rule #3: stay focused, but don’t forget to pick the blueberries
following my weak start to this week, i got back on track yesterday and today, getting more than 2500 words yesterday morning, and 2000 so far today, and it’s only just after lunch. in opposition to monday and tuesday, though, yesterday and today have both had less than a full day available to write, yet i am still at least matching the output of those days. what’s different?
focus. yes, in hindsight, this should probably be #1, or maybe #2; and yes, this is one more of those ‘well, duh’ rules that every writer certainly experiences, but hey, i can be a little slow on the uptake from time to time.
anyway, this is one of those things that is both as simple as and as hard as it sounds. stay focused. of course. i want to write this book, so if i just sit down and do it, stay focused on it, then i can keep cranking it out. bad days, good days, whatever. as long as i keep my eye on where i want to be, and why i’m doing what i’m doing, everything else works out.
in such times, i can say no to any frivolous or tempting distractions and i can do some pretty good writing. even when i’m not feeling as confident about the writing, i know that if i stay focused, i will get through the difficult or awkward patch and on to firmer ground. this way, i can reach the end without getting bogged down in the middle, because i can always come back and revisit/revise/erase/develop that section at a later time. it is many times harder for me to start the momentum than it is to keep it going.
on the other hand, when i let myself wander despite my better judgement, there is no upside. i waste time in front of the computer or television, and any writing i do manage is protracted, difficult, and draining.
the worst part of all this? i know full well this is what i’m doing. i can look myself in the mirror and say, ‘you really ought to be writing,’ but when i’m out of focus, i can just nod, agree wholeheartedly, and go back to the computer.
i have to take one piece i said above back. there is one upside to falling down like this, and that’s getting back up with renewed vigor. not unlike regaining health after a sickness, i have a renewed appreciation for the way things should be.
one more thing: staying focused doesn’t mean spending 10 hours a day in front of my desk above the garage scribbling away like a madman. my back can’t take all that hunching over (talk about sounding like an old man…). no, it means writing while the writing works. not just while it’s easy, but while it feels like it’s productive. there isn’t a clear sign that it is or it isn’t, though, so this is a bit of fuzzy logic, but it’s the best i can come up with so far. once i’ve hit that point, i need to walk away, do something else.
there are also times when i need to plan to be away, such as the fabulous afternoon my wife and i spent yesterday picking blueberries (twenty pounds!) at our favorite u-pick spot, Libby & Son. i probably could have gotten three or four more pages written that afternoon, but does that really compare to spending a gorgeous, late summer afternoon on a mountainside with my wife, who took a half day from her extremely busy pre-beginning of school schedule just to be with me?