So, we’re almost a week into the new year; how are those new plans and schemes and hopes and dreams workin’ out for you?
Personally, I’m not doing too bad. The book on Opening Space is at about 14,000 words, and I’ve successfully written and submitted my first fiction story (sent yesterday, in fact). It’s a pretty good output, to be honest – between the copywriting I do for clients, my own journaling, this blog, the stories and articles I’m working on submitting and the book itself, I’m averaging three to four thousand words a day.
Some of you out there who, like me, are aspiring to the literary life are wondering “What’s your secret? How are you so productive?” I’ll share that secret with you in a moment, but first, you should know that I feel like a poser. That 14K start to the draft? It’s a disorganized mess, and it’s also only the tip of the iceberg for the project which is so big I can’t even wrap my head around an outline for it yet. Going from three posts a week to five total with an article or story thrown in still pales in comparison to the people who do six posts a day and maintain a social media presence that is clear and useful and productive.
Not to mention that the two rules for writers are: Writers write, and writers read. My list of books I want to delve into and study keeps getting bigger and bigger and far outpaces my ability to actually consume the material. I have an excuse, though: I just finished Carl Honoré’s “In Praise of Slowness” so maybe we can pretend I was influenced by his words…
Oh, the secret to writing several thousand words a day? Simple. When you want to read the Jack Reacher novel? Write instead. Want to check facebook? Write instead. Want to watch TV? Write. Tired after a long day of working on client projects? You don’t get to rest, you get to write. Want a cookie? Tough. Write.
No, it’s not fun. But the feeling when I’ve finished a section of book, or put the finishing touches on a story? Priceless.
Project Move More
After burning myself out on travel last year, I indulged myself for the last six weeks of 2012 with a lot of couch-potato behavior. There was the occasional run with Middle Daughter, but I reveled in stillness, in letting myself have a vacation from the frenetic pace I’d set before. Eventually, though, it felt like the pendulum had swung too far the other way, and so I have resolved to make activity a more primary part of every day.
I’ve done yoga of some sort or other almost every morning (I’m a big fan of Tara Stiles) and also began P90X again last Wednesday. My body has responded with a typical Um, Gray, you realize you’re almost 45 years old, there’s a price to pay for this kind of activity and “Ow” is a primary part of my everyday vocabulary. At the same time, there is a spring in my step that has been gone for a long time, and in general the rewards (along with a somewhat healthier diet) have been already appearing. If I feel this much better after only a week, how awesome will it be by Springtime when I can go back outside?
And yet…one of the problems with P90X is the fact that it gives you the false impression that you can look like the people in the video by doing those workouts. Tony Horton is older than me by more than a few years, but I have never (and likely will never) look like him. Nor will I be able to do the yoga as Tara shows it (when Natasha and I tried the “Yoga To Get Out of Your Own Way” clip, we had very different reactions, mine: No way hers: I’m going to master this if it kills me!). I’m struggling to focus on the idea that it’s ok to just be doing something, that it’s that spring in my step that is the point of all this, not some idealized vision of what my body should look like. It’s an ongoing battle, and not likely to get any better in the next few weeks as I travel to San Francisco and L.A. for unconferences. But: I persevere.
Oh, and there’s a secret to the exercise habit, too: want to sit and watch the next episode of West Wing (curse you, Netflix!)? Put in the “chest and shoulders” DVD instead. Stumbling towards your computer in the morning? Remember that “Facebook” is spelled “M-O-R-N-I-N-G-Y-O-G-A” and hit “return.” Looking to use up that last bit of McDonald’s gift card? Have a caesar salad and pretend it’s as yummy as the Angus belly-bomb you pictured in your mind.
Again, it’s not easy. It’s only sometimes fun. And is it worthwhile? Who knows? Which brings me closer to the point of this post (which is not, in fact, just a list of things I’ve been doing).
Winning and Losing
In reality, there’s no magic bullet for losing weight, getting in shape, writing a book, creating a song, doing a job, getting promoted, or anything. We’d like there to be one, and some people make a lot of money based on that desire. We see other people who seem to have it figured out, but there ends up being an awful lot of luck involved in those paragons of productive virtue, and an awful lot of deliberate practice in the overnight successes of the world. So it’s easy to give up, because you figure that you’re not ever going to succeed anyway. You think that it’s just not going to work out, that you might as well “settle” for whatever you can get.
The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming. – Sugar, “Tiny Beautiful Things“
That’s the thing. Right now, my own “becoming” involves writing and sweating and producing video for clients and managing websites. But it’s also about learning, the hard way, that there are equally important things, such as arguing with friends about Captain Janeway’s underwear in a cigar bar, or shoveling snow with your grandson, or sharing a giggle-fit with someone you love while impersonating a dolphin.
It all matters, in the end. We keep talking about practice as if it’s going to get us somewhere. It’s not; we’ll still just end up wherever we are. We practice because once we get there, the journey we’ve taken will be the only thing we have that will last.
If you have 17 minutes to spare, here’s an astrophysicist to explain why the universe begins and ends in the doorway of a coffee shop: