Diving Back In
I have just ended an unfortunate and unplanned hiatus from not just this blog, but from writing in general. There were lots of reasons, or excuses, for my lack of effort, or rather, shift in priorities, but none worth going into. I started writing when I was well past my prime and though the break was short, it was a temporary setback that I just can’t afford. I’ve lost too much time already. The truth is that I let myself get sidetracked in spite of knowing the importance of persistence and consistent effort.
I used to be a personal trainer and had numerous clients that went through similar lapses in their exercise regimen so I’m very familiar with the difficulties of re-starting any endeavor after an absence. I once had a client ask me why it was so hard to develop and maintain good habits and so easy to allow bad ones to take over our lives. I told her, “Because we’re human.” That really does sum it up. Nobody gives 100% all the time, no matter what people might think or say. All of the guilt, feelings of failure and self-recrimination, although being counter-productive, are also part of being human. Getting back to work is really the only option, other than failure that is.
Just the same, knowing that these things happen and all I can do is get back to work wasn’t sufficient for me to begin again. It’s never that simple, is it? I’ve been telling myself to quit being so lazy for at least two weeks and I’m just now getting past the “toe in the water” stage, but it’s a start.
I’m in the middle of writing my second book and had a pretty good roll going before my recent interlude and was having trouble deciding where to begin again. I’ve realized that one of the things that kept me from getting back into my writing routine is self-doubt. I’ve come to understand that it’s a problem for most writers, and especially for novices like me. I had worked through that issue to a large degree though and felt as though I was producing some good, or at least acceptable work. Those feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy returned after my break greatly amplified. Sitting in front of my keyboard to write this blog all I could think was how futile it all was.
Then I thought of an incident that happened a few months after hurricane Katrina. I live in one of the most devastated areas southeast of New Orleans and my home and the entire parish (county) I lived in was destroyed. One morning I was standing in front of my house about to get to work when a neighbor approached looking dejected. He looked at me and said, “It’s all such a horrible mess. I don’t know where to start.”
“It doesn’t matter,” I told him, “just pick a spot and start.”
It was the essentially the same advice I had given to every client returning to the gym after a layoff when I was still training people. Thinking of those clients and that neighbor made me realize that I needed to take my own advice and pick a spot. The spot I picked is this blog, a 600-word warm-up before I get back to my larger work. The main thing is to do it again tomorrow, and then the day after that and so on and so forth. However, when the inevitable lapse happens again in the future, lying to myself is also non-productive, I’ll have to try to remember that advice. I may have it tattooed to my forehead so I can’t forget.