Mind over Matter

I’ve lived long enough that you’d think the workings of my own mind wouldn’t be much of a mystery anymore, but still, it does surprise me at times how hard it is to overcome the it-doesn’t-matter mindset.

For example, a week ago I noticed that it’s been a little more than a year since I last changed the batteries on my smoke alarms. It took three or four days before I made the leap from thinking about the job to actually setting out my box of batteries. It took another day to remove the batteries I needed from the box. It took yet another day to buy extra batteries, even though I had enough for this particular job.

Admittedly, a few of those procrastinating days I’d overdone it with gardening work, and I didn’t think it would be smart to climb a ladder under those conditions. In fact, I even considering asking the contractor or one of his workers to change the batteries for me, or at least to stand by while I did it. I simply couldn’t get my mind in the right place to do the work.

When I finally settled into carrying out the task, it didn’t take long at all, but I can certainly understand why I stalled. The new smoke alarms have a little drawer you can pull out (rather than having to pull the whole unit off the ceiling), which is supposed to make it easy, but nothing is easy when you have to work with your hands over your head. And of course, the little drawer is only plastic, so even when it is difficult to pull out, you can’t really force it otherwise there would be the truly onerous task of replacing the whole unit. And once the drawer is open, the batteries won’t come out easily. Yikes.

But the job is now completer, the box of batteries put away, and the ladder is back in the garage. I’d feel silly about how much mental work it took before I could do the physical job except that . . . well, I simply didn’t want to do it. And truly, it didn’t matter, and it wouldn’t matter until the alarm started chirping and forced me to do what I should have already done. It’s that thought of pending doom that finally got me up on the ladder.

Now I can stop thinking about having to do that particular job and set my mind to working on other things that don’t matter, like solving puzzles. Or I could work on solving the more important puzzle of how to do the mystery at the museum event. Luckily, for that job, I have you (and thanks for all your help!) as well as a friend who is coming up with some great ideas. But still, how much do you want to bet that I will wait until the last minute because I can’t make the mind over doesn’t-matter leap?


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Desert Procrastinations

I have about 12 hours of work I have to do this weekend, so like any well-disciplined person, I got up early, went right to work . . . and checked out Facebook and emails on my computer. Then, because apparently I hadn’t procrastinated enough, I spent a couple of hours resurrecting old email addresses. They hadn’t been used in so long, I had to go through a lot of rigmarole to prove I was human and that these near-defunct emails were mine. (Tell me honestly — can you remember the exact day you opened your email account? And if you have one that’s been inactive for a long time, can you remember the exact day you last used it? Well, gmail expected me to remember. Sheesh.)

Actually, a couple of the email addresses were not strictly mine — they were emails I set up for Jeff. (I don’t have any idea why I decided to keep them alive. But they are available if he ever decides to contact me.) A couple of other addresses were emails I had set up years ago when I was playing around with downloading music. In one case, I used the email a single time before it became flooded with so much spam, it became unusable. (It’s not often you can tell exactly where the spam originated, but since that was the only thing I had done with that email, it was obvious.)

Realizing this online activity wouldn’t get my work finished (or even started), I turned off the computer and went for a walk. A long, long walk. It felt good to stretch out. Felt good to visit the desert again. (Felt even better not doing my work!)

desert knolls

I had a few pangs of nostalgia thinking that in a couple of weeks this near-private patch of desert will no longer be mine. I’ve grown fond of the stark landscape, the tans and taupes,

the rare but brilliant spots of color.


Still, the thought of all the new places I might walk offset the wistfulness.

When I returned from my walk, I got right to work . . . on this blog.

I just can’t seem to force myself to get the 12-hour task done. The job is tedious and almost anything would be more fun. Watching water boil, for example, would be more fun. Or watching rocks race each other across the desert floor.

Maybe I’ll get up early tomorrow. Start working before I know what I’m doing.

Yep. That’s what I’ll do.

For sure.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

No Wisdom, Just Words

I’ve been sticking to my self-imposed writing schedule this month, doing a blog a day (sorry to all my subscribers who have been getting an email each day announcing a new post. I promise I’ll go back to my more sporadic posting next month). I’m also racking up the word count on my novel for NaNoWriMo.

I normally don’t obsess over word counts. The way I figure, I either write or I don’t, the scenes are either workable or they’re not. But this month, it’s about the word count. I hoped that by writing so quickly I couldn’t stop to think, I’d stir up my depths, and words of wisdom would automatically appear on the page. Nope. No wisdom yet. Just words.

I did have an odd experience this morning, though. I sat down to write a scene for my grieving woman book, and ended up writing a scene for my poor old work-in-pause, an apocalyptic allegory.

Makes sense, I guess. That novel has been rattling around in my head for years. I started writing it months before I started this blog. Since then, I’ve dealt with three deaths (none of them mine), learned how to use a computer, learned how to navigate the internet, made dozens of online friends, started a dozen blogs (most of which are now clogs — abandoned blogs clogging cyber space), participated in hundreds of writing discussions, gotten three books published, edited those three books plus a fourth (which will be published in the spring), spent hundreds of hours trying to promote those books without actually promoting them (the only thing more annoying that a full email inbox is an inbox full of annoying emails), and  . . . well, you get the point. I’ve been doing everything imaginable except working on my WIP. So today — ta da! A couple of scenes for that book appeared instead of the one I planned to write for my grieving woman book.

I always liked the idea of working on whatever book stood out most in my mind when it time to write each day, but I never tried it before. It might help put the fun back in writing, and who knows what I’ll end up with!

Nothing For Christmas

I never have enough time for all the nothing I want to do, so I decided to do nothing for Christmas. I am such a procrastinator that I will do anything to keep from doing what I’d planned to do — even if that something was nothing. On Christmas morning, to keep from doing the nothing I had planned, I decided to bake made-from-scratch carrot cake with yoghurt frosting so I would have something to eat when I finally settled down to doing nothing.

Leafing through my cookbook, I came across a recipe for cranberry sauce, and I was surprised to discover how simple it was — boil sugar and water and add cranberries. Seemed like a nice nothing thing to do, so I made the carrot cake and set the cranberries to cooking. Then it dawned on me I didn’t have anything to eat with the cranberries. So I cooked chicken and gravy, and since I just happened to have some stale bread, I made stuffing to go with the chicken and gravy and stuffing. I had to make a salad, too, because a meal is not a feast without fresh vegetables.

While all this was cooking, I happened to notice that the living room needed to be vacuumed, so I . . .

Vacuumed? Of course not. It was Christmas. And I’d procrastinated enough. I grit my teeth, gird my loins, got pumped, and did what I’d planned to do.


The Art of Procrastination

It seems as if lately the only art I’m practicing is the art of procrastination.

There’s no art in going about your daily life and telling yourself you have no time to write. The art is in pursuing other activities to keep from going about your daily life and telling yourself you have no time to write.

Thus far in my procrastination, I have:

  1. Taken an on-line class to increase my word-processing skills
  2. Read almost the entire oeuvre of a best-selling author to see why she’s so popular (still have no clue)
  3. Cleaned out my closets
  4. Started this blog

It would probably be easier just to sit down and begin writing the novel, but where’s the art in that?