Hi. Mark here, subbing for my darling Wendelin because she’s in the middle of dealing with Justice Jack, and hey—you know how it can go with those sorta-loser guys.
It seems like we humans can tend to set ourselves up for failure before we even start a new endeavor, because we feel like everything’s an all-or-nothing proposition, and somehow there’s something wrong with taking what’s referred to in corporate circles as a “graded approach”. (Code for doing something “good enough”, rather than close-to-perfect.) This can be problematic for productive/creative types. Like, say… writers and runners.
Let’s take running. (And running can be a metaphor for any activity in your life that you do because it’s both ‘good for you’ and makes you feel good.) Runners tend to follow a routine. Frequently a highly-structured routine, involving a written training program. (Talk to a guy who’s in his third month of a marathon training program. “Hey Steve, wanna go see that great new movie tonight?” “Love to, but I can’t. I have to do 17 miles at 10-K race pace +60 sec per mile. 800-meter intervals on Tuesday, lactate threshold run on Wednesday, and hill repeats on Thursday. But I start my taper in five weeks—I think I have a free hour then.”) And they frequently feel that they’re a failure if they miss or modify even a single day of the program. What’s wrong with this picture?
Oh, I get the need to follow the program. Believe me, I do. Left to my own devices, I’ll run six days a week. Happily. (Yeah, I’ve been to those 12-step meetings. You know—the ones where you walk into the meeting in the church basement and everyone’s sitting on folding chairs arranged in a circle. They go around the group, and when they get to me I raise my hand and say, “Hi, I’m Mark. And… I’m a runner.” And all these skinny guys and girls in their Asics and finisher’s T-shirts smile and say in unison, “Hi, Mark!”)
So I understand the need for structure. But real life does NOT leave us to our own devices. It has plans of its own, and they sometimes don’t take into account our own plans. This is when you have to step back and re-assess. Take a deep breath and say it with me: anything’s better than nothing.
As an example, both Wendelin and I have been very busy lately, with work-related stuff. So much so that, for the first time in memory, I’m relegated to running only on weekends, for the most part. Is this optimum? No. Would this be what I’d choose, in that elusive ‘perfect world’ we hear so much about but never see? No. But, should I feel like a sorta-loser guy because I’m running two days a week instead of, say, five? Well, I shouldn’t, but the truth is, sometimes I do. Sorta. So as an antidote, instead of beating myself up for what I’m not doing, I try to consciously give myself credit for what I am doing. I tell myself, “Good for you… at least you did something!” Because (say it with me) anything’s better than nothing.
Same deal with writing. In that Fictional World of Loving Perfection, we’d sit down every single day and crank out our one-to-three thousand words of absolutely brilliant prose. Before lunch. And looking darned good doing it, too. Well, not me. Not today. Today life intruded and I hit a grand total of 243 words. (I know, because I just checked. And because I know you’re thinking it, I also checked and it turns out that I’ve already written over 600 words on this blog entry. And in significantly less time, believe me. Which tells you something about the nature of blogging vs. writing fiction. But that’s a subject for another time…)
Don’t get me wrong. I think there’s real value in writing on a regularly scheduled basis—keeps your head in the story, so you don’t have to re-familiarize yourself with your characters every time you jump back into it. But far more important is to do something—anything—rather than sit there and bemoan the fact that you have to try and cram your writing (or whatever your particular creative outlet is) in between all the chores of daily life.
Consider—many people have zero creative output. And get zero exercise. Don’t let yourself be one of them simply because you don’t have the time to do an “A” job of everything. Every single sentence you write, and every single minute you get your heart into its target range, is good for you.
So take it easy on yourself. Allow yourself to take that graded approach. Sometimes a B+… or maybe even a solid “C”… really is Good Enough.
Because really, anything is better than nothing.