The best parts of being a writer is having an excuse to craft the most outlandish metaphors. I could liken rock climbing to drawing, for instance, because it’s all about learning the little techniques that’ll make up the larger picture (heh) that is your art.
Or I could link running and writing, because you’ll never see your improvement in your day-to-day, but do it long enough and you’ll be able to see how far (heh heh) you’ve progressed.
Having said that, boy do I have the metaphor for today’s topic.
So you plan to write on your day off. It’s your passion, after all. Friday arrives and you rub your hands at the amount of writing that’s going to take place the next day.
Your schedule’s empty, you have no other responsibilities, and all you need to do is just get started. The next thing you know, it’s Sunday evening and you haven’t even written a sentence.
If that sounds familiar, then just know that it happens to the best of us.
You know what I think the main problem is? No, it’s not discipline. It’s not the lack of technical skills either. I think we’re just unsure of how to turn our vague goals into reality, and if you’re still nodding along to these symptoms, then rest assured that the aforementioned metaphor may help you tackle this problem.
But first, let’s explore why we sometimes find ourselves stuck between thinking and action.
I can always do it later
If you’re anything like me, you have no trouble seeing a task through to the end—as long as you know what to do.
So something like ‘do 100 burpees and 200 squats’ might seem doable despite the challenge, but ‘work out today’ becomes something skippable just because there’s not enough of a roadmap to get there.
I came to this conclusion because I’ve had no problem eating healthy lunches for years now, but the moment I need to leave the house—such as to go to the office—it suddenly becomes that much harder to stick to nutritious meals.
I’ve also seen a sharp increase in my workout days when I have a specific programme to follow. But on the days I tell myself to ‘get a workout in’, I end up doing anything but.
That brings us to the problem at hand—if you have trouble following up with your plans, then you probably have ADHD or executive dysfunction, at least according to Google.
Then again, Google would also guess that the mole on your elbow is cancer, so…
I’d hazard that ADHD and ED probably isn’t that far off anyway, and I’d like to blame that on how much technology has changed the way we function.
Because think about it. How did you get to unfamiliar places place pre-pandemic? You drove with Waze on, or you ordered a Grab.
But if you’re old enough to remember the trips into the unknown, you’ll probably recall the executive functions you’d needed to employ like memorising your way, keeping an eye out for landmarks, printing maps, and—gasp—stop and ask for directions.
Nowadays, we’re spoon-fed in everything that we do. Hungry? Here are the restaurants with the best offers near you. Need a gardening tool but unsure what? Just hop on Amazon to find out. What’s that? You feel like you need to meet new people? That can be arranged with just a couple of swipes.
Look, I’m not a luddite. I love how easy life is now, and I enjoy not having to drive out to get my groceries, but I don’t remember feeling this helpless when it comes to doing simple things.
It’s almost as if I’ve lost the ability to interpret abstract ideas and turn them into results.
Divide and conquer
If you’ve Googled this problem before, you’ll probably know about the divide and conquer approach. This method works well enough on its own, and it’s a great way to approach your writing too, as something as vague as ‘finish my blog post’ can be translated to:
- Choose a topic
- Research (this step will probably need another round of dividing and conquering)
- Pat yourself on the back for being productive
Sounds effective, doesn’t it? The thing is, it does take a certain amount of effort to determine the smaller components that make up your goal without having an added visualisation aid, and that’s where our long-awaited metaphor comes in.
Help me help you
This thought came to me when playing Keep Talking An No One Explodes sometime back. It’s a game where you describe bomb to your teammates so that they can determine which one it is, and the steps you need to take to defuse it.
In a similar vein, that’s what this metaphor is. It’s about yelling out your goals to someone in the next room and telling them exactly what they need to do to complete it. And because you can’t see what they’re doing, you’re going to need to tell them what to look out for so that they can report back to you.
So something like ‘write a blog post today’ will probably look similar to the action plan listed about, but now that you have to describe it to someone else, you’ll naturally find more concrete steps and measurable outcomes.
Try it out and see how it goes. I know I still have tons of yelling to do, because after I’m done with this post, I still have so many other vague goals I need to make actionable, such as ‘figure out how to monetise my passions’, ‘determine my ikigai‘, and ‘don’t cave in to self doubt’.