Friday, February 8, 2013

Writing Is Hard

"Writing Is Hard"
     -The Hungry Preacher, 2013

For the past few years, we have sent out Christmas cards that included a “family update letter,” written by yours truly. If you didn’t receive a Christmas card from us, assume that it is either because:
-we don’t know you
-we don’t have your address

Please let me know if you think that we have intentionally not sent you a Christmas card in order to communicate our disdain for you, since this is almost certainly not an accurate assumption, and I would like to have the opportunity to throw myself under the bus for allowing this painful oversight to take place; furthermore, I would like to bestow upon you ex post facto whatever holiday joy you feel I robbed from you by not sending you a Christmas card. Are we cool then? Good.

Perhaps I’ll copy the entirety of the letter at the end of this post. For now, here is the paragraph from the letter that I want to focus on:

Year 1 of “” was a huge success in terms of writer output. Year two has been more sporadic. I have been more pleased with the quality than the quantity of my posts. I do still believe that writing is an area that God has called me to pursue, and until I have more specific direction, blogging is a good way to dabble in a variety of topics while keeping friends and family updated on life events. But I need to be more consistent. I hope to look back on year 2 of writing/blogging as a bump in the road which I learned from. In the meantime, high view counts and reader responses are always good motivators. :)

In case you’re counting, this post will bring 2013’s total post count to 3. That’s not the consistency I was going for.

I have all sorts of reasons why I haven’t been writing. But a phrase that I usually believe to be true is: “We make time for what we want to make time for.” Maybe that’s the problem: I don’t want to make time for writing. It’s too hard. But not making time for it is deeply unsettling to me; if I go a month without having written very much, I feel like Buddy in the movie “Elf” after he discovers that he’s not really an Elf. It’s like he’s not living the life he’s supposed to be living. In other words, for as hard as it is for me to make time for writing, I want to have made time for writing. I’m starting to think that the latter requires the former.

When I said that making time for writing is “too hard,” I mean that in every way possible. It takes the proper alignment of mental and physical focus; it takes changing the way I schedule my time; it takes doing difficult things like ruthlessly prioritizing tasks around the house. These are things that are hard for me. I know: Waa, waa, waa. It’s OK if that’s what you were thinking—I’m thinking it, too. Maybe I feel OK whining a little bit because of a book I’ve been reading. It’s by a guy named Aaron Likens. He has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as an adult. The book is pretty much a collection of stories explaining why things are so hard for him. Several times he says things like, “I know how lame and whiny this sounds. But I’m just saying that this is how it is.”

I don’t know if I have Asperger’s—probably not. But there are a lot of elements of his story that I can relate to. If my personality had to be described in terms of already-established labels, I probably have a hybrid of Asperger’s and ADD; neither is full-fledged, but striking elements of both are present. So some things are hard for me. I’m not doing anyone any good by pretending otherwise, even if admitting it seems like whining (or, for that matter, even if admitting it is whining).

If “things are hard” is how I was going to end this post, well, it wouldn’t be a post. It would just be some ramblings that I decided to bury. But the landing point of these previous paragraphs is that I’m going to try something a little different from what I’ve been doing, since what I’ve been doing has stopped working.

For me, I need to realize that if something is hard, that means it’s not "just going to happen". It will take effort and a plan. And, in this case, it might take revamping a plan that has stopped working.

What I’m proposing for myself is pretty simple: An hour a day of writing, until the last day of school for the girls. Then I’ll reassess.

This is strikingly unprofound, but it’s a tweak to how I’ve been approaching writing. My previous goals have involved “post quotas”, usually 2-3 a week. My brain is getting frustrated with this, because sometimes actually finishing a post is not within my power to do, at least not within a set amount of time. Conflicts come up. Things happen. And every once in a while, I’m a little more long-winded than I thought I would be. It is very frustrating for me to sit down with a block of time and think, “I’m going to have a post done at the end of this block of time,” and then have it not happen. Even if I wrote a bunch of stuff, because I didn’t meet my goal, I feel like I have wasted a block of time and accomplished nothing.

But an hour a day? Of just writing? And feeling good about just having written for that long? I think I can do that. As a bonus, I expect “more posts” will be a happy by-product of this shift of focus (but I only expect this in the back of my mind, since actively expecting “more posts” is not that different from making it a goal, which will likely lead to frustration and demotivation if it doesn’t happen).

Another difference is that I am not making this an open-ended goal. I will write for an hour a day until the end of the school year. Then I will reassess. Maybe I will change things then: writing more, writing less, writing not-at-all. I can’t see that far into the future. But for 3 months, an hour a day is doable.

So that’s all. Conveniently, I’ve been writing for an hour. Later.


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