too many words by laura lemay

fight or flight productivity

Why is it that when I have nothing to do, no one to see, plenty of time to myself in order to do exactly everything I’ve always wanted to do…I can’t seem to do any of it? My mind goes completely on holiday. I spend all my time lying around watching TV or reading the net or playing games or just doing nothing.

If I do manage to pull myself together and say “OK, I am NOW going to get all that writing done I said I was going to do when I had some spare time” its like there’s nothing there. Big gaping hole of empty. I stare dully at the screen. I am easily distracted by any little shiny thing. Nothing gets done. And then at the end of my time off I think “Buh? What was that? What just happened here?”

But give me a deadline, put me under pressure, demand things from me, and its like some little switch goes off in my head. I wake up. My mind spins up and focusses in. I become hyper-productive, hyper-organized, hugely creative. The harder the task, the more of a sense of panic I have about it, the better I get at it. And its not just work stuff; alongside the work I’m getting ideas, ideas for fiction and projects and designs and art.

There is a stress point where it all breaks down, where I’m just doing too much and thinking too hard and not sleeping enough. But the point just short of that where I’ve got a bunch of things going on and the day booked up and I’m riding a wave of panic and productivity: that’s the sweet spot. That’s where I can conquer the world.

The secret I suppose is to find some way to get that feeling of fear even when I’m not actually under pressure. This is why I like caffeine so much; it fakes it sometimes even if I’m not under deadlines. Maybe I need to hire someone to make deadlines for me. My deadline dominatrix. “You didn’t write 2000 words today, (thwap) (thwap) (thwap).”

I can’t be the only one who needs some huge shove, a big hypodermic of adrenaline in the chest just to get into first gear. What do other people do?