Having Restraint When Planning Ahead

Daydreaming about the future means you don't have to do anything now.

It is often a bad idea for productivity to spend too much time “planning ahead” on goals and projects.  Planning is usually a smart move, especially for complicated projects.  If you’re only looking at a project in an abstract way, you might not have a clear idea of what steps there are to get you from the start to the end, and thus end up self-sabotaging.  You get overwhelmed and never start in with much enthusiasm, because the big, complicated goal feels icky.  The best way to avoid getting overwhelmed like that is to make a plan and break down the big goal into smaller ones that aren’t icky.  Once you do that, it’s a lot easier to follow through.  There are pitfalls to goal planning, though.

A trap I caught myself in a very long time ago was something I’d do to myself when writing fiction.  There’s a lot of planning that can go into fiction (especially novels), to help a writer flesh out an idea and plan the structure, or aid with the writing process itself by having a clear path to follow when sitting down to script it out.  It can also be a trap, where you start thinking through all of the stuff that will happen once you’re finished drafting the story.  Novels are big, complicated affairs, especially if you pursue publishing through the traditional channels.  You have to write treatments and query letters, and consider finding a literary agent, and that’s just to get a publisher to look at your manuscript.  Breaking in is hard to do, and writing the treatment in a way that catches attention is an art in and of itself and requires its own planning and rewriting. Then once a novel’s been picked up, you work with editors and artists, tweaking, improving, and approving versions of the actual book itself, leading its way up to actual the actual publishing date.  Some decisions in that vein are out of your control, but you can put your foot down on certain topics and get your way.  And sometimes you can’t and need to compromise, and it’s important to know where your lines are, what you can compromise on, and what you can’t.

And that’s to say nothing of what happens once it comes out, and you have the press rounds to whatever scale your publisher pushes, which could keep you busy for ages.  And then you have to brace yourself for what the public thinks, whether they hate it, whether they love it, or whether nobody reads it and it drops into obscurity.  Or whether everybody reads it and your whole life changes forever.  And then there’s what you write next, and whether it needs to claw its way out from the ignoble silence of a failed previous novel, or survive in the shadow of the success that came before.  Being prepared for what might happen is important.

You might notice that none of that stuff has anything to do with actually writing the damn novel, and most of the things to “plan” hinge on a ton of what-ifs and assumptions.  This is the trap that writers trick themselves into all the time, worrying about the things that will happen after they finish writing.   They plan and daydream, setting boundaries on what things would be deal breakers from publishers and make them walk away from a book deal (something no writer would want to do, and yet is romanticized as ‘sticking to your principles’), or fantasizing about their Hugo Award acceptance speech.  Thinking about those things is fun and more importantly very easy, because it isn’t icky at all—you’re conjecturing about something that can’t happen until you finish the goal first.  Even the “icky” worrying, like thinking through how you’d react if your book was a flop, is still based on wild conjecture about something that hasn’t happened.

And the worst part is, thinking about these sorts of things feels productive.  You’re planning ahead on the project after all.  Planning ahead in a totally unactionable way, but planning ahead nonetheless, so it scratches the mental itch of “working,” because you feel like you’ve made progress.  But it’s false progress.

You might also notice that this so far hasn’t related to language learning for me, and that’s largely because I have been very careful to not spend too much time thinking about the far future plans of this project.  My current goal is to achieve a functional and comfortable level of Spanish fluency, and I haven’t given much thought to where things might go after that.

I know some things.  I know what other languages interest me, so if I were to add a third language, I have a shortlist of choices that I could give a pretty well-educated prediction on.  I also know that I enjoy running this blog and would be very reluctant to stop it once that first goal is reached and would want to continue it.  Whether that means continuing on with language three, or changing the frequency/focus to be more about maintaining/slowly improving an advanced language, or something entirely different.  I don’t know, there’s no reason to make a decision now, I can figure that out later, the important thing is that I’d want to keep this blog going in some capacity.

Which is the big thing for me on all of it, it’s stuff I’ve intentionally told myself I can figure out later.  I haven’t thought very much about whether I could use Spanish in a specific career capacity, or where to start for language three, what language three would be, or if there even is going to be a language three for real.  Those questions are part of the trap, because none of them become relevant until after I finish this Spanish project.  As the weeks go by, I can tell I’m improving and am inching closer and closer to finishing this project.  But until that day comes, there’s not much sense in fantasizing about what it will be like once it’s over.  I’m just trying to enjoy my time getting to the end, anyway.

All righty, let’s look at this week’s numbers.

Tuesday 10/01

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of El Atlético Invisible, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Carmen Sandiego, 1 episode of KidVG, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 10/02

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of Me Vestiré de Medianoche, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Carmen Sandiego, 1 episode of Miraculous, 1 episode of Disenchantment, 1 episode of Arte Divierte, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 10/03

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 9% of Me Vestiré de Medianoche, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Daniel San GMR, 1 episode of Andrea Ga, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 10/04

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of Me Vestiré de Medianoche, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of No Hay Tos, 1 episode of Disenchantment, 1 episode of RicharBetaCode, ~70 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 10/05

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 9% of Me Vestiré de Medianoche, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Carmen Sandiego, 1 episode of Disenchantment, 1 episode of Diablero, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 10/06

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of Me Vestiré de Medianoche, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 6 episodes of Daniel San GMR, ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 10/07

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 6% of Me Vestiré de Medianoche, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 3 episodes of Daniel San GMR, 1 episode of No Hay Tos ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 140 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: 1/2 books, 510 minutes
  • Total watching/listening: 18 YouTube episodes, 1 podcast, and 8 television episodes, 510 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 17 hours 0 minutes

A pretty similar showing compared to last week, with the minor exception of Monday, which was a disaster.  Really, the disaster started on Sunday, but I had enough free time then it didn’t matter.  See, my modem died on Sunday, then a major power outage killed all the power on Monday for an hour and killed my internet entirely.  I am in fact busy scheduling this blog post from Starbucks wifi.  And let me tell you, when your studying relies on using a data connection, not having the internet really gets in the way.  I used my phone’s data on Sunday, but Monday proved to be a huge mess, and I just decided it wasn’t worth the headache to push myself for a full day’s worth of work around all the other nonsense.  I still watched and read a little, but I took the short day.

Outside of that mess, when watching things from an actual internet connection, I had some good choices this week.  In addition to Disenchantment getting a new season, Carmen Sandiego did as well.  I still vaguely tend to favor youtube over traditional tv shows, so the week’s peppered with a lot of that, but I’m enjoying what I’ve seen so far of both shows.

El Atlético Invisible ended on a good note, though rather bittersweet for me, since I’m aware that there will be no additional stories focused on Rincewind or the wizards.  Launching into Me Vestiré de Medianoche, I don’t have the same melancholy, because I know that the last book in the series also follows Tiffany and the other witches.  I’m still running out of books here, and Me Vestiré de Medianoche isn’t as long as the previous one was.

On Duolingo this week, I ran into another interesting case of confusion over a Spanish word that means multiple different words in English, in this case pintura, which means both paint as in the liquidy substance, and painting as in the thing you hang on your wall.  It’s sort of fascinating to consider that Spanish evolved in such a way that both the work of art and the substance it’s made from ended up being the same word, while in English they are different words that are both different conjugations of the verb to paint.  It’s also still interesting to me that what seems naturally intuitive of separating out two distinct ideas into two different words in another language ends up tripping people up a lot.  Maybe it’s just the way my head works, but for an example going the other way I’m pretty sure I mentioned before, there are two words for corner in Spanish: esquina, which refers to the outside corner of a rectangle (so the corner of a street block is the esquina), and rincón which refers to the inside corner (so the corner of a bedroom is the rincón), and that seemed totally natural to me.  Sure, I get why English calls them both just a corner, they’re vaguely the same part of a rectangle, but it makes just as much, if not more sense for them to be different words entirely.  I’d think it would be the same for paint and painting, and getting them confused would be difficult, but maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, after the disaster of the end of the week and the total starvation for internet, I sincerely hope next week is better.  I’m going to go and try to forget all this nonsense happened.  TTFN.

5 thoughts on “Having Restraint When Planning Ahead

    1. Either German or Japanese. My personal investment is very slightly in favor of Japanese, but German is significantly less intimidating, so I’m still not sure which one would win out.

      I also have an interest in learning Toki Pona, a minimalist conlang that I’ve been curious about, but that would definitely be a side project compared to either German or Japanese.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I accidentally digitally borrowed a German audiobook from the library ( it was Marilyn Manson’s memoir) and at first I thought they were making someone with a thick accent read the audiobook and/or he’s reading all these proper nouns or words I don’t know. I fast forward a bunch and I still understood nothing and realized it’s not in English. From that experience, I realized how much more I like the sound of Spanish and French and more than German. I have an interest in learning German however many years down the line.

        Well I would say that Japanese is very easy with how the learners are spoiled to death with resources and pirating lol (hundreds of subs2srs decks you can dl, morphman for anki, pop-up dictionaries that let you generate Anki cards effortlessly, the kindle, etc) . I’m sure there are plenty of resources for German too.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Yeah, I’m not super worried about available resources with Japanese, there likely would be a ton more immediately available to me than I’m even finding with Spanish, but the writing system is very intimidating and reading is a big part of my learning process, so it isn’t something that I feel comfortable “skipping.” I could probably get through a lot by way of romanized writing at the start, but actually learning the writing system would be absolutely necessary for me. And while I’m sure I’d be able to learn it all eventually, but the keyword there is EVENTUALLY. Japanese as a learning project is on a different scale from Spanish or a language like German. I’d LIKE to learn all three at some point, if that’s possible for me. It might make more sense to work on German before Japanese, just from a scheduling perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it’s definitely manageable with the remember the kanji (or lazy kanji – all those anki decks are available to download and they include the top 2 stories from the koohii site), anki, pop-up dictionaries on internet web browsers, anki plugins, listening etc etc.

      Liked by 1 person

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