Today, almost symbolically, I am writing by hand. Gandhi is remembered to have once said: “I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.” By taking the time to redraft this post with my ink pen on paper (and having to type it up later) I am becoming more aware of my thoughts and it is forcing me to slow down. I would prefer being outside in the sun, but I am trying to catch up. It has been nearly ten days since I last posted something on this blog and although it is a tiny thing in the scheme of things- it feels like I am carrying a burden on my shoulders.
This, historically, seems to be my relationship to writing. Ever since I can remember, writing has been a slow, time-consuming, process for me. At school, it took me a long time to learn how to form my letters, and I remember always being the last one to finish whenever we were asked to write down something. Having a tendency towards perfectionism did not help; so I would continue writing while the other children would go to the playground. When we stopped simply to copy from the board or a book and had to write from our imagination things became ever more complicated for me. Spelling, grammar, logic and having to filter all the different ideas that came to me, not to mention having to ignore all the possible distractions of the world around me, was a painful process.
Lastly, when writing felt too agonizing, I would ask my teacher for an extension: “Can I finish this at home” and this made matters even worse. This pattern carried on throughout my studies and even in the workplace, where I would constantly be battling with deadlines when it came to writing essays, reports, thesis and even minutes of meetings.
Although they are related, there are two separate issues: firstly, the challenge of writing something of quality and secondly, the tendency to think that having more time would help me.
The first issue is by far the most difficult to address. The search for excellence is commendable, but it can be gruelling. Usually, the more time and energy one puts into a piece of work the better it ends up being. Then, once one has raised the bar, it is hard to live up to it. Perseverance and grit are required. Finally, as the adage goes: “Practice makes perfect”. However, I have also learned that: “perfectionism kills practice! Like with everything else, one needs to find balance.
The second issue is the one that I need to dismantle, for extensions have always made the matter worse. There is a strange psychological process that happens when we pass a deadline: it is like being both a dead man walking and a hero at the same time. A part of us feels like we have failed, and another part feels that the assignment now needs to be even better, and both feelings make continuing more difficult. In the end, it is so much better to stick to deadlines and hand in or send the work even if it not to our liking.
The 42-day writing challenge was great because it forced me to face these two issues on a daily basis. But now that it has stopped I feel so tempted to revert to the “if only I had more time” excuse and put it off to the infinite tomorrow. Regularity is very useful to writers, and maybe I should not allow myself extensions any longer and fix the days of the week I publish this blog. How about Mondays and Fridays? I am running out of ink…
See you at the end of the week then.
Image credit: Freddie Marriage