Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Momentum

As I’ve observed the momentum (or lack thereof) in my life over the past few weeks, I’ve decided that lack of momentum is why Monday is so hard, and why the first few days after vacation are brutal. Because by Wednesday, or a few days after your return, you’re like, “oh yeah, this is what my week is like,” and you’re just doing it—you have momentum. Working on the book is like that too. I can take one day off a week without breaking stride, but if I take two days off, the first day back is difficult, and if I take two months off, as I just did—yikes.

I needed a break from the book. I gave the manuscript to three astute readers, and wanted to hear their comments before I made any further changes. But beyond that, my mind and spirit needed to recover from the insane push to complete the manuscript, and to rest up for what I hope is the final push to actually finish the book. So I spent a month doing other things, then two weeks traveling in the Mediterranean, then a few days recovering from my trip, then enjoying Thanksgiving. They were beautiful, glorious months. But by last Saturday, Carl wanted answers. Trapped in a car with him driving home from North Jersey, he asked the dreaded question: “Why aren’t you working on the book?”

I’d been asking myself the same thing. I knew it was time to get back to work, but I couldn’t make myself do it. Partly I felt scared—of finishing the book, of what comes next—but mostly I think it was a complete lack of momentum—having been away from it for so long, I had no idea where or how to start.

Since reading the Twilight Saga, though perhaps justifiable as research, and certainly enjoyable, wasn’t going to finish the book, I had to try something else. So the next day, I used two of my best tricks: first, I left the house, with the computer—something about being in public forces me to work in a way being at home just doesn’t; second I completed the tiniest possible step I could imagine—I made a to-do list for the book. It’s not magic, I didn’t fall right back into writing, but I had taken that crucial first step, which in my experience, is often the hardest one to take.

While I had the computer out and caffeine coursing through my veins, I wrote a little about my trip, which helped to stretch out my writing muscles, prepare them for working out again. The next morning, I went back to the Corner Bakery, determined to have a work session. I sat down, looked at my to-do list, and picked one thing—addressing one of my reader’s comments. I created a new document, a “working” manuscript, and began editing with Chapter One.

Before I knew it I had edited three chapters, and felt better than I had in weeks. The rest of the week passed in a series of happy and productive work sessions, ticking off my reader’s concerns/questions one little thing at a time. With the momentum back, the working isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s happening. Perhaps now that I’ve written one blog post, I can get together the thoughts about my trip that have been rattling around my brain.

What are your tricks for starting something daunting?

9 comments:

Dan A said...

Whenever I have to do something that seems insurmountable: like now, I am beginning my application to take my Urban Planning certification exam, I jot a few words or notes down under each question or heading. The next day or so I will jot a little more, and before I know it, I have almost a full paragraph which then seems to be able to write itself.

Dan

kara said...

I think you compared your book to a marathon. You are on mile 24...almost there. Just look behind and see how much you have accomplished. That, mi amiga, was the hard part. Good luck on your last few laps!

Anonymous said...

You're saving my life, Julie :) Learning to write and accepting my imperfections have been the most daunting parts of my creative endeavors. At times, I feel inadequate, but reading through your blog pages stabilizes me now in affirming that writing is indeed a treacherous journey... that it takes more than Time to build... and that I'm not alone in the writer's struggle. Thank you for sharing from the heart, Julie.

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Just said...

Thank you for this post. I'm hoping to start writing a book too, I have a plot, but when I start down and think of the sheer number of words ahead of me it seems almost impossible to begin. You thoughts on this have been a real inspiration.