Somebody commented recently — Jackie, I think — that she was going to finish her book if it took writing one hundred words at a time. Sounds pretty daunting when you have 20 or 40 or 60,000 words to go, but sometimes that’s how you’ve got to do it: baby steps.
If you’re accustomed to much higher output, say, 3000 words a day, 100 sounds so paltry. It’s just a couple paragraphs. A few wordy sentences. It sounds so paltry that it’s hardly worth doing. Skip today, you tell yourself, and you can write — ooh, gasp! — 200 words tomorrow. Or take the whole week off, then catch up with 700 words on Sunday.
But if your life or muse or situation requires baby steps right now, skipping them isn’t going to work. If you’re having trouble getting one hundred words written, then it stands to reason that you’re going to have more trouble writing two hundred words, right? You need that regular commitment, dedication, diligence to build your output. If you get in the habit of writing 100 words a day, before long, you’ll find you’re writing 150 a day, then 200. You may not build up to 3000, but you will build up to the right, reasonable, workable level for you.
Most of you know that I had a total knee replacement three weeks ago. My walking goal right now is one-quarter mile, and I’ve been doing it every day for a week (with one 3/8 mile day thrown in just for fun). The first time I completed the one-quarter, I was excited . . . until I glanced at the timer I’d set when I started. Normally, I walk one-quarter mile in less than five minutes. That first time post-op took me 50 minutes and 20 seconds.
That pretty much put the fizzle on my sense of accomplishment until my husband pointed out that how long it took me is irrelevant. There was nothing in my doctor’s instructions about walking a quarter mile in a set period of time. All Baby Doc said was “Walk one-quarter mile.” Speed might matter when the swelling’s gone, when the dressings are off and the incisions are healed, when the stiffness is worked out and the range-of-motion comes naturally instead of me gritting my teeth through it.
But right now all I can manage is baby steps: good posture in the walker, good gait, heel-to-toe. Be careful on the turns and don’t cut the corners too sharp.
It isn’t fast, but over time, the effort adds up. Just like those 100 words a day.