Attack of Writer’s Decidophopia

decisionIt’s not so easy to put first things first. It’s not even easy to decide what should be first!

I want to write first in my day because so many writer bios of famous successful authors say that’s what they do. They stumble to their offices first thing, in their slippers and carrying coffee, to pound the keys for a couple of hours before breakfast.

I’ve always wanted to write first. I’m even doing a 28-day accountability exercise right now with two other writers. I only manage to make it first about half the time.

Not Always Possible

Writing first thing in the day isn’t always possible. It depends on your season of life sometimes. So many things vie for first place in your day!

  • For many years, early rising babies and children clamored for my attention first thing every morning, and let’s face it, hungry kids and soaked diapers won’t wait a couple of hours.
  • Even after the kids were older and there was just the dog, he had to go outside very quickly every morning. Waiting two hours for that “first” would have also been disastrous.
  • Some health gurus say exercise first because you’ll never do it later, and it’s critical to your stamina. Others say eat a healthy breakfast first.
  • Still others say you must journal first and dump whatever is bothering you where no one will ever see. (I used to do this using Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” when going through a traumatic time.)
  • If you’re an e-mail or Facebook junkie, you may feel checking online must be first since something there might affect the course of your day.
  • Your pastor will suggest that devotional time needs to be first or it will be pushed aside when you get busy. (I do find that to be true, so that is my “first first” of the day.)

There are calls to make and showers to take. They all “need” to be first in your day before you lose control of your time.

Calgon, Take Me Away!

Enter Decidophopia. It’s a term I read in Carol Rottman’s writers in the Spirit. Here’s how she describes it:

Every morning from those early stirrings in bed of sluggish body and scattered mind, I must make some choices. What first? What next?…As I face my desk each day, I know I’ve got [Decidophopia]. I must decide, but I am afraid. To make one thing first pushes everything else lower on the list. My desk is usually covered with notebooks and loose paper in stacks–each one a ‘should.’

Do You Have Decidophopia?

When my children were small, I didn’t have decidophopia. There simply were few choices! The kids’ needs came first. The writing stuff came later–often much later when they were down for afternoon naps.

Years down the road, when the kids were in school and then grown, Decidophopia set in. Suddenly I had some choices. Even with teaching part-time, I could schedule most of my days however I wanted.

Choices! Choices!

I learned fairly quickly that I love structure. “Going with the flow” every day actually fed my Decidophopia and made it worse. Making that “what next?” decision every hour or so resulted too many times in cruising on out to the kitchen for a snack or reading e-mail. As boring as it may sound to many people, I now have a written list for my important daily stuff. I like order.

My devotional time comes first. My exercise comes next if the weather is decent enough–otherwise it comes at noon. My healthy breakfast is next. And the writing comes next. It’s my first work of the day, but it’s not the first thing I do.

But unless you live on an island alone, you have to be flexible when you can’t write first. For example, I got up early to write today before my little granddaughter came. Now I’m blogging while she is down for a nap. Since she staying overnight, I can almost guarantee we’ll take a trip to the pond in the early morning to see turtles before I get any writing done.

No One Right Way

What’s your routine like? Or do you have one? Are there so many “important firsts” vying for your attention each day that it’s hard to get started? Are you able to be flexible and “go with the flow,” or do you need more structure?

I love hearing how other writers work. We’re all so different and there’s certainly no “one right way.” If you have a day job, a spouse, a home, and/or children, you must decide to write. It won’t just happen.

Leave a comment about how you handle decidophopia!

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14 Responses to Attack of Writer’s Decidophopia

  1. Monica-Marie Vincent says:

    I have “decideophobia” all the time. Mostly because I have ADHD & can’t pin down something if I have too many choices. Now I have a goal which is repairing the house so it’s been easier….but once the plumbing is fixed…the roof is fixed…..& the rest of the house is in order this phobia will most certainly rear it’s ugly head. My husband is a really big help because he pares down the decisions to only 3 choices & that helps. Without him I’d still be staring forlornly at things. He is a huge support in my writing so he’ll always make that one of my choices.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Monica-Marie, I can’t tell you how blessed you are to have an understanding spouse in this area–and that he will help make sure writing is one of your choices. That is heartening to hear.

      When you are writing, making specific lists (like your house repair list) is a good way to go. I have always done that so I just need to tackle the next thing on my list. When I forget, I start wandering from thing to thing and waste what writing time I do have.

  2. Jen Rathe says:

    As always, Kristi, it’s great to read your post and to get encouragement and know I’m not alone in my feelings of time management. I so would love to have more structure in my day, but it’s a goal I can’t seem to meet. Right now I know it’s not that attainable with having two young kids at home. The youngest is 3 1/2 months, so he pretty much runs the show. I long for the day when I can get into a schedule (hoping maybe when the kids are in school (don’t know how far off that will be as would like to have one or two more). Today’s post hit home on so many levels and helped me realize that with the season I’m in (young kids) it is harder. I am a still a new writer and am almost done with my ICL course. I would love to put writing as one of the firsts, but I have so many things that I want to give my attention to and will have to make some choices. I would also like to get in an excercise time and devotional time in my day, and feel like they are extremely important, but feel like I keep failing. I m blessed to be at home with my kids 3 days out of the work week, but do have a day job as a nurse and do two busy 10 hour days. Tired days (like today), it’s especially easy to fall into a trap where I feel like I’m wasting time. First I sat down and played the facebook junkie roll, then wandered to pinterest, then found myself here (though this is inpiring and not a waste of time). My original intention was to either write or work on planning crafts for this years VBS. Though, I do feel facebook can be good at times. Just the other day I left my purse more than two hours away and thankfully someone from my church was traveling there and was able to meet up with my family to bring it back to me – it paid to put my problems on facebook!! One thing though, I have found myself doing better at in the new year (though I refuse to call it a new years resolution), is being able to sometimes put fun work before not so fun work (house cleaning). In the past I’ve always felt that I could not do that other stuff until work was done first, but that stuff is never done, so therefore, I’ve learned (still learning). I like a clean house, that’s why I say I’m still learning. I just finished my “maternity leave” so am trying to get back into writing. Before the new baby we were so busy with house projects that it was impossible to write. But now we have a new office, but I have yet to use it. Now my husband has added one more project for my birthday present – a dishwasher, but in the long run, it will save time!! I also long for my husband to support my writing in the fact that I can put it as a first. I have recently found that feeding times are a good time to write or read. Sometimes, I’ve even managed to type. I have a baby that likes to snack and snooze as I say, so sometimes those sessions are still long. I really need to work on not wasting so much time on things like facebook. My goals I have set are to finish my class and then work on submitting more of my work. I’ve submitted one thing and that one rejection letter was inspiring. I have also started a blog, as an easy way to practice some writing yet feel like I’m accomplishing more when doing my computer time. Its an anything blog. Some of what I want to post are craft ideas, giving me a chance to do some of that. Crafts are a huge therapy for me. Again, thanks for another encouraging post. Sorry this ended up so long. It felt good to put my thoughts into words.

    • Kristi Holl says:

      Jen, you are a prime example of why our “season of life” plays such a huge part in how much writing we get done, and when. I took the ICL course when my middle daughter was an infant too, so I identify! I did my lesson reading and “magazine research” while nursing too. I tried really hard to write/study during my 45 minutes to an hour when the kids napped at the same time. It never seemed like enough. Like you, I was teaching at church, but I didn’t have a day job for a little while. I probably couldn’t have handled Facebook at all back then! Right now, with your baby so young, you’re doing well to get through your days and find time to brush your teeth. :-) It will get easier. If your daily goal needs to be “15 minutes,” then that’s where you start. Even that much will keep your desire awake and your goal in front of you. Good luck to you!

  3. Deanna says:

    Aha! A diagnosis! Decidophobia has plagued me for years. Recently, I found help in Darren Hardy’s book, THE COMPOUND EFFECT. I’m still developing my goals according to the worksheets offered free on his website. I have read many time-management books, but this one clicked with my personality. I’ve been able to identify priorities in a new way. The author also advocates a morning routine.

    Mornings challenge me–my brain needs a couple of hours to wake up! My husband leaves before 5 a.m. and I like to help him pack his lunch and kiss him goodbye. To avoid falling back asleep–a common problem–I tackle a load of laundry.

    Then, I eat a healthy breakfast while reading an inspiring book or article.

    Devotions come next.

    Afterward, I check e-mails, review my list for the day, and begin the most critical writing project. Thanks to Kristi’s advice, I now take breaks every hour or so. One of the breaks includes a half hour of exercise. This always brings a fresh outlook.

    This is my ideal routine. Some days come unglued. Sometimes I stumble and slip back to my old time-wasting habits. Overall, I have seen improvement during the past few weeks.

    • Kristi Holl says:

      Deanna, I think YOU should be writing this blog! Wow! What a great routine! I think it is one of the ironic truths of being “creative.” Most creative people thrive on routines, rather than fly-by-night schedules. I want to check out the book you mentioned too. Thanks! :-)

  4. AllyM says:

    I have decidophobia. Thanks for helping me put a name to the organized chaos. I know what I want to do & have a list, its the deciding that I stumble over. It is reassuring to hear there are more writers in the season of “young children” my 8 month son still runs my home. He is so stumborn about not following any routine. When he has a bad sleep night it is so hard to be motivated to decide anything. The past few days he’s been teething so I’ve been doing more reading & less writing. It is good to remeber he won’t be small for long so I am enjoying it most of the time :) finally he’s asleep so off to bed for me & hopefully a better day fighting decidophobia tomorrow. Thank you for a wonderful post.

    • kwpadmin says:

      You made a good point there, AllyM. When my kids were babies and toddlers, I counted my hour of naptime as writing, whether I was actually writing, or reading a writing craft book, or reading magazines for market study, or whatever. And during sleepless teething times, I read more than I wrote! But when I finally had a clear head to write, I knew more and the writing was better for it. Of course, you can go overboard and spend all your time reading and never writing, but I’m not talking about that. It’s more about having a Plan B for the days you’re exhausted (which is frequently with babies and toddlers!) :-)

  5. Sue says:

    After much trial and error, I figured out:

    - I’m too restless to concentrate on writing first thing in the morning.

    - If I don’t get enough exercise, sitting at my computer becomes uncomfortable after 30 minutes.

    Here’s what works for me:

    First thing I do every morning, seven days a week, is walk for two hours in my house. (It’s a small house, but the rooms on the first floor are railroad style, so there’s a straight pathway through four rooms.)

    Although walking inside my house sounds weird, it’s less distracting for me than walking outside and it lets me multitask. During the two-hour walk, I eat a breakfast of fruit and toast; drink plenty of water; peek at my email; empty the dishwasher; fill the washing machine; make phone calls (I never waste an opportunity to walk while engaging in a phone conversation.); and contemplate current and potential writing projects.

    After a two-hour walk, I’m calm enough to focus on writing and limber enough to sit at the computer for several hours, without getting sore.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Sue, I am utterly amazed and fascinated by your morning routine!!! Two hours of walking certainly WOULD get the fidgets out! I guess it’s what my treadmill/computer does for me. You are wise to know yourself and what you need!! I know others will be curious about this, so I have to ask: how do you walk and do email and empty the dishwasher?

      • Sue says:


        I’ve found that the walking need not be nonstop to be effective. Depending on what chores I want to get done, I might stop every 10-15 minutes, for no longer than 30-60 seconds. The idea is to keep walking for that 10-15 minutes.

        True, each chore takes longer than it would if I weren’t jigsawing it around exercise, but within the two hour timeframe, everything gets completed and I don’t have guilt over exercise or chores gnawing at me during writing time.

        Here are my mechanics:

        Dishwasher-emptying: This is the easiest multi-task. I open the dishwasher. Each time I pass it on my “route,” I put away two or three items at a time—whatever I can comfortably grab.

        Email: My computer is situated within my walking path. I keep my mail program open, so I can see if new emails pop in. I try not to write or respond to emails within the two hour timeframe, but I plan them in my head. If it’s a complicated or involved response, I’ll open a Word document and add notes as I pass by my computer. This is how I formed the answers to your questions.

        I’ve gotten so used to this routine, that I feel like I’m wasting time if I do these chores outside “walking time.” In addition, I’ve conditioned myself to pace whenever I’m on the phone.

        • Kristi Holl says:

          I do think this is the most fascinating routine I have ever read about!!! It’s brilliant…and takes care of those niggling things that bother us when we try to write. Good for you!

  6. I had to speak to this. As you know, Kristi, I’m nowhere near parenthood, let alone grand-parenthood, but I STILL have many “Firsts” besides writing vying for my attention.

    While like you, I need some structure to my day (Which I don’t have yet, but will soon, ideally before my next birthday in May) I know when it’s too strict I become frazzled, overwhelmed, and become the meanest son/grandson my mom and grandmother ever knew, and I’m sadly not joking here. Things are stable now, but 2012 was NOT my finest year with my family or as a writer.

    2013 see better writing prospects, but family issues still looming overhead, some of which are entirely out of my control, but that doesn’t mean they don’t effect me or hurt me less.

    So I’m working out a schedule that has structure I need, without feeling all sense of spontaneity DIES.

    For me having few options (like when your kids were little) is more traumatic than having too many, it’s hard to be overwhelmed, but it’s harder for me to be limited, like my not being able to move out to my own home, purely due to lack of finances, and living in a cottage barely enough for one person with two other relatives, things just get on top you, on top of the fact we’re as far from close-knit as a family can get without being abusive.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Taurean, you are a good example of showing why “decidophopia” has nothing to do with parenting or grandparenting. We are all so different and living in such different circumstances. Like now, I have to remember that most people don’t have a spare bedroom to turn into an office, like I do. Most are like when I started writing, when I had a very tiny closet just big enough for my desk and chair and nothing else. I’m glad you’re experimenting with how much structure works for you. My kind of structure works for my personality type, but there are so many different personalities! I hope the blog points to common problems we all share, plus some solutions we can all try and see if they work for us. Setting boundaries around our writing time/space is hard most of the time, and as I recall, a crowded living situation is one of the hardest.

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