remedy for surviving the Impatience Demon’s attack. I’ll bet, if you listen hard enough, you can still hear the echo of its last cry as it disappears in a poof of smoke. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it? Now take your victory and get back to writing. I know I’m going to. I’ve got one week left and a massive number of words to make up!