I’ve been violating one of the big principles of sustainable writing lately by working all the time. Sustainable writers, in my experience, work regularly, generally daily. For two beautifully
different renderings of this principle, read Anne Lamott’s first chapter of Bird by Bird and Robert Boice’s How Writer’s journey to Comfort and Fluency. Writing—and doing all the associated tasks that go with the work— all day, every day, every evening— is the big No-No.
Life often seems to demand it, though. So, I’m at the computer early in the morning and still struggling late in the evening to wrap up one more item on the to-do-list-that-never-ends. Working all the time, though, just is not a sustainable practice. Writing well is more of a marathon than a sprint. While many people acknowledge that—and I myself know it to be true—it seems to be lesson most of us forget and have to re-learn pretty regularly. To put it bluntly, pacing yourself isn’t just a good idea. It’s essential.
Occasional sprints or long working weeks will happen. But devoting almost all or our time and energy to work—whether its writing, editing, research, marketing or any rotation among these parts of the practice—ultimately undermines our work. The body won’t stand for it, for one thing. Muscle strain, back problems, and repetitive-motion injuries all scream out the body’s protests.
The costs to the spirit and creativity are even higher. Finding a balance between rest and work, getting away from computer screens—even putting the beloved reading down—is as vital as eating every day. It fuels the quality and quantity of our work over the long haul. So, I’m heading out to swim. And I’m looking forward to watching the final game of the women’s soccer world cup with my family this afternoon. Bring it home, Abby Wambach!