This video http://bit.ly/2tg3tSU , of the classic race between a tortoise and a hare, never fails to make me smile. Sure, we’ve all heard the fable, but to see it unfold before our eyes makes us realize that Aesop wasn’t really just telling a cute story a couple millenia ago.
When I watched the hare, I saw my writing self at my worst: I start strong, then hesitate, go back, revise, forget where I’m going, get distracted (internet? Phone calls? Anything else?), move forward a little bit, and then just end up staring into space, no matter how much I prod myself to just do it already.
At my best, I’m the tortoise: I see the end goal, and I focus on getting there, one slow step at a time. I don’t let myself get distracted, I don’t stop, I don’t get confused about where I’m going or think it would be better to go back and start again.
The tortoise is not exciting to watch. He’s just doing his (her?) thing, moving forward, achieving his goal. As flashy and exciting as we might think a life of creativity can (or should) be, we’re much better off being like the tortoise. Just focused on taking the next step, and the next. Have 15 minutes a day? Do something: write a bad poem, read a few pages of your work, fix a couple of sentences, make some character notes. If you’re writing a long piece (novel, memoir, thesis), write one page per day. One! (I’ll bet there are days when you can’t help yourself, and write more than one). Set a goal, no matter how tiny, that keeps you moving forward toward your larger goal. If you need inspiration, favorite this video, or put up a picture of the tortoise above your desk. Like last week, this week’s focus is also about slowing down, taking our time, doing the work one step at a time rather than in fits and starts, or not at all.
The big push, such as NaNoWriMo, can be fun, sometimes even necessary. But when it’s done, we may be too exhausted to do the necessary follow-up for quite a while. We may lose sight of what we were doing, or why. In the long run, it’s far more productive (and saner) to act like the tortoise, and do steady work in small, doable increments. Slowly but surely, pages accumulate, and add up to a big win!