Timelock & Indecision

There’s a state of mind into which I fall much too easily. You know the state I mean—those moments (or days, or weeks, or even months) in which you are faced with so many things to do that you can’t actually do any of them—a state of over-committment (or at least perceived over-committment) that leads to paralyzation. Elizabeth Ann and I used to refer to this condition as “timelock.”

The only way out of timelock is to take a breath, pick just one thing, and do it. Lather, rinse, repeat. Unfortunately, compounding my tendency towards timelock is a near-perpetual state of indecision. Which thing must I do first? Which do I most want to do? What do I want to be when I grow up? Who (or what) am I?

I can’t answer any of these questions, except to say that I am a lifelong dilettante. I want to do everything. But since it is impossible for one person to do everything, I simply do many things not really well, but just enough to get by. And the older I get, the harder that is to pull off.

For example, here are all the things to which I have currently committed myself (in no particular order):

  • Full-time job as Managing Director at FoodPlay Productions* (includes secondary jobs as head of IT and digital media)
  • Editor and writer at Manga Bookshelf
  • Host of July’s Manga Moveable Feast (featuring the works of CLAMP)
  • Manga editor for the Digital Manga Guild (currently editing a very wordy supernatural josei series)
  • Editor of upcoming manga guide for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
  • Director of Really Rosie for Act Too Studio
  • Voice & acting coach at Act Too Studio

Quite a number of these include major deadlines coming up this month. Other commitments include, you know, my marriage, that YA fantasy novel I’ve been trying to write for the past several years, and reclaiming my health (which involves things like this morning’s two-hour walk with my dog).

I look at this list and I think, “What the hell am I doing?” Do I want to be a writer? A journalist? An editor? A theater director? A teacher? A web developer? I’m 43 years old. PICK SOMETHING ALREADY.

Am I sabotaging myself by not choosing one thing and really giving it my focus? (The obvious answer is “yes.”) So what do I actually want to do? Who do I want to be?

The truth is, I simply don’t know. I want to be all of those things. And so I linger in an endless state of timelock, trying to choose one thing at a time and just barely getting by… for now.


*This is the job that pays the bills. Sort of.


  1. This sounds just like me, so I am no help at all.

    • Well, I can’t actually expect anyone else to tell me what I should be doing with my life, so really, solidarity is probably the biggest help I could receive. So you rock! :D

  2. Just had this conversation with myself the other day. Why not do everything? Who says you have to choose one? You are a creative person and probably need all of it to fully express the different aspects of who you are. (I hope u are still singing by the way!) I say do it all, but divide your day into segments the night before so u can accomplish everything you need to do and try to follow the schedule. That way you write, you sing, you direct, etc. everyday. And if there is one thing that really brings you the most joy doing it because there probably is, carve out the most time for that. One question that is good to ask yourself is “If you could do anything and not worry about money or failure, what would it be?” I know that answer for me, and it is the one thing I am not doing at all….

    • Hi, Heather!

      The scheduling is very good advice. I’ve done that successfully (or mostly successfully) in the past, and that really is what I should be doing now, especially to get through July.

      One question that is good to ask yourself is “If you could do anything and not worry about money or failure, what would it be?”

      I have asked myself this question, and I think part of my problem is that I’m really torn on the answer. Probably I’d drop (or greatly reduce) the thing that currently pays the bills—that part is easy to figure out. But then what? I still kind of want to do all of everything that’s left. And I suppose it’s *me* who insists I need to pick one thing, but I think that’s because I have the desire to be really great at something (besides singing, which… well, I don’t really do that anymore, except when it’s needed for teaching). And you can’t be really *great* at something without full commitment to it, I don’t think.

      I hope you and I can both figure this out for ourselves. I hope you can find a way to do the thing *you* most want to do. Life is freaking complicated.

  3. It reminds me of a time in my life (at about your age, I think) when I was focusing on the Quaker emphasis and books about “simplicity.” Finally, I just decided I didn’t want to lead a simple life. :)

  4. Indeed you could. It doesn’t have to be simple, but simpler would help.

  5. Well, I don’t know if this is helpful, but I find it calms me down to just say, aloud to myself, “I’ll know what to do when the time is right.” I might say this 25 times a day. Also, I’ll take a deep breath and say, “It is what it is.” (I don’t say that to other people b/c I think it’s obnoxious to say to other people, but when I say it to myself, upon taking a deep breath, I find it calming. As if it lets me off the hook.)

    It may very well be possible that you’re a generalist and that you’re having exactly the manner of life experience you wanted for yourself. Maybe if you could come to a place where you felt calm and relaxed about it then suddenly you’d find yourself knowing just what you wanted to focus on next! Or maybe not… :D

    • This might sound unbelievable, but it honestly never occurred to me that I should consider the possibility that I’m naturally a generalist. Seriously, it never even crossed my mind. I’ve always been so focused on the necessity of gaining real expertise (you know, of the 10,000 hour variety) in order to feel credible doing… anything. This calls for some real re-evaluation on my part. Thanks, Kendra!

  6. I have been thinking similar thoughts a lot over the last three years. Having a second child, being unemployed for a year, then adjusting to a new full time job have all caused me to re-examine my “balance” or lack thereof. The list of things I do is also a little too long and I’ve been trying to understand my priorities in order to adjust it.

    The conclusions that I have come to, to try to help guide my decisions:
    – It is critical to my happiness that I design something on a regular basis. Architectural design, set design, knitting and crochet design, graphic design – all of these things fill the void. If I’m not doing enough design work at work, I need to design a knitting project or a birthday invitation or *something*. Set design and painting doesn’t really fit in with my life right now. Maybe when the kids are older.
    – I need to do a few things to maintain and improve on my architectural “network” for future employment opportunities, but these activities are not a personal priority.
    – I love the community and camaraderie of the knitting/crochet community. Even though I don’t have a lot of time for knitting and crochet design now that I’m employed again…keeping a foot in that door on twitter and ravelry makes me happy. And I hope to have more time to freelance when the kids are older so I do every bit that I can.
    – Similar to above, I teach knitting and crochet classes at my local yarn shop. I enjoy teaching and it helps to keep my foot in the fiber door. And it exercises my brain in a different way.
    – All of these personal needs have to be balanced with the demands of parenthood, our marriage, the house, family and friendships. As the kids get older, their needs are beginning to get less intense, but the desire to increase their participation in household chores is strong…and each new thing to teach them takes time. Their daily need for us is not going to totally go away until they move out. :-P

    It seems to me that you need to write in the same way that I need to design. So part of the equation is probably figuring out how much you need to write to be “satisfied” in order to make sure that the other priorities in your life can be met as well. Not sure if that helps, except as empathy, since I am going through similar examinations.

    • Amy, this *is* really helpful. It’s nice to know I’m not alone, and it’s also really helpful for me to go through your thought process. So thank you very much for sharing. I hope we can both work this out!!

Speak Your Mind