by Lisa Alber
Have you ever suffered from the don’t-wannas? Unfortunately, I’ve been known to succumb to this affliction, and I get it bad in proportion to how long my to-do list is. Right now it’s long, and I’m behind. In an ideal me, my inner superhero would prioritize faster than a speeding bullet, chug through work more powerfully than a locomotive, and complete tedious tasks in a single bound — and all with good cheer.
My world? I’ve got me an inner four-year-old gremlin that crosses bony little arms over its bony little chest, shakes its head, and says, “Don’t wanna.” It lives inside my primitive brain, chewing on dessicated goals and maggot-ridden dreams. When it rises up, every ounce of motivation and discipline I have disappears like a wish on the wind.
Don’t wanna. Stamp foot. Stalk to my bed with snacks and a novel — and with guilt and self-loathing following along in a putrid wake. The only decent thing about the gremlin is that it’s too young to drink. Otherwise, I would succumb to self-medication by way of tequila.
Over the years I’ve learned a few strategies for outmaneuvering the gremlin.
1. The take-your-laptop-to-bed remedy. The trick is to begin by reading and eating Twizzlers. Position your laptop beside you on the bed, and tell yourself (i.e. the gremlin) that you might take a Facebook break later on. Settle in, read for awhile, and then open up your manuscript (or other work). Let the page sit there looking at you for awhile longer. The gremlin will get used to its presence and hopefully get sleepy (you are in bed, after all), which is when you slowly ease the laptop onto your lap and type the first few words. Pause. All clear? You’re safe to continue.
2. Self-medication a la Hemingway. OK, I lied. Self-medication is one of my strategies. Sometimes, let’s face it, alcohol is the only way to get the little bugger to shut the hell up. I mean, it’s only four years old — alcohol’ll put it out like that <snapping fingers>. Imagine a ruby-red glass of Italian red as the lure, pulling you out of bed and into a friendly bar/lounge. Pretend you’re not there to work. You’re hanging out. Your laptop and papers are window dressing to ward off your potential suitors because you are that fabulous. Gremlins are notoriously distractible. A little alcohol, a little people watching, and your gremlin will forget all about you for awhile.
3. Take a shower. Seriously. Sometimes all it takes is one thing — like getting dressed — to send the gremlin squealing back into its fetid hidey-hole. I find showers helpful whether I need them or not. I’m not talking the wake-up shower. I’m talking the shower at 3:00 p.m. after you’ve been wallowing in your clammy p.j.s all day eating those Twizzlers. There’s something about showering at odd hours that’s extra rejuvenating. If you can force yourself out of bed and under the hot spray, you’ll be golden, I swear. Gremlins don’t like water.
4. Engage in crowd-sourcing. Why not engage your peeps on Facebook and Twitter? Put the call out for moral support and an ass-whooping. Commit to one small task, and ask folks to ping you in an hour. With enough external pressure — hopefully of a supportive nature — you might get a leg up on the gremlin. Better yet, try talking to. a. live. person (gasp), and take it one step further and meet said person in a coffeehouse. Your friend can bring work, or leave you to it.
5. Succumb. Yes, succumbing to the gremlin works too. But the secret to succumbing is to do so without remedial guilt or self-loathing. Let it go. Give yourself permission to wallow in slothsville like a pig in shit. Believe me, after a few hours, or a day or two, or maaaybe a week, even the gremlin will leave in disgust. Give it what it wants, it goes away. Funny how that works.
Bonus tip: For variety, trying mixing it up. For example, try taking a friend to bed (numbers 1 and 4). I guarantee you this will gross the gremlin out. Be aware that you won’t get back to work until the next morning, but that’s okay because you’ll be feeling pretty damned good and that’s half the battle.