continuance.

A lot of books and articles on writing emphasize consistency. “You must write every day,” they say. And I understand the reason for this advice. Whenever you are learning (sometimes even when you’re not learning) you have to do a lot of something to become good at it. You have to wade through the crap moments. Your callouses don’t just build over night, you have to keep the process going. You have to write everyday.

Unfortunately, this has never worked for me. My mind wanders, or it is distracted. Pick whichever. Of course, I have the luxury to wander. I do not write for a living. This is probably a good thing since I’m rather fond of living. But if I level myself against this advice of consistency, this rush to finish what I had started, then it is also depressing. If consistency is my aim, then I’m consistently setting myself up for failure.

What works better for a person of my disposition is perhaps the notion of continuance. The thought that I don’t have to do this on a schedule. I don’t have to rush to the finish line. I have not failed. My work awaits me when I am ready to return to it. From there, I can simply continue where I left off. I can afford this to myself in whatever it is that I do, apart from writing, too.

There is a trick here, though. That sometimes continuance turns into consistency. If you keep coming back, if the time between the breaks shortens then it doesn’t feel like some rigid consistency. It feels like a flowing motion, something natural. And if the mindset isn’t about consistency, then you allow yourself to do something else. To take longer breaks when needed.

The even more important thing about continuance is that you allow yourself to return. Because breaking the pattern isn’t failure, it’s just another opportunity to continue later. So you keep returning, and maybe it takes you longer to finish than the next person. But, god dammit, you finish! You set the pace and you let yourself be carried by the flow. It will take you years, just keep coming back and you will get to the end.

2 Comments

  1. To each his own. I find that once my mind wander away, it never returns and finished the job. I’ve recently adopted the ‘Seinfeld Strategy’ and it seems to be actually working for me. (http://jamesclear.com/stop-procrastinating-seinfeld-strategy)

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