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On eating and writing

Posted Apr 27 2010 12:00am
For the past couple of years, I’ve been working on a novel -- researching, writing, and revising. If you’ve ever tackled this sort of project, you know the road is long and lined with convenient off-ramps. Life has a way of interfering with your best-laid plans. Even if life doesn’t -- even if you manage to set up your schedule so the work takes priority -- inevitably there comes a morning when you find yourself staring at your blank computer screen, thinking, “Why the heck am I doing this again?”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m committed to this thing. In fact, writing a novel and healthy living are both worthwhile goals, but let’s face it, neither one amounts to a nonstop party. In both cases, you start out full of good intentions, then run into distractions along the way. Your healthy eating plan goes off the rails when your favorite doughnuts appear in the office break room. With the novel, there are always phone calls, appointments, car repairs, and other day-to-day emergencies that nibble away at your writing time. And let’s not get started on Facebook (also known as “social not-working”).

Here’s another similarity between eating and writing. If you tend to be a perfectionist, you may easily find yourself behaving likewise with your diet and with your creative project. In other words, if you can’t do it perfectly, you’d rather not do it at all.

I know whereof I speak, because I’m a former all-or-nothing type. If I made one mistake on my diet, the whole thing went out the window. If I couldn’t set aside a significant chunk of time in a given day to devote to my manuscript, then I wouldn’t even look at it.

Having been at this for a while (both writing and eating), I know better now. Any effort is better than none at all. Completing one paragraph is progress. Eating an apple instead of a doughnut is an accomplishment.

As for those occasional temptations to quit altogether, all I can say is: they come with the territory. We’re human beings. Our energy and moods change with the weather. Just because you feel kind of "blah" today doesn’t mean you won’t feel excited again tomorrow. So stick with it.

It helps to remind yourself why you started doing this in the first place. I like to write little notes to myself and post them where I can see them from my desk. Some psychologists call these affirmations. If you recoil from this term, as I do for some reason, then you can call them “focus enhancers,” or whatever you like.

Here are some you could try
“I take care of my health because I want to be around for my kids."
“Exercise helps me sleep better at night.” 
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.” (I didn’t make this one up; it’s been attributed to Calvin Coolidge .)
Do you ever have days when your motivation flags? How do you get through them?

text copyright © 2010 Eleanor Kohlsaat LLC
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