Crank it out

The reason most people fail instead of succeed is that they trade what they want most for what they want at the moment.

I’ve tried to find this quotation’s author so I can give proper attribution, but my attempts on the internet keep coming up “unknown.” I first heard these words when the boys track team where I used to coach had it put on the backs of their long-sleeve T-shirts. Shortly thereafter, the girls team had their own shirts made with the same quote. So many years later, I still have these shirts the teams gave me.

It’s obvious how this quote relates to track and field. When you’re competing, or when you’re working out, or when you’re supposed to be working out, there are so many temptations to slack off, give up, or simply doubt yourself. Athletes who work through these temptations tend to find greater success. I would think it’s obvious this quote also relates to pretty much anything else in life. If you want something badly enough, you have to work at it no matter how you’re tempted to slack off in the now. You must always remind yourself of why you’re working.

In my case, my goal is to be a professional writer. Over the course of my writing my first manuscript, I wasn’t sure of this goal. I didn’t need the motivation of a potential writing career because I was writing to get a masters degree, and I had a built-in structure of deadlines through my graduate program. I began my second manuscript after graduation, and I was doing pretty well until I hit a major life-hurdle and stopped writing altogether. Returning to grad school for another degree helped me get that manuscript done.

But somehow things are different for my third. It’s partly simple maturity, but I’ve also finally come to the conclusion I want to be a writer.

It used to be that the stars would have to align, the earth had to fall silent, and several muses needed to be singing in order for me to write. I required huge chunks of hours at a time because it took forever for me to warm up to write and then struggle through plotting. It wasn’t worth my effort to start a writing session that didn’t result in one or more complete chapters.

Now, with a little one in my care, this is impossible. It was close to impossible before, which is why I took a very long time to finish my first two manuscripts. Somewhere along the way someone told me if I wrote a page a day for year, I’d have a manuscript. This made sense, but I just couldn’t do it.

In the last month or so, I’ve been getting up extra early every weekday to write. Some days I only do crank out one pagebut this is the goal. Some days I write a page of notes, either of ideas or research. Many days I get more than one page done. This is working for me, but the trick is that I don’t give in to the million other easier things I could be doing at the computer (or to sleeping in). I save those for the reward when my page is done.

I know that I’m capable of getting more words done in a day, but for now it’s still a little hard with the toddler pulling me away to “go play marbles” every three seconds. I’ve always done my best work under pressure, and I hope someday soon to sign with an agent and begin the deadline process with a publisher.

Do you have any special ways you’ve tackled the temptation to give up what you want most for what you want at the moment?




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2 Responses to “Crank it out”

  1. I can’t say I have any advice or special ways, other than to sympathize: the desires of the here and now are hard to say no to. I spent so long when I was in high school and college planning for a future, and now that said future is here, I’m a little let down (long story, but what my generation was promised growing up is NOT what we got, even if we did the right things), so it’s harder to plan again for a future goal. Does that make sense?

  2. Jen says:

    You sound disillusioned, disenchanted, disappointed . . . but I don’t think of you that way at all. Your book review blog and your excellent critiques tell me that you’re very good at what you do. Are you talking about being let down on the goal of being a professional novelist? Is this still your goal? Does having a goal require planning, or can you just make a pact with yourself to do something every day to get closer?

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Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.

— Paul Tillich