Right Focus

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting very much lately.  This is a good thing, really, although the Super Woman in me would say I've just been lazy.  I haven't, not really.  I've just been concentrating on other things.  Notice that I didn't say, "I've just been busy."  That's not it at all.  I'm not busy, I'm focused.  More focused than maybe I have been in my entire life.  So focused, in fact, that I have a hard time taking a break from the schedule that I have given myself, not because I am working "all the time," but precisely because I am not.

Oh, but there are temptations.  "Are you coming to the tournament on Sunday?" one friend asks.  "Please join us to celebrate the retirement of our colleagues," invites another.  "So-and-so is coming in from out of town and would very much like to meet you," yet another entices.  "It's only an afternoon," yet another pleads.  But it isn't "only" an afternoon or an evening or a Saturday.  It's everything.  I realized this talking this weekend with one of my friends about our plans for fencing at Summer Nationals at the end of June.  Between now and then, my plan is to write the greater part of the chapter that I am now working on (chapter 4 of 5).  Doing so will take every ounce of my concentration during my brief, regular sessions each day--and every ounce of my willpower to stop at the end of the day.  

This is proving both harder and more productive than I ever could have imagined: harder, because I am frequently surprised (e.g. after a weekend traveling for a tournament or conference) how tired I am; more productive, because I have now drafted, since starting in late November, some 65,000 words and counting.  The book as I see it now will have five chapters, three of which (106,000 words or thereabouts) are now in draft.  If things go to plan (which they rarely do, but this feels like a solid plan for the moment), chapter 4 will be some 40,000 words (no, I don't do short), chapter 5 (hopefully) around 30,000, for a total (not counting footnotes) of some 175,000 (about 350 pages in print).  By the end of the summer, I will, therefore, be well over the hump, with "only" (again, that word) chapter 5, an introduction and epilogue (both short!), and the footnotes (minimal, if I can manage it--ha! listen to me) to do.  But at the end of the summer, I will no longer be on leave, which means I will not be able to write for three or four hours every day, five days a week as I am doing now.

Which means that every day that I have now for writing according to schedule is immeasurably precious.  I can't afford to be tired or distracted or not quite on (ironically, since that is precisely what I am right at this moment, thus the blogging).  For my own sake and the sake of my book, I need to stay focused and not let myself get distracted by thoughts of things that I "should" be doing, just to be nice or available to others.  Walking the dog, practicing my fiddle, going to fencing practice are not things I do to be "nice"; they are part of my regular maintenance--the key word here being "regular."  And, yes, regular matters--a lot.  It is the way that I get past the demons who threaten at every turn, tempting me to lose confidence, tempting me to think that I need to do something else before I am able to write.  Showing up every morning at 9:00 or 9:30 am is easy if it is what I do every day; it is impossible if I start letting myself think that there are options.

So why am I sitting here blogging now when I should be working on chapter 4?  Maybe I needed to tell myself this, that it is right to be keeping so religiously (pun intended) to my schedule.  It's hard, because I have been on this schedule now for a good eight months (I was working on the translation and proposal before I started working on the book), and I'm tired.  More tired than I expected to be, what with keeping myself to the brief, regular sessions and not letting myself binge.  It's easy to get apologetic rather than trusting myself that fiddling while I relax does not mean that I have time (or energy) for activities for which I have not planned.  It's funny.  Only eight months ago, I was worried that working in brief, regular sessions wouldn't work, and now that I know that they do, I feel the need to apologize for being so productive this year.


  1. Impressive! I try to block out an hour or so, 3-5 days per week, to write, even when I'm not on leave, but I've been less successful than I'd like. Best wishes for the rest of the leave and the summer!

  2. Thanks, Brian! My hope is to go back to the schedule I had for the last year and a half before I went on leave, doing brief, regular sessions three days a week, but it has certainly been a good eight months being able to do more than that!


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