Writing to-do and a sanity exercise

So that list of writing to-dos I posted last week?

Yeah, didn’t happen. Instead I followed my impulse to bury myself in a bunch of books in divorce, body language and emotional intelligence. Some of this is intended to help me with writing Divorcing a Real Witch, and some just to make my life easier. Now I get the additional fun of finding a computer program that lets me organize those notes so I can see them easily. Sure, I could do it the “old fashioned way” but since that’s not really how I process information, I don’t see any use in torturing myself. I also came down with a cold, and since my immune system is going nuts, I’m breaking out in even worse hives than normal.

In the process of all that note-taking, I found an exercise in the book Spiritual Divorce by Debbie Ford that applies to far more than just divorce. She calls the exercise “fact or fiction.” I personally reframe it as “facts, feelings, fears” because fear likes to hide behind other emotions that manifest in this exercise. The idea is to help you refocus on what is actually happening, rather than allowing your emotions to run away with you and do further damage to people who aren’t you and therefore do not share what you are experiencing:

When in a situation where you’re getting upset, write down the facts. The facts are what has actually been said, what has actually been done, what has actually happened. Not how you feel about these things, and NOT the meanings you extrapolate from them.

Just the facts, ma’am.

For example, you disagree with a coworker about what fulfilling a deadline means. Your coworker thinks you should both work late. You think the deadline should be pushed.

Here’s what might go through your head:

  • Your coworker doesn’t care about you or your family needs.
  • Your coworker wants you to work late on the project.
  • Your coworker is trying to kiss butt for a promotion, using your hard work to do it.
  • You asked for the deadline to be pushed back.
  • The deadline is not a decision that you or your coworker have control over.
  • Your coworker is trying to “be the boss.”

OK, so separating out the facts from the feelings (or fictions, as Ford might call them):

  • Your coworker doesn’t care about you or your family needs. Emotional reaction, not fact. Your coworker has said nothing about this to you. Believe it or not, most people don’t keep these attitudes to themselves when they actually have them.
  • Your coworker wants you to work late on the project.
  • Your coworker is trying to kiss butt for a promotion, using your hard work to do it. Emotional reaction, not fact. Your coworker has said nothing about this to you.
  • You asked for the deadline to be pushed back.
  • The deadline is not a decision that you or your coworker have control over.
  • Your coworker is trying to “be the boss.” Emotional reaction, not fact.

I am not advocating you ignore your emotions here.  Emotions are there to inform you. In this case, the emotions are informing theoretical you that you do NOT want to work late, and that you feel uncomfortable about the way work and deadlines are distributed between yourself and your coworker. An empathetic response to your coworker might get a bigger picture – asking questions as “What is your reasoning behind working late?” and cooperative, co-creative questions like “Can we redistribute the workload so it’s easier on both of us?” are a better approach than biting your tongue, putting your head down, and building up a resentment toward the coworker who most likely just wants to go home, too. Unless your coworker has actually said something about this project getting her career advancement, this is all your own self-talk and not only has no bearing on your interaction with your coworker, it creates drama that gets in the way of doing a good job and then going home and forgetting about work.
If you think a workplace attitude is more endemic than that, write down red flag comments and see how often they get repeated. For instance, at one job I had that ended badly, leadership stated that “We want you thinking about your job all the time.”  I interpreted that as them wanting to claim my total creative energy, and unfortunately, that interpretation turned out to be correct.  In another job where the whole staff was on salary, I noted that the company owner praised people who came in early and left after he did – and he generally worked 12-16 hour days. I marked this down as a red flag. It turned out, I was right to be alarmed when he reprimanded me for a problem I had solved just because I didn’t work enough hours to solve it. I could interpret this as the owner expanding his sense of ownership to include the employees, because that’s how it would fit in my interpretation. The reality, from looking at the salary system at the company, is that he most likely wanted to get as much work out of his employees as he could while paying them as little as he could get away with. Other actual comments he made seemed to indicate this.

If you find you have no actual red flag comments to write down, you may need to check your self-talk. What are you telling yourself about the situation, and what fears are behind those messages? You can both address the fears, and recognize that perhaps you can adjust your perceptions.

I know I’ve gotten caught in the trap of extrapolating attitudes without facts to support them many times, and not just in the workplace. This seemed like an excellent exercise to take hold of reality, instead.

 

So, my writing to-do:

  1. Facing North reviews, still.  My editor, Lisa, tells me mostly that the Paganicon review is what’s most important. I just need to contact Jennett for a few quotes. I also found a book from the review stack that doesn’t have a review written yet, so I need to get on that.
  2. Llewellyn Witches’ Calendar stuff – still needs to be done, and it’s got some specific specs, so that will take some time. I also like to get it in before deadline so we have flexibility if revisions are necessary.
  3. Circle Magazine – I am trying to find an angle on Handparting that’s more interesting than “it’s sad.”

One of the good things that came from my book research last week is the discovery that there are already books on the market dedicated to rituals for divorce. It’s just that none of them, as far as I can tell, happen to be Pagan. Also, I think HarperCollins has gone from liberal to fundie in the past year, so that’s one hell of a bite taken out of an already tiny market.

I also have a few perfumery orders that require kitchen time. I’m on the fence about closing up shop, still – there’s a lot I could do, and I do want to use up some material in my studio. I like to craft and create, but I also need to do a lot more writing.

Hopefully, I’ll get something accomplished this week in-between sneezes.