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Writing while your mind is on other stuff

March 11, 2012

Okay, maybe things aren’t that bad. I mean, chances are you aren’t a Cleveland Browns or Indianapolis Colts fan. But it’s a law of existence. If you have enough days, some of them are going to be bad. Enormously bad. Horrendously can’t-catch-a-break bad.

And when you have those days, it’s enough just to get through the end of the workday, find some chocolate or alcohol (or both), sit stoically and stare out the window, or whatever your bad-day routine is.

And on some of those days, you’re going to need to write.

And the experience may suck. It might be like you’re going through the motions out of obligation–and the quality of your work might not be much better.

When I was a kid, we were dragged to church every Sunday morning. Church was boring and didn’t apply, and the only thing worth showing up for was when the village cop wore his gun to communion and set the tongues to wagging. But later, the benefit of those horrible, boring hours of torture became the impetus that led me back to church. And in the greater part of the deal, it’s been time well-spent.

It’s the habit of going that builds the framework for later benefit.

I had a bad day yesterday, and I didn’t write last night. I played at writing. I dabbled with it, but in the end, I didn’t write. And that was a missed opportunity.

For one thing, writing is doing something. It’s exercising your brain–if nothing else, taking your attention away from the thing that made the day so enormously bad.

For a second thing, you’re establishing the habit. Marking writing as one of the big rocks that goes in the jar no matter what else happens. Even if you bludgeon your words with all the skill and grace of a toddler on Red Bull, you did the work. You were a professional in name, if not monetary status.

And sometimes, when you sit down and the world’s going to hell and let your fingers have their way with the keyboard, magic happens. Mostly, it doesn’t, but sometimes it does.

The results might not be the best, but it’s always worth the effort.


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