Tangible Results

I could have sworn I had a post on this subject, all ready for a blast from the past, but maybe not. Or maybe it’s under a different title and I’ll find it at random sometime in the future.

In any case, time for a periodic reminder that results matter. There’s something satisfying about finishing a task, particularly one where you can see, hear, and otherwise sense the difference between A and B. Writing only sort-of counts, in my opinion. Yes, you make progress, and writing ‘the end’ is very satisfying, but unless you’re doing it longhand- and maybe not even then; I don’t do a lot of longhand writing, so I can’t say one way or another- it doesn’t fill the same mental gap that, say, mowing the lawn does.

Brains are weird, and sometimes we have to hack them into doing what we want. Finishing a task, and being able to rest and admire the results, gives most people a mood boost, and encourages us to do another task so we get that boost again. Simple. Not necessarily easy, when you find yourself without even the energy to finish an uncomplicated task. The annoying but correct answer at those times is to pick the tiniest task you can accomplish, and do it. Even if it’s picking a single sock off the floor and putting in the hamper, six inches away, it’s still a task, and it can be done. Then admire your tiny accomplishment- hey, it’s a patch of bare floor that wasn’t there a few minutes ago!- and go on with the next tiny task.

I, in an attempt to up my game, previously had a habit of doing one thing every day that wouldn’t be undone by the passage of time. Chores that were inherently undone by the passage of time include washing dishes, vacuuming, watering plants, et cetera. All necessary, and they’re all technically tangible results, because you can look in the sink, for example, and see that it’s empty of dirty dishes. But they don’t produce any noticeable progress because the same damned dishes are there the next evening, waiting to be washed. And if that’s all you do, every day, it gets discouraging, and your brain can hack its way into thinking that all tasks are like that, and you’ll never get anywhere, ever.

To be perfectly pedantic, everything is undone by the passage of time. But I’m talking about things that won’t be undone within the immediate future. Sewing projects, filing a specific set of papers, fixing a thing that’s broken, et cetera. Projects, not maintenance tasks. Finishing a project- tangible or not, though tangible ones seem to produce a stronger result- reminds the brain that, yes, progress is possible.

I’ve fallen out of this habit, and one of my goals for the future is to get it back. So I’ll be attempting to balance maintenance tasks, projects, tangible and intangible results- because, after all, I am a writer; intangible results are inherently part of my job.

Wish me luck, guys. The year’s barely started and it’s already weird.

10 thoughts on “Tangible Results

  1. Good Job!
    Good advice.
    Good Luck!

    My “Phrase of the Year” (I don’t do resolutions) is: Do, Rinse, Repeat. Same sort idea in a way that you are suggesting. Do a little thing, Check to make sure it worked, Do the next thing.

  2. Writing stories is different because when you finish, you are also saying good bye to someone who has been living in your head for a year at least.

    And now they aren’t.

    1. My characters don’t ever go away. Even if the series is over, they aren’t… and they come back and tell me bits about what’s going on, trying to tempt me to get back on that horse,

      And the folks in the current WIP series — I hope to have them as passengers for several more years. 🙂

      Length is no barrier… I have one self-aware futuristic pocket tool (the Webster Marble Deluxe Woodsman, Model 820-E) from a short story. Webster wants to know if he’s living in a museum, having repowered himself on and been picked up in the remote future, or if he managed to program a workaround in time and is still on the loose, the way he planned… All I know is, if they got him into that museum, he found a way out of the situation. He’s very…adaptable.

      1. I couldn’t help myself: for the first series I wrote I ended up rearranging a novel to fit one character into it (or rather, I rearranged the novel completely around said character), and wrote another whole series for another. And sometimes I’ll find another character I can’t say goodbye to and make plans to include him or her in a whole new work at a later date. I may have attachment/abandonment issues of some sort.

  3. I, in an attempt to up my game, previously had a habit of doing one thing every day that wouldn’t be undone by the passage of time.

    I’ve used a similar trick.

    Hacks that help:
    -Adding A Task To The List Counts.
    So, if you go, “I need to get that back corner turned into a library,” adding that to the list counts.
    Actually, I would put it down on one of two lists: Grand Projects, and Achievable Steps. Adding Turn back corner into library with door would be a day’s Item. Breaking that into steps such as measure for shelves and door, clean out boxes of books from back corner, look for pre-hung doors at Habitat ReStore, order shelves would be another day’s, and each of those items would count as I Did That.

    Another thing? Have adding X schedule to your calendar as a task. In fact, I’m going to go type in the trash schedule for this year into my calendar program right now.

  4. Late to this post but… sometimes when I make a list of things to do, I then proceed to do loads of things, NONE of which are on the list. Somehow, while I am writing the list, these things don’t show up in my mind. But the key to survival here is that when this happens I write down the tasks I Did complete and then immediately check them off.

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