The everyday struggle… especially toward the end

Today was a struggle for me.

I woke up this morning and wrote down my To Do list for the day as I always do. Each day, the list includes one essential item: Write. Most of the time, that item comes so naturally that I’m not even sure that I need to include it. Still, I love checking things off of the list, so I add it in for that little extra bit of pleasure when I can say that I accomplished it as part of my daily goals. Unfortunately, today was not like most days. I felt an impending urge to do anything but write all morning and into the early afternoon. Luckily, it was a light day in terms of other commitments so I gave myself some room to slack off. I’ll sit down and write later. I’ll get to it eventually. I found myself all kinds of things to read and procrastinate with.

The power of the To Do list is such for me, that several hours later, I did get to it. At almost five in the afternoon, I finally sat down and put in my minimum word requirement for the day. Initially, the process was slow and miserable, but as I got more into the scene that I was working on, the words started to come more easily. Eventually I got through it and I am even closer to finishing the first complete draft of this book than I was on Friday.

Now that I’ve gotten through it, I find myself reflecting on why resistance was so much more powerful today than it was the last time I sat down to write on Thursday. I’m reminded of a saying one of my friends uses: “It takes three weeks to build a habit, but only three days to break it.” I took the day off of writing on Friday to be at the Baltimore Book Festival. Instead of my normal two days off of writing for the weekend, I had three days away from it, although Friday was an intense and exhausting day. That extra day took away some of my momentum – I found it harder to trace where my scene was heading and I spent some time trying to retrace the plans that I had made for the scenes remaining until the end of my book. While the extra day off was justified in terms of how busy the festival was, I paid the price for it today. I would gladly pay the price again, but next time I take an extra day off, I plan to remember this experience. Expecting the increased resistance would have made me feel more in control of the emotions that I was feeling and would have helped me to tackle it appropriately. Knowledge about the enemy that I am facing would have shifted the power dynamic in my favor.

The other side of the issue that I ran into is feeling the need to celebrate before I get to the end.

I’ve experienced this sentiment before. When I was a teenage competing on the ice skating rink, I was always a great competitor. Moves that I could perform only inconsistently would come together on the day of the competition. I could go out on the rink and skate a flawless program, landing all of my jumps and completing all of my spins with speed and precision. Until the last one. At the end of a program, my coach and I would always insert a move that I could do consistently. My legs would be tired and I would be trying to catch my breath so it seemed like the best plan. Use an easier move at the end to finish the program with flare. But this tactic never worked well for me. I would accomplish all of the hardest elements in my program and then falter on the last spin – the layback, easily my strongest element on a normal day. This would happen because I would be so close to the finish that I could see it there ahead of me. Because I was almost there, I imagined myself to already be there and I would make a stupid error in my setup that would result in mediocre or failed execution of that last move.

Years later, I find myself back there, in the home stretch. My next novel is almost finished. I’ve been running the 10K and the finish line is less than half a kilometer away. I want to relax, I want to celebrate. I know that the worst is behind me, but yet the finish line seems to elude me. I’m so close that I want to stop and revel, but I’m not there yet.

I am of course trying to learn from a mistake that I made over and over again in competition. I won’t allow myself to celebrate until I can actually write the words “THE END” on the last page of my manuscript. Even with the reminder, I can still feel that impulse. I will probably keep feeling it at the end of each writing project I work on. Today I fought against the urge and won, but the rest of the home stretch remains in front of me. All I can do is to keep up my habit, one day at a time, until I get to the finish line. It’s close and getting closer, but I’m not there yet.

Please tell me your thoughts. Have you experienced anything similar when you are close to the end of a project? Or when you are trying to build up or maintain a regular practice (be it of writing, reading, exercise, painting, or anything else)?

***

Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
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My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS.

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