Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Keep Going

Last Monday I began my trimester wind-down at work.  That means a flurry of grading, then averages, comments and entering everything in report cards.  It’s a fun time, but also a very busy one.

I actually don’t mind being busy.  I’m good at organizing, but if I don’t have a reasonable amount of pressure on me, I tend to say, ‘Oh, I still have two hours till that’s due!’  And off I go to eat bonbons.  However, when I know a deadline is coming up, then I rise to the occasion.  This time, too, I’m making a couple of teddy bears for my nieces for Christmas, plus I want to sneak in some editing, so I’ve got a few deadlines, not just one! 

So last Tuesday I was doing Pilates after I got home from work.  On Monday I had taught for four hours, graded for two, made dinner for my family and monogrammed one of the teddy bears.  I didn’t finish with everything until 11:30.  The result was a rather tired Tuesday, on which I graded still more and taught for another four hours.  As you might imagine I staggered through my exercise routine.

The thing about Pilates, moreover, is that I find it super relaxing.  I was almost at the end, doing back extensions, and I put my head down briefly.  All of a sudden I had an enormous temptation to take a nap, lying there on the carpet, with the Pilates video chattering in the background.  I was so tired…it would feel so good…but I resisted.  I finished the exercises, then went on to write emails, compose a blog post and grade 17 Latin assignments. 

The rest of the week was equally busy and I had lots of other moments when I wanted to curl up in a forgotten corner at work and snooze.  I’m sure I’m not the only teacher who feels this way during December…or even the only working-woman! 

However, the thing that struck me as I pushed ahead is how much we can accomplish as we keep going.  Quite frequently I worry when I feel draggy during the day because I'm tired.  (Sometimes, in fact, I am justified in worrying, as tiredness makes me unexpectedly grumpy!)  On the other hand, there’s something gratifying about working so hard each day that you tumble into bed and sleep a well-earned sleep.  Staying busy has its benefits in a feeling of great satisfaction. 

Anyway, as I came to this conclusion, as usual I thought about the impact it has on my writing.  A lot of writing is busy work after all – it’s rather tiring and not necessarily that inspiring, but it has to be done.  If you are lucky enough to have an agent and publisher, it even has to be done on a schedule with deadlines. 

I’m sure everyone has reached that point in a story where the excitement of jumping into a new story fades and the end seems miles and years away.  Actually, I think this happens in almost any project, no matter whether it’s a story or not!  At such a time it’s easy to start slacking, or to decide maybe that we should look into something new and fresh.  That's when we need to resist the urge to take a rest and instead keep on going.  A sustained impetus can carry us through an amazing amount of tiredness and ennui.

Amazing what can be done while watching TV!
However, sometimes it’s not a question of pure will-power when it comes to completing an undertaking.  There needs to be a little incentive.  For example, last week while I was working on my embroidery, I caught up on a TV show .  The prospect of being able to spend a couple of hours relaxing while still making excellent headway on my gift for my nieces was really appealing.  It made me actually want to work!

With writing, I think that sometimes we need to find a similar incentive.  For the past few years, I have tried to associate writing with something particularly enjoyable – e.g., breakfast out at a café, followed by the composition of a new chapter in a novel.  I spent all last summer bike-riding to the library to write, too.  However, lately I’ve been extra busy and I’ve not had time for cafés or biking (not to mention it’s winter).  The frequency of my writing has definitely gone done without such pleasant associations.

We need rainbows to travel towards!
Currently, I’m managing to feel a little excited about editing, however, because I’m using it as a way to relax from the rush of school work and Christmas preparation.  Last week I spent four days looking forward to Thursday evening which I’d freed up completely for editing.  I’m anticipating the same this week for Wednesday, and hopefully Friday.  By turning writing into a reward for myself, I’m suddenly a lot more likely to engage in it during free time!

This solution may not last forever, and I’ll have to look for another motivation to get me editing here soon, but something will come up, I’m sure.  In any case, I’ve found that as long as I simultaneously push myself not to give up and incentivize myself with something I like, I can keep up a fairly steady pace on my work and writing projects.  That’s a balance I like to achieve.

Since I’m not infallible, though, I’d love to know your methods for pursuing your most important projects, even when you’re busiest and most tired.  


  1. Better late than...well you know how that goes. We had some work done on our bathroom floors. The grout was never mixed properly (even color distribution) or sealed. Something apparently that contractors don't do. Since the grout has to dry for 48 hours. Family visiting for the holidays is a high motivator. I wanted to fix these ugly bathroom floors. But motivation can be a figurative and literal pain in the butt. I got this stuff you paint on the old grout, simple enough. Not! You have to wipe off the excesses as you go. Granted the square footage isn't that big...but...being on ones knees for hours at a time only being able to do two sides of a foot square tile...well resulted in not only a pain in the butt, but legs and other areas that were not used to being used. And yes I did seal it too - that was much easier as it comes in bottle with a brush.

    I still have one bathroom floor to go - thankfully it is smaller so hopefully it will be easier. Because after all family is a great motivator - and while my job was far from perfect - I'm happy with it. As for other jobs and motivators...Please one thing at a time.

    Best to you and Happy Holidays.

  2. I think you hit on a truth. If we keep moving toward a goal we eventually get there. It's the whole inspiration/perspiration thing!