Wednesday, 1 July 2009

"Should" is a dirty word

Yesterday was my blog’s first birthday. Way to go, little fella! Can’t believe you made it!

When I told the ducklings it was my blog’s birthday, Baby Duck asked, “What’s a blob’s birthday, Mama?” He couldn’t understand why his sisters cracked up. That child is just made of cute.

I hesitated for a long time before starting this blog. I was afraid that I’d lose interest and it would go the way of so many – initial posts full of enthusiasm, gradually petering out into silence. But I cleverly got around that problem by being a slack poster from the beginning. Such forethought!

I wondered if I could think of enough things to write about. Fortunately I have the ducklings to help there – they provide plenty of inspiration with their funny ways.

I used to be a mad keen scrapbooker. For a few years there our lives were obsessively documented. The ducklings couldn’t sneeze without me shoving a camera in their face to capture the moment forever. These days I’ve gone back to quilting and writing, but at least if scrapbooking gains the ascendancy again I’ll have plenty of readymade journalling from the ducklings’ bloggy exploits.

Not that those exploits have been comprehensively covered by any means. I remember one of my goals at the beginning of the year was to blog twice a week, and that certainly hasn’t happened. No one could accuse me of being a speed demon.

I’d like to blog more. I feel I should blog more, though it’s just something I do for fun. Why do I feel like that? Life seems full of worthwhile things that it should be easy to fit in, like brush your teeth for three minutes, exercise at least 20 minutes every day, wipe down the shower and sink after your morning shower so it’s not such a big job later. Yet if you added up all these “just a few minutes” activities you’d need about 40 hours in every day. And so we all seem to run around, perpetually behind where we think we should be up to, doomed to feeling like slackers forever.

I set some writing goals in January. Assessing my progress so far, I can see it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I haven’t gone back to the revision of Man Bites Dog, and I certainly haven’t completed the first draft of Dragonheart. I have written more short stories and even submitted two. Yes, a whole two. Please try to contain your excitement.

I was also hoping to establish a daily writing routine. It wasn’t going too badly till personal things reared up and threw my concentration into disarray. Still struggling with that one, but hoping for improvement soon.

Note that I cleverly didn’t include “participate in Nano 2009” as a goal. Much as I love Nano, I’m starting to think another Nano this year might be a bad idea. I can see a classic “non-finishing” pattern emerging: Nano 2007, start first draft of Man Bites Dog, but don’t have time to revise and complete before – Nano 2008, start first draft of Dragonheart, but don’t have time to revise and complete before – Nano 2009, start first draft etc, etc. You get the picture.

I blame my three-second attention span. My life is filled to bursting with unfinished projects, and it drives me nuts. Three seconds? Who am I kidding? That’s waaaay too generous.

One of my non-writing goals was to declutter the house, but I think first I need to declutter myself. All this incompleteness is weighing me down. I wish I could get a working attention span. Would anyone care to swap? Mine’s quite cute, so tiny and decorative. I need a big honking industrial-strength model to get through all the stuff I’ve left hanging over the years.

In recent years I’ve even had trouble finishing reading books, let alone writing them. There’s been a pile of half-read books on my coffee table for over a year, often as many as a dozen books high, all with bookmarks shoved into them. One had been there so long that when I removed the bookmark I discovered it had changed colour. The part inside the book was still dark green, but the part sticking out had been bleached by the sun for so long the shade was half its former strength.

For months I’d looked at that stack of books, thought, Nah, don’t feel like reading any of those, and gone and started another one. Sometimes I finished them. Often they just joined the growing pile. When the guilt got too much, or the pile threatened to topple over, I might finish one, but it never made much difference. The pile had almost achieved sentience, it had been there so long.

I knew I didn’t want to read them, but I couldn’t bring myself to give up and put them away. They were unfinished projects, clogging my mental to-do list, depressing me every time I saw them. Just one more thing I knew I should do.

I know a mother’s work is never done. Jobs waiting to be done everywhere you look is pretty normal in most people’s lives, I guess. But how silly is it to let your leisure activities become a burden of guilt, to see the books you read, supposedly for enjoyment, as a chore hanging over your head?

So I finally took my attention span aside and gave it a good talking to, woman to woman.

“Admit it,” I said, “you are never going to finish reading those books.”

“I might,” it whined, giving me those big puppy-dog eyes. “At one stage I really wanted to read them, and you never know when that feeling might come back. Could be any millenium now.”

“Don’t give me that crap. Look at this one – the bookmark has changed colour, it’s been there so long! And what about this one? You can’t even remember what the book is about any more. You’d have to go back and start at the beginning anyway!”

“But I really enjoyed the first one in that trilogy. I’m sure I’ll get into again if I just … Hey, look over there!”

“What? Over where?”

“There! Look – new! Shiny!”

And that was about it for my attention span. But I refused to admit defeat. Time to bite the bullet, turn over a new leaf, take the first step on the long road to Organised Me. Or at least Slightly Less Maddening Me. Time to wean myself away from should.

So I did it. I took all the bookmarks out of those books. Oh, the pain! Then I lumped those suckers downstairs and banished them to the bookshelves, never to be guilted over again. And it was ridiculous, what a feeling of release such a tiny act gave me.

So, we’re trying, me and the teeny tiny attention span. Trying to let go of so many shoulds, to make more time for the ones that really matter. Trying to make easier goals. My new writing goal is to write only 500 words a day on school days, instead of 1,000. Yeah, I should be able to write 1,000 words in a day, but so often I don’t and then I feel all hopeless and disappointed with myself. So time to be kinder and more understanding of the teeny tiny attention span.

I doubt we will ever metamorphose into a frequent blogger, the attention span and I, but then, I’ve decided that “should” is a dirty word. And I never thought I’d be wishing you happy birthday, dear blog, so you never know.

Many happy returns.


  1. I think you are absolutely wonderful and have enjoyed your blog (admitted lurker here) for quite a long time. I posted a little 'Happy Birthday' tribute to Pecked by Ducks on my blog and just wanted to day thanks for so many delightful reads!

  2. Happy Birthday, Pecked by Ducks!

    I'm coming up for four years next month and I often wonder what to post. I mean, jeez, I'm down to second-hand humour! Such is the excitement around here...

    And you're right 'should' is a dirty word and should be swept away. Instead, think 'I could...' followed by 'but I have this to do.' then go and do it.

    Oh, and another hint: make time for yourself. If you kids nag, tell them you spend quality time with them and now it's yourturn. Just for an hour, or a half hour. You're just as valuable as they are, so treat yourself. They'll get used to it.

  3. Wow, Shannon, you can come out of lurkerdom any time with a comment like that! Thank you -- I feel very special now!

    Thanks for the birthday wishes, Jaye. "I could", huh? I'll have to remember that one!

  4. I like "blob" for "blog"--

    "I have to go blob now."
    "What shall I blob about today?"
    "I'm going to link my blob to other blobs!"

    The possibilities are endless!

  5. "Jenn has a fascinating blob ..."

    Also gives new meaning to:
    "What are you doing tonight?"

    "Oh, just blobbing on the couch."

  6. Blobbing on the couch! Love it.

  7. Laughing out loud - again, just the norm for me at Pecked by Ducks. Thanks for the many GBG (Great Big Grins) and LOLs.

    Happy birthday to your blob and congratulations to its Creator.