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Putting Things on the Back Burner. A Guide To Letting Go.

Relaxing at the beach is a great way to let go (Rick Green admires a beach)

As I mentioned the other day we’ve been very busy doing a dozen things at once.  Stuff around the website. Renovations, rebuilds, the list goes on.

When I start to fear that it will never end, I pause and remind myself that at some point there will be nothing more I can do, cause I’ll be dead.  Somehow that cheers me up. Not just cause, “Hey, I’m not dead yet!  So that’s good.  Mind you… the day has just started, and the front steps are slippery, and 9 out of 10 fatal…”


Where was I?  Oh, right, I have an expiry date, as in BEST BEFORE MARCH, 2043.  Knowing that compels me to focus on priorities.  Cause left to my own devices (And I own some great devices) I would simply do all the fun and interesting stuff. Priorities.  What’s urgent?  Lots.  What’s overdue?  Even more than lots.  What’s not urgent and can be put on the back burner? 

Normally what I put on the back burner is anything that isn’t fun, or I’m stuck on. The moment something gets challenging, I put it aside and switch to something new, interesting, fresh, easier.  I procrastinate on some things. So I don’t mind moving things to the back burner. I have enough stuff on the back burners to fill 30 lifetimes.


The hardest thing for me is to actually let go of things completely.  To finally admit, “I’m never going to get to this.”  To hand my tax paperwork over to an accountant.  Or to take a project off the back burner, and toss it away. Getting rid of stuff has become somewhat urgent. 

We celebrated our fourth Christmas in a row in different houses.  So our stuff has been moved, and moved, and moved.  Boxes labeled ‘To Be Sorted’ haven’t been opened since 2002.  It seems getting rid of stuff, completely, as in gone forever is tough.

But letting go of projects or big dreams is the hardest of all.  Why? Is it an admission that I simply will never get to everything because, gulp, someday I won’t be here any more? One thing that has made it easier to let go of some dreams or long term goals has been knowing that I have ADHD.  For 30 years I’ve written and performed skit comedy.  But I had ideas for screenplays.  And, they never happened. 

Before the diagnosis, I assumed I was lazy, uncommitted, took the easy way, way too comfortable doing skit comedy, afraid to fail, etc.. And this is someone who had written and performed in something like 600 episodes of television and radio, plus thousands of live performances. That may sound impressive to most people.  To me, it was simply something I’d done, and done fairly easily. 

Since it came easily, or relatively easily, in my mind it was no big deal.  Sound familiar?  You have successes and you barely even acknowledge them. Ask me about my shortcomings, failings, frustrations, weaknesses… and I could talk your ear off.  When I ran out of ears to talk to I paid a therapist to listen.


Once I understood my mindset, once got my head around, well, my head, it was possible to let go of my movie ideas.  I thought, what are the odds of me sitting at a computer working for six months on one script, and developing story arcs, and character arcs, and beats, and all the other aspects of creating a screenplay?  On the 1 in a 1,000 chance it will be turned into a movie?  And not have it’s premiere the same week as The Hobbit, and be seen by 9 people? Well, a screenplay ain’t gonna happen.  It’s just not.

So I’m finding I’m de-cluttering my ‘bucket list’.  Instead of trying to do 8,349 things, I’ve cut it way back. To about 8,341. I figure another five or six more off the list and I can finally really focus on the stuff I reaaaallly want to do with my life. Exciting!

Hmm.  I should develop a program about how to let go of long-held dreams. It could be so great. Yeah! I’ll just add it to my list of To-dos.



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  1. sdwa January 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Yeah, I’m completely discouraged. I wrote upwards of a couple hundred pages of a novel, and it’s a mess. I’m trying to figure out how to fix it or how to start over. This is not the first time I’ve begun a project that seemed impossible. I’ve actually completed a couple of things that felt impossible, so I know I can overcome significant obstacles through force of will. What I don’t know is if I can overcome this one. Writing is a lonely and crummy process when it isn’t going well. No one cares. It’s a big boring joke to everyone but me. When it is going well, I won’t leave my desk. I don’t want to give up, even though I feel defeated, frustrated, disgusted, overwhelmed, humiliated, and pathetic for even attempting it in the first place. I am angry. I should be able to do this. The finished product might not matter to anyone else, and it might not be any good, but getting it done matters to me. If I have to settle for what’s easy, what’s the point? Ditching boxes of bank statements from 1989? Good idea, but will probably never happen. Abandoning a project I care about? No. I’m gonna finish this thing even if it kills me.

    • lathamgreen October 23, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      Maybe try teaming up with a co writer who can bring some order to your ideas?

  2. Larynxa January 30, 2013 at 6:40 pm

    @sdwa, this will seem counterproductive, but have you tried putting it aside completely for a few weeks (or longer), and then coming back to it?
    I’ve found that, by doing this, it’s as if I’m seeing it with a fresh pair of eyes. I have more ideas, and I can see what needs rewriting.
    I have a couple of silent comedy scripts that I first wrote 25 years ago. I thought they were perfect, but, every few years, I read them again, just for fun, and I get a few more ideas, so I do another draft…
    I had another thought about your writer’s block. You’re keeping vigil over your friend, right now, and it’s completely overwhelming you, physically and emotionally. No wonder you’re finding the pressure of working on your novel too daunting!
    Would it help if you put it aside and just journalled—writing down everything you’re thinking & feeling, complete stream-of-consciousness? For now, think of writing purely as a way to get all those feelings out of your system.
    When your vigil is done, and your friend is at peace, you can return to writing your novel, and the words will flow more easily.

  3. cheeseball October 28, 2018 at 10:31 am

    Whoa! Thinking about letting go of my dreams makes me anxious! How do I know today that I’ll never get around to creating topiary animals in my garden — and my neighbours’ gardens? My summers will be free in a couple of decades…And I finally have some space in my basement to start scrapbooking. I just need a solid week of good sleeps so I can stay up later than 8:30pm and get a couple of hours of cutting and pasting in before I collapse.
    Seriously though. How do you know it’s time to let go?

  4. cloudyncool October 28, 2018 at 11:21 am

    The bucket list.
    So many buckets.
    Different ones for different areas of life.
    Need to learn to say goodbye.
    To buckets.
    But which ones?
    When, in what order to say goodbye to them?
    Decisions ….. there’s a bucket for decisions that need to be made.
    Cancer teaches you so much.
    Some lessons I didn’t want to learn.
    Some I hang on to because they’re good.
    With ADHD it’s just harder.
    Why should doing cancer and other crisis be any different?
    Counting on my cleverness?
    I’m so exhausted. Solo.
    Chemo brain on top of it all sucks. Sorry I’m whining lol.
    Need an ADHD coach in Ottawa.
    cheers all,

  5. npbettyb December 11, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    With me it’s just getting the table top de-cluttered

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