I am far too easily distracted. There are so many things, many of them not even interesting, which will pull my attention away in an effort to keep me from writing. And yes, I know it is all up to me, and it is my own fault. It is my own psyche that is stepping in front of my progress to keep me from putting words on the page.
The distractions and pulls can be anything as simple as wanting to go to the restroom or stopping to find a new feature in my word-processor to things as complicated as my hands suddenly deciding they hurt or an email coming in that demands I read it. Of course if I give in to that demand and read the email, then I am going to have to either answer it or do research and maybe a bit of delegation. All of that takes time. Time that should be used to write.
In truth, it is my own fault for giving in to the earthly desires of urination or software features, and even more so for not turning off my email notifications or better yet turning off the internet in its entirety. Of course, as I type another question comes to mind – is going back and correcting mistypes, grammar mistakes, and misspellings a distraction or a necessity of writing? Sure they would all need to be corrected at some point, but is that point supposed to be while I am in the flow of writing? Or should it be in the future?
Anyway, what I have then are those distractions that keep me from writing – the ones that stop me from ever getting a single word down, and additionally those that slow me down or limit the words I produce. It is not an all or nothing battle. In contrast to an alcoholic who has to resist the urge to drink totally, and even if they give in once they can start all over by not drinking, we writers have to start and then work to keep going. Writing then is more like running. Perhaps it makes sense that we call them “writing exercises.”
Just as with the traditional forms of physical exercises such as running, there are the roadblocks that stand in the way of our ever starting to write. The sometimes seemingly mundane circumstances that try to keep us from getting to the gym. The traffic, the busy schedule, the malaise, the thought that we need better equipment before we even start. But then there are the forces that work on us while we move. The exhaustion, the soreness, the unrealistic comparisons of ourselves to others, and yes, even boredom. Even a writer can get tired of laying down word after word after word while our hands get sore and our minds get numb. And while our well meaning friends call us out to play. But we will not get better without practice, and we will not produce the mileage of words without discipline and dedication.
I have a friend who runs marathons and half-marathons. He doesn’t look or act like one of those people you picture as a runner. He lives a normal life, does normal things, and loves to eat his Krispy Kreme doughnuts. But he runs too. Day after day, week after week he runs.
He ran over a thousand miles last year which included two marathons, at least four half marathons, and a number of shorter races. He got there by simply keeping going. He set goals, he measures his progress against those goals, and he kept going even when the weather was bad or he was tired. If the weather didn’t cooperate, he ran inside. If something happened to his favorite running shoes or outfit, he ran in what he had. And if his running partners didn’t show up, he ran alone. But he kept running.
David is an inspiration even though running is not my thing. He is an inspiration because the matter in which he goes about his running can inform my writing habits. He is teaching me to set goals, track those goals, and simply get out there and do it without excuse.
This past November David had a bad incident that would have been a showstopper to most folks. David was breaking up a fight between two of his dogs when a slip occurred and his hand got hurt. Oh, and “got hurt” is putting it mildly. The back of his hand was torn open, ligaments and muscles were cut, and a good deal of pain was inflicted. All of this ended up with hospital visits, surgery, and physical therapy. But you know what? He ran. As soon as the doctor would let him, he ran. He ran with a splint and bandages on his hand. He competed in races that most of us wouldn’t think of running even on our best day.
So, if David can do this with his hand bandaged up like a mummy and in real physical pain, who am I to complain about sitting at a keyboard? How can I justify not writing because I don’t have the exact accessory I want when most of the literary works we know and love were painfully scratched out with pen and paper? How can I complain about not being able to find time to write when others have written while in prison, while working two or three jobs, or while sitting on the floor of their infant’s room because they couldn’t go anywhere else? How can I use the distractions of the Internet as an excuse when the writers a generation ago didn’t have word processors but were slamming away on typewriters? And the list goes on.
Let’s face it, all of the reasons we use for not writing just label us as wimps. What we lack is not opportunity, ability, or facility, what we lack is dedication, determination, and discipline.
So, my resolution for the year? My plan? Basically, I am going to try to be more like David. I am going to plan, measure, and let nothing stand in my way. I am going to run the race that is my writing.