Writing and Eating Frogs

I’m an English teacher so I don’t have to justify wanting to write about writing; that’s nice because I really didn’t like the paragraph I had for just that purpose. It was boring and reminded me of dull sample teaching philosophies that I read when I was applying for jobs. They used phrases like “transferable skill” and “intrinsic motivation” and “utilize.” Rest assured, I have a varied and valid interest in the subject and my desire to write about writing should in no way be seen as indicative of how boring I am as a person.

Anyway, that’s enough justifying my not justifying this post. Onto the good stuff: I write every morning and have never eaten a frog.

 

You’re safe, little buddy, just keep eating flies and mosquitos and doing the world a favor

I had a boss a few years ago who made it his mission to communicate to our shared high school students that working hard was something they’d have to do–a surprise to some–and getting the hardest work done first could be rewarding in ways they didn’t yet realize–because they usually waited until the night before to get their shit done. He, and I’m guessing everyone who has read whatever books this phrase or ideology came from, called this eating the frog. The thinking behind it was that you get the hardest, worst thing of your day done early so the rest of the day is easier and there’s nothing painful looming over you.

Naturally, eating innocent little slimy leg-babies is how some people choose to communicate this ideology.

I write every morning, and I used to grade in the mornings, and in grad school I was working constantly and slept in tiny fits so every moment in which my body boiled and begged for the creamy descent into death felt like a morning. My life is honestly not that hard right now, but I’m familiar with getting the worst work done first…

 

…and it sucked so much.

Yeah, sunrises are pretty and all, but nothing can compete with your brain’s own sexy movies it makes for itself

I think a lot about how my students get their work done, how they look at the projects I give them, how they start that work, how they break it down, how they get it all done. And when I think about all this, it really worries me to think that they’re getting everything started bright and early because I’ve seen them bright and early and I’m certain I’ve caught shoes on the wrong feet. Imagine you’re in school, doesn’t matter what level. Imagine you have a little essay to write, and this essay requires a little research. This research can be as simple as finding a website or as complicated as conducting an interview online with a board of specialists in their field. Now, imagine you’re doing this immediately after the day’s first encounter with caffeine. Imagine your sleepy delirium, your frustration that you didn’t get to the part of the dream with the ice cream and alluring sexual partners, your kind of vague headache that might be because of your dependence on chemical stimulants or that you grind your teeth at night. Imagine being in this state of mind and having to get the day’s most important work done.

For another example, I dropped a stapler in my tea mug a few months ago. I was stirring my tea with a pocket-sized stapler because I didn’t have the energy to find a clean spoon. It was in that state of mind that I completed my thesis. Why would anyone voluntarily inflict this upon themselves?

I know this way of working isn’t limited to groggy mornings, but imagine you’ve just made it to your office building or your cubicle or your kitchen, wherever you work. Why would you make the first experience you have in your professional day also the most strenuous. Get some momentum first. File some shit, bake a cake, talk to a customer that doesn’t have the personality of a Roomba, do whatever you can to get yourself going because I fucking hated doing all the terrible stuff in the morning. I burned out harder than a bonfire… that’s outside.

That was a great joke, me, and don’t let anyone tell us otherwise

Doing the hardest thing at the hardest time of the day when you should really be eating breakfast or getting little internal rewards for getting manageable work done before you tackle the big shit, it just seems like a really fantastic way to dread getting started doing anything. I know because I dread starting things.

Which is why I write in the morning. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and it’s not that hard, and it’s so rewarding to see that even with all my sleepy typos and unfinished jokes that didn’t get cut in revision, people still seem to like what I write. I think I haven’t burned out writing here yet because it’s never exhausting and it never feels like I’m shoving the writhing long-limbed body of a hapless croak muffin down my gullet.

Croak muffin is also what I’d call one if I had it as a pet

So to any students or people with jobs or people who just have a ton of shit to do, maybe don’t do it first. Give yourself a minute. Do some other stuff. Get a rhythm going. If you’re a student, do some easy homework. If you’re a cook, chop some shit. If you run the last operating guillotine, maybe give a few haircuts before taking any more off the top.

9 Replies to “Writing and Eating Frogs”

  1. Totally true. It’s all about the low-hanging fruit. Go for that first, get some little successes to build up your confidence, then suck it up and do the hard shit.

    Unless you’re me. Then you keep putting off the hard stuff, letting it pile up until it becomes so bad that the idea of it actually keeps you up at night, at which point you resolve to get it done. Then you wait another week or two, just to make REALLY SURE it’s that giant looming pile of horror that is causing you to chew all your nails off and have sudden, ill-timed bouts of gastric distress. Then one day, after a minor breakdown the night before, you heave a resigned sigh, pop your ear buds in, crank up the Green Day, and go into hyper-focus mode. You dive into the pile and methodically dismantle it piece by odious piece. You lose all track of time while doing this. You skip lunch. You eventually have to stop for a bathroom break and realize it’s 3:30 in the afternoon and you’ve been doing nothing but The Thing for the last six hours. You finish The Thing, go home, drink a beer, and sleep the sleep of the righteous. The next day, you come to work feeling like a new person…a person who no longer procrastinates! That lasts about ten minutes, then you see something shiny on the Internet and the whole process begins anew.

    (Can you tell I spent all day yesterday eating nothing but frogs?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry for your all-frog day. I can totally relate, especially on the drive to not procrastinate again. The suffering is over and we’re different people after it’s gone right? …no. No, it happens all over again because eating a frog at any time of day is awful. The beer sounds good right now though

      Liked by 1 person

  2. If I could physically agree with you any more I would. But there’s only so much agreeing I can fit into my Hobbit body. XD But for real, I get to work at 8:30, and up until like 10 all I can aspire to do is not bite anyone’s head off and tackle the easy stuff, like scheduling shit and answering last night’s tickets.

    That email from Super Duper Demanding Customer? Yeah, that’s NOT the first thing I’ll do in the morning.

    (Though tbh if I could start work at like midnight, that would be awesome, but my boss sadly won’t allow that)

    Also, on a note of things you don’t need to know, we have the expression ‘swallowing frogs’ in my language, but it means hearing things you don’t like and swallowing them in silence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yessss, sometimes just being present and marginally productive is the most we can do before we get a little work momentum building.

      I’d also work exclusively at night if I could, but I worry my students would be annoyed.

      I like that version of swallowing frogs more. It makes me think of what I already do instead of what someone with frog mouth and an empty agenda is trying to get me to do

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hey, who knows, maybe your students would love to be nocturnal beings too. Maybe someone should start Vampire University Programs, or something that sounds less ominous to the same effect.

        And ugh, I feel so sorry you have to live with that. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it won’t be for long. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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