Second Thought of the Day

I just spent ten minutes niggling about with my email when I could have been spending it writing.

It occurs to me that this exercise, of practicing writing in brief, daily sessions, is the correlate I've been looking for to the decluttering that I've been doing in every other aspect of my life.

What, after all, are carbs if not clutter?  It is not that I need to eat fewer calories (although when I give into the temptation to check, particularly when I'm feeling rather hungry, I realize that I probably have cut significantly down).  Rather, I need to eat better food.

Likewise, it is not that I do not have time in my life for writing, even quite significant amounts of writing.   Rather, I need to give it higher priority than the busywork in which I have been inclined to indulge at the expense of writing. 

Which is hard.  Everyone knows that the first thing that you do when you have something to write is start cleaning the kitchen.  Or clearing out closets.  Or tidying up the dog's toys.  Something, anything to keep from sitting down for a few minutes and thinking.

And then it spreads.  "I can't write today, I need to make notes for class."  "I can't write today, I have too many meetings."  "I can't write today, I'm going to a conference."  "I can't write today, I haven't read enough."  "I can't write today, I have nothing to say."

Prof. Boice has a truly sobering statistic that he quotes from time to time (with different references, which makes me wonder, but there you go).  He says (here, I am quoting from his Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing [1990], p. 7): "Of the minority of academicians who write publicly [NB: those who publish are already a minority], fewer still account for the bulk of what gets published.  Estimates typically attribute some 85% of publications to some 15% of those who could potentially write them."

Part of me wants to take comfort in this statistic.  After all, if I'm publishing at all, I must be on the right side of the curve.  Another part of me wants to say, "Of course.  This is simply the Pareto principle in action or, as Wikipedia puts it, 'the law of the vital few': 'for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.'  No surprise there."

Another part of me wants to despair.  You can't fight the limits on efficiency.

Yet another part of me realizes that this is precisely why writing in brief, daily sessions will work: the brief, daily sessions are the 20%.

Fancy that.


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