I gather that spring may actually be coming to New England. The vernal equinox was March 20, and even though it’s hard to believe, I trust that within the next month our season will actually shift. We’ll stop needing coats and scarves. The snow will finally melt. And then: the growing season. I dream every day of that pale green blush that suddenly appears on our bare branches, slowly erupting into dewy new foliage. It’s like magic, every year.
The prospect of warmer weather has framed my thoughts about many of our recent posts. There’s a struggle between the Little Engine that Could’s “I think I can…I think I can” and a mother’s reality of “You’ve got to be kidding me.” For some of us, myself included, quitting–even temporarily–has seemed like the option of choice, or perhaps inevitable.
I think I got caught up in my plans to finish my nonfiction book, and–as Bethany recently blogged–suffered from unrealistic expectations in terms of output and regularity of schedule. The bar was too high. That said, while it may be the path of least resistance, I don’t want to include quitting on my menu. I can’t. I think about it, but I know what will happen: I’ll go back to being miserable, cranky, self-absorbed, and resentful. Not only do I owe it to myself, but I owe it to my husband and children. I am a better person when I create. It doesn’t have to be monumental, but if does have to be regular enough that I can erase the question marks from my calendar.
So I’m stepping back, while stepping up. Each of us needs a strategy for NOT throwing in the towel. (Sure, we’ll all need to take a little break from time to time, but that should be a positive, proactive choice–not a painful, wistful resignation.)
Instead of a milestone goal for each week (such as “Finish Chapter 3”–a goal I’ve stated more times on the Monday Page than I care to admit) my goal is going to be to work on my book for 10 minutes every day. That’s it. You may know, as I do, that this is a great trick to play on yourself. You know you can commit to 10 minutes–ANY of us can do that–and so the prospect of sitting down to write is not so intimidating. On many days, I may really only have 10 minutes–but on many others (such as this afternoon) I might “accidentally” write for an hour. If I only write for 10 minutes, I am a big success. I’ll be keeping the creative flow going, and will be thinking about my work even when I’m not working, because it will be fresh. And if I stumble into a bonus, well then, brilliant.
Christa has on several occasions noted her success in shooting for a very low output, and being satisfied with that. It makes perfect sense. Why turn up your nose at a fleeting keyboard session, only to hold out for a “real” creative stint–that never happens? Much better to keep yourself going in minor, even microscopic–intervals. Brittany can also attest to the critical mass that suddenly appears after inching along for what feels like a very long time. I need to adjust myself to this paradigm, because in the near future I’m going to find myself back in Land of the Newborn–where long stretches of anything simply don’t exist.
In the vein of “we can do it,” I’d also like to celebrate a few successes on this blog, as detailed on the Monday Page: Brittany finished her novel and is deep in revisions (huge round of applause, Brittany); Jenn has written more than half of her contracted textbook; Lisa completed her contracted history book (awesome!); Lisa and myself both revised short stories and submitted them to contests; Bethany finished at least three chapters of her novel and is shopping material; and Christa finished at least three chapters of her new novel.
Pretty damn impressive. I never made the cheerleading squad, but if I could, I’d do something eye-catching to congratulate everyone. Hard to believe I’m quoting Dory for the second time in a week, but, “Just keep swimming…just keep swimming…”
Oh, and keep an eye out for spring, if you’re living in the glacial northeast.