Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Morning

I once read an article by the novelist Elizabeth Berg, back before she was a novelist, when she was an essayist for women's magazines; the article was about the diet she and her husband had embarked on. She wrote, perhaps quoting someone else: "Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels."

This morning I'm thinking, "Nothing feels as good as working on your most important and urgent life task feels." This is perhaps the most awkward and ungraceful sentence I've ever written, lacking all the zip and sparkle of the original. But it might be the truest sentence I've ever written, too.

I woke up this morning trying to decide what I should do first:
1) pay a bunch of bills and write a bunch of little notes and have my desk all pleasingly tidy
2) write one or two or three or four of the short (250-word) book reviews I need to do for the online book review service Children's Literature
3) make a detailed set of revision guidelines for the writing mentee with whom I'm meeting for the first time on Monday, while my first reading of her novel is still fresh in my mind
4) write the first page of the novel that I need to begin and that I've been dreading for months because, even though I have a contract to write the book, based on a synopsis, my editor seemed unenthusiastic about it, and her lack of enthusiasm has sapped all my strength and eagerness and creativity and made me hate the book and hate myself for having promised to write it.

I knew I should do #4. But I couldn't even get out of bed thinking about #4. Most tempting was #1 - how I love that low-hanging fruit! And I also love a tidy desk more than almost anything on earth.

So I told myself that if I got out of bed, all I had to do was pay bills and tidy my desk.

But then, once I had staggered out of bed, I told myself: just do ONE HOUR on #4. Just one hour. You don't have to write anything, you can just keep making notes, but just spend ONE HOUR facing that book.

One hour. I could do one hour.

So I did. I already had a bunch of notes, so actually, during my hour, I decided to start writing the first scene, or what might be the first scene. I could always throw it away.

I wrote it. I like it. It's not the brilliant, shimmering, incandescent thing I had hoped to write, but it's at least something, it's there on paper, and I can bring it to my critique group Monday night to share.

Oh joy, oh rapture! Oh, dear readers, stop dreading your work and just start doing it. Just do it for one hour. Oh, the bliss you will feel!

Trust me on this one.


  1. Okay, Okay. I've been dreading cleaning my desk all day, but now that you mention it a tidy desk does feel great, so I'll do it.

  2. But do your writing first, Miss Peggy!

  3. One of my favorite quotes is from Eric Hoffer" "Our greatest weariness comes from work undone."