What I’m Supposed to be Doing vs. What I’m Doing

by Jeff Oaks

1. Rereading the two short essays I’m thinking of ditching from the book-length manuscript I’ve been putting together and revising this year
versus
Thinking about rereading the two short essays I’m thinking of ditching from the book-length manuscript I’ve been putting together and revising this year.

2. Rewriting those two short essays according to two procedures I want to try–rewriting one so that its first sentence begins with A, its second sentence begins with B, and so on for 26 sentences; and rewriting the other so as each paragraph makes use of the 15 punctuation marks presented at the visual communication guy’s cool website here
versus
trying not to think about the ways I want to rewrite before I actually know what’s in the original essay.

3. Writing anything at all at night when I get home, even one paragraph
versus
passing out early, waking up at 3 am only to play The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim because it’s immersive and beautiful and gives me a chance to kill evil beings with magic and even when I die I don’t really die but am reborn with new knowledge of how to do or not do something.

4. Reading anything fun at night when I get home, even one paragraph
versus
passing out early, as a result of having spoken to so many people, worried about whether I’m doing enough for the Writing Program, walking the dog in the sudden, bitter cold the last few days.

5. Being excited about attending Podcamp downtown this weekend, where I hope to get a bigger sense of the possibilities blogging offers me as a writer and as a teacher of writers
versus
feeling some dread about another commitment, or perhaps it’s some fear that because this commitment is self-interested and free, I will discount its importance and just blow it off, or perhaps I’m worried that I’ll embarrass myself or that I’ll end up going alone instead of with friends who said they’d like to go too; overthinking the whole thing, in other words.

6. Writing about the delights of the cold and loss of light that comes every year, writing about my first Thanksgiving and Christmas with my husband
versus
quietly fearing the cold, the possibility of the furnace dying this year, the costs of repair, of replacement, of pipes freezing, of new tires for the car, and on and on and on. Worrying and worrying and worrying…

7. Writing down the new book idea that came to me this morning in the shower
versus
worrying about the worth of the new book idea that came to me this morning in the shower.

8. Going to the gym
versus
regretting not going to the gym, after constructing reasons why not to go to the gym (only for today, says the most reasonable one), even though it would likely make me happier, even though I pay for the gym.

9. Saying to myself, well, at least I wrote this blog that reminds me about what I need to do when I get some time to myself
versus
thinking, oh, my God, I wrote a blog instead of doing any of things I said I was supposed to be doing! What an asshole!

10. Laughing at myself, trusting that curiosity, practice, and self-discipline will get me working again soon
versus
snarling at myself, as the wind is cracking its whips, as the culture is telling me to make money, as the ghost of my mother worrying, worrying, worrying about my safety goes clanking and sighing through the rooms of my house.

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