When Good Advice is Hard to Take
Like most of us, I struggle to balance between my intake of media and the quality thereof. The Gravy Hose is a constant distraction, and it’s gotten to where it’s a triumph when I can make it through a movie or an episode without checking email or some RSS feed. Part of this is because there is always that one nugget of gold amongst the dross, that one thing that makes you go “Oh! That’s good to know!” and somehow justifies the distraction or the multitasking. Somehow you ignore just how much effort and time it took to get to that nugget, and how much more effective you can be if you focus your power.
A Good Problem is Still a Problem
This was driven home to me pretty thoroughly recently on the Art of Nonconformity Blog. I subscribe to Chris’s email updates, and when I got the one about “Revisions” it piqued my interest. Editing is very difficult for me – most of these blog entries are simply written and posted (please, do me a favor and pretend you’re surprised). I’ve actually managed to cultivate a practice that would be the envy of many bloggers – about 3000 words a week, for over a year. I’ve got at least three books worth, more if you count e-books! And I’ve always had the intention of working these entries into a book – I even expressed that intention to my blogger’s support group here in Madison.
In reading the comments for the post on AONC Blog, it appeared that I was pretty exceptional in this trait. Writer after writer talked about how hard the first draft is, how much easier it is to go back and do the second, third (huh?) or fourth revision (you gotta be kidding me!).
I’m exactly the opposite. The words flow, no problem – in fact, sometimes with fiction I can just get lost in the story and have no idea how much time I’ve been writing – but thousands of words are there on the screen. But going back? Changing them? Making them express the ideas better, getting rid of redundantly repetitive phrases written over and over (see what I did there?), even at times just throwing it out and starting over…this is hard for me.
This is my area of procrastination. I know this. Which is why I added this comment to Chris’ blog:
I hate editing. I’ve been writing an average of 3000 words a week on my blog for over a year – so I’ve got at least a couple of books worth, right? Yet the process of going in and actually pulling out the info, and actually editing it into coherent form…it’s the biggest procrastinative lure I have.
And that’s not even mentioning the novel I’m trying to edit, and the outline for my nonfiction book based on a workshop I teach…oh, and a handbook for conference presenters in my field.
Too much content. Too many projects. Editing is my nemesis.
Of course, I forgot: Chris has a habit of reading and replying to all the comments.
A Matter of Scale
So yep, right there was an answer to my question. Chris said:
My first comment is that 3,000 words on a blog per week is great, but blog posts don’t usually combine very well into books. My second comment is that with the blog stuff, the novel, the non-fiction book, and the conference handbook … maybe you should pick one of these to start with.
It doesn’t mean you can’t do the others later, of course. That’s my $0.02!
And just like that, my head went ping. Sure, I talk a lot about multitasking on a small scale – chatting while working, texting while driving (don’t!), skimming a newsfeed while watching TV. All the proof is out there: multitasking is less efficient, and bad for you besides.
But what about on a larger scale? We already know you’re only supposed to change one habit at a time…but maybe that applies to the bigger goals as well? Of course it does! Chris was absolutely on the money: multitasking is a problem on both sides of the scale.
The Hard Choice to Focus Your Power
Trying to be a great blogger, a great fiction writer, author a personal development book and a book on Open Space facilitation? Might be over-reaching. Perhaps, Gray, I hear you saying, you could focus your power and skill on one of these projects, and do it really, really well.
It’s a nice idea, this focusing practice. It doesn’t mean I have anything less to do – it just means that the things I’m doing have a single goal, rather than having the effort flying off in multiple directions. It is hard to say it’s ok to let that project go…but with practice, it gets easier.