How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Project

I’m a mess of first-world problems today (which, of course, is vastly different than my usual enlightened Internationalist perspective). Maybe it’s the ADHD, but I always have a problem finishing projects. I’m tired of the topic, tired of my comments, tired of trying, tired of wrapping up loose ends.

This leads to the real fear: what if I missed something and fucked it all up? Many professions are allowed to make mistakes. But neurosurgeons, rocket manufacturers, and copyeditors are not allowed errors. Of course, my mistakes don’t cost lives, but the worry fucks me up all the same.

How do I face down my fears?

1. I check twice. This is probably bad advice for people with OCD and perfectionism, but for a scatter-brain, it is spot fucking on.

2. I schedule. I know that I need to have the bulk of the work done the day before the deadline. The last day is just for polishing up queries and doing a final fact check on words I was too lazy to look up/google earlier. And this allows me enough time to check twice on the last day. This way I make my deadlines and manage to sleep most of the time.

3. I suck it up and get ‘er done. I know you don’t believe that, as readers of my blog, but it’s true.

4. Freedom. I turn off the fucking Internet if necessary.

5. I tell my friends to fuck off (kindly). Because I work at home, sometimes people are under the misperception that I am available to help move furniture, go for dogwalks, or to talk to them for hours. I just say “Deadline” until they back away. Usually it takes only once.

6. I remind myself that I’m only paid X amount of money. This is not enough to justify a third read-through.

How do you cope?



7 responses to “How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Project

  1. Oh I’m with you. I’m so tired of these characters I want to kill them off in act two and start writing about zebras.

    On days off when I know I’ll be working on the book, I make a list of tasks I want to accomplish: riff here, cut there, fact check, run an edit for redundancies, etc. It helps keep my attention focused on specifics rather than allowing me to wander through my pages thinking about the unholy mess before me.

  2. It’s about checklists! Go read Atul Gawande’s new book: “The checklist manifesto.” He’s a surgeon who is interested in reducing error in complex tasks. He started to explore how such complicated things as building skyscrapers, flying jet plans, and…um…i can’t remember the other examples… worked. Skyscrapers don’t fall down, and jet planes mainly stay in the air. The reason? They all use check lists. So, Gawande introduced (or collected examples of the introduction) of check lists into the operating room. Saves lives. Might help copyeditors too!

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