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Tin Can Mental Contagion
Memories of the Past and Future
by Gene Dillon

Opening the Can
—Publishing in 125,000 Easy Steps
Gene is currently working on the publishing of a collection of his stories in print. Documenting the process from start to finish, Opening the Can will replace his monthly column until the book is in his hands.

Chapter 3: Shift

My daughter continues to add to her list of new year's revolutions. She is going to have more play-dates. And she is determined to make the Cubs a better team this year. (What have I done?) Emma also wants to learn the piano, and she wants to do that with me. I'm looking forward to that. Cooper wants to learn how to snowboard, and he too would like me to join him in this new undertaking. I'm sorta looking forward to that. Of course, I have spoken to my doctor about taking ibuprofen intravenously...

Every year I look back on the previous one and I try to remember my last set of resolutions. And every year, I can't remember them. Which is fine... We have to keep moving forward, and shifting to accommodate what is happening right now. This year, I have something big on my plate, and I don't plan to get up from the table until I've eaten the entire meal.

I occasionally receive a Christmas gift from a thoughtful family member that is in some way helpful to my writing career. This year, my in-laws sent me a "writer's block," which is a cube shaped little book of exercises and ideas to combat the alleged enemy of all writers, where they sit down and stare at a blank page for hours. I was just telling Michelle that I don't have a problem with that. That might cause you to assume that I must be very fortunate, but no, I think there are much worse problems than writer's block. I may be wrong, but I always assumed that if a block existed, then I would probably have nothing to say. So why force it? I could be free to do something else, like re-grout the tile in the bathroom, or stand in a soup-line. But I have a job. Security is not my motivation, thankfully—I don't want this to be a business. I have some things I want to say, and I want to get it all out there.

I can think of two problems that are far more detrimental to a writer and his or her impact on the world. One of those is trying too hard. I don't even want to address my struggles with this one, because it is a fundamental issue of content and craft. This is the part of writing that involves your choices, and who you aim to please and why. Scary shit. The second problem is so obvious, and it's the death of me. But will I ever get around to telling you what it is?

It took four years to compose the stories that will be included in this book. Will it take four years to revise and edit them? I didn't want this column to be about procrastination. It's so depressing. But it must be faced. Yes, we just got through the holidays, but I cannot remain at this pace. We have to always be checking up on ourselves to see how we are doing. If not every day, then every week, or at least every month. I need a major shift in the way I have been doing things. I need to write every single day. This HAS to be a priority.

It is January 2nd, 2007, and I have begun today. I woke up, nuked my coffee, quickly checked email, and started writing this column, which until this morning, consisted of only the first sentence about Emma's revolution. Well I'm gonna stage my own revolution. A coup has taken place, and the slug is no longer in charge. Tomorrow, I forbid him from checking his email first. NOTHING happens tomorrow until the writing is done. One hour or more, each and every day, at 5:30 am. The rest of the day cannot start until I am done.

Procrastination is not pure laziness. It's a dominant negative force, spun out of an illusory web of opinions that drag us down. First and foremost, we think that the project before us is too daunting. So, for example, to sit down and work on this book, it feels every time I dive into the process, it's like I am sitting down to take on a thousand hours of labor all at once. The reality is that I just need to get on a roll. I have another resolution to lose fifty pounds this year. I can't do that all at once. Not without liposuction or beheading. When I wake up, I only have this one particular day before me. I can control that. One pound a week. One story a week. Start the day out right, and find at the end of the day that I have finished it well, much better than I have been doing these last four years.

I'm looking forward to that.

January 3rd:
I am late with my column, but I am up at 5:30, and I have yet to check my email. I haven't been this late with a column in four years, but I don't plan on making it a habit.

Other logistics: I have decided that when I complete the revision of my second piece this month, that I will begin sending my two stories out into the world. This way, I can get the ball rolling while I continue my revisions. This is going to get interesting. I have been told that it is difficult and often fruitless to try to do this by the book. By the book, I mean Writer's Market. There are other "books" to follow. For a writer to make his or her way into print for the first time, there are some practical means. I need to figure out who I know that can help me.

We'll see how far I get this month.

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