Thursday, February 27, 2014

I lost how much?

Lost how much?

I lost more than fifty pounds this week. My secret? Not the grapefruit diet, not low-carb, and, no, not a juice cleanse.  My secret was something called ‘the critical inch’.  

The fifty pounds was paper and the project was back filing.  Sorry about that. I figured if I didn’t entice you, you might fall asleep as soon as you read ‘filing’. But enough about all that, what’s the critical inch? It’s not around the waist, that’s for sure. 

That critical inch

The late motivational writer and and speaker, Richard Carlson author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and other upbeat self-help books seems to have introduced the concept. It can be described as ‘What’s most important right now?’  or “What will truly make a difference?”

In the writing world, draughts, outlines, edits and proofs are often urgent with ‘drop-dead’ deadlines.  They are always important as well as urgent. I usually find myself scrambling to catch up with the rest of my life. Something always gives.

I was, of course, thrilled to come across this ‘critical inch’ idea. What would my critical inch be?  Something exciting for a new book series?  Launching my two dozen short stories as e-books?  Deciding to write a play?

Please someone file me!
But I knew better. That critical inch was getting rid of the toxic sludge of undone tasks. In fact, I knew the ‘critical inch’ was connected to many more inches of filing and even some feet stacked high in boxes.  

But how did I get into this situation. First of all, paperwork has never been my strength. Then two years ago, my hubby ended up paralyzed in hospital after brain surgery. When he went into the hospital we had both finished very intense projects with lots of paper and follow-up.  Needless to say, no paperwork got done. 

Because our house was multi-story and he was in a wheelchair, I had to get it packed up, staged and sold. We needed to move to a single story house. 

The good news: he got better. They called him The Miracle Man. The bad news?  All the paper that never got sorted out in either office. More clutter and chaos joined it as the original filing systems had gone belly-up. Whatever I needed to do, some key documents was missing. The magnitude of sorting it out was overwhelming. Things just got worse. I would find myself wishing that Charlotte Adams was real!

We could have just tossed it all, but we knew that there were important documents in with all that clutter.  And there were.

When I read about the critical inch, I realized that the strain of all this undone paperwork was a drag on my creativity and energy.  The minute the edits for the third book collector mystery were done, I rolled up my sleeves, literally and figuratively, and got to work.  I started every morning and made it the first and most important activity.   

Of course, filing is incredibly boring, IMHO, so I turned on the Winter Olympics and watched while I took care of the mind-numbing parts of the challenge.. More than once I told myself that if those young women could hurtle through the air and do spirals in the moguls, then I could get this project done. My filing was onerous, but a lot less scary than the luge. 

At the end of the week, paper was all filed, recycled or shredded.  I felt lightheaded with freedom from the weight of all that undone stuff.  Story ideas are popping into my head at a furious rate. I’ll get them done too.  Stay tuned.

Nice clean desk! No old filing.

My point is that sometimes a small idea can lead to big results. Thank you Richard Carlson for this great idea and for the body of work you left behind. 

That’s my critical inch story or the first one anyway. Do you have one?  Have you overcome any major hurdles lately? Or are you planning to?  Was it ski moguls? Let’s hear it!


Tonya said...

You are certainly an inspiration to me.

Karen in Ohio said...

There's a feng shui tenet that says clearing excess stuff "unsticks" your mind. Order and cleanliness is more conducive to creativity than chaos.

After clearing out 67 years' worth of stuff in my in-laws' home I decided to do the same in ours. Living in one place for so long (29 years this fall), we had collected so much stuff: 30 years' worth of tax returns, for one thing, plus my book research for several books, written and not. Between our paperwork and the paperwork at my husband's childhood home, I took two completely full carloads of paper to the commercial shredder.

Now I'm helping my mother do the same thing. She had utility bills going back to the 80's! Why? Who knows.

Leann Sweeney said...

Great blog! Living in this rental from hell for so long, with boxes everywhere and no room for anything but one couch, a table and chairs and a bed, I know exactly what you are talking about. Writing anything amid this chaos has been difficult. Funny thing is, it doesn't bother my husband at all. He could probably live here for the rest of his life. Until he has to start fixing things, that is. :-) I'm not sure what his critical inch might be! I sure no mine.

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Thanks, Tonya! I surprised myself. Hugs, MJ

Mary Jane Maffini said...

That's a wonderful story, Karen! So freeing. The only thing about old utility bills is that they give you a shock when you realize how much you're paying now! We still have a phone bill for $8.62 going back to the seventies. What a contrast to our communication costs now!



Mary Jane Maffini said...

Funny thing, Leann! I was thinking about you and your move and rental. You are very focused though and still manage to turn out lovely books and that's the main thing. I am really looking forward to your move into your new house. That will give us some interesting blogs for sure.



Miss Merry said...

Inspiring. So many of us are trapped by the thought of tackling our mountain of important papers! - Can you give us more detailed instructions? I am a master of the first sort - then I get sidetracked by the important stuff that is left. Where did you start after day one?

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Thanks, Miss Merry! I took over the dining room table and sorted things into related piles. I had some classic rock on the radio to help with that part (no TV there). Then I told myself not to skip over anything because it was 'too hard' or would take 'too long' or any other excuse. I had to speak sternly to myself.

I gave myself a one-week deadline - it was closer to nine days when the last bits were taken care of. I had to allow for some visible chaos in the meantime.

Day two, I started filing and making tough decisions. If a missing file was the problem, I made a temporary one. The big question: why would I want to hang on to this stuff. Among the questions to ask: do I really need it and can I find it somewhere else. They really helped.

It also helped to have one file for important documents - all together where they can be found easily.

Not sure if this helps - but I hope it does.

Now I'm weeding out those emails I've been procrastinating about.

Hugs and good luck!.

Miss Merry said...

Well, I guess my first job is to clear off the dining room table LOL! It does help. I think setting aside a block of time and sticking to it will be a big help. Congratulations on losing all that "weight"!

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

Fantastic blog! My home office looks like a bomb hit it. I am starting to dig out--slowly--and you have inspired me. I love the idea of tackling "what's important now." I keep finding folders marked Urgent!! Do this immediately! Some of them are dated back in the 1990's--how urgent could they be? Apparently I never did anything about them and the world is still spinning..