One of the most useful tools I have for myself as a writer is the distinction between a sprint and a marathon. A sprint is the specialty of the hare: a fast, concentrated, full-on race toward a goal. A marathon is the specialty of the tortoise: an inch-by-inch plodding forward toward a distant horizon.
I'm definitely more of a tortoise. Anyone who calls her blog "An Hour a Day" is a tortoise. I treat writing as a marathon, where I succeed through slow, steady, sustained activity. My literary hero, Anthony Trollope, was a tortoise. He even describes himself in that way. In my favorite lines in his wonderful autobiography, he writes, "Nothing, surely, is so potent as a law that may not be disobeyed. It has the force of the water drop that hollows the stone. A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules. It is the tortoise which always catches the hare. The hare has no chance. He loses more time in glorifying himself for a quick spurt than suffices for the tortoise to make half his journey."
But this month I'm a sprinter. I'm imitating my friends who are engaged in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and trying to get an entire novel written in 30 days. Well, maybe I'm both a marathoner and a sprinter. I'm trying to get a sprinter's amount of work done each day, but I'm trying to be a marathoner and do it every single day. Maybe this is the worst of both worlds: the sprinter's exhausting burst of speed repeated day after day after day. Or maybe it's the best?
Because I didn't exactly follow my own plan in the first part of November, I'm now in serious sprint mode. I need to write 2000 words a day for the next ten days. This doesn't sound so bad. I'm used to writing 1000 words a day. But my writing group friend Leslie pointed out that there is a HUGE difference between 1000 words and 2000 words. Especially if that volume of words needs to be produced every single day. In order to do it, I have to put in a good writing session in the morning and ANOTHER good writing session in the afternoon No self-glorifying rest upon laurels for me.
The beauty of the sprint, however, is that its duration is limited. I have to work hard, yes, but only for ten days. I couldn't sustain this pace for much longer. (Even as I write this, I know that the vast majority of people in the world work MUCH MUCH MUCH harder than this all the time. But we writers are a uniquely whiny bunch.) A person can work hard for ten days, right?
Even marathoners can enjoy the exhilaration of an occasional sprint. And then collapse in a little heap afterward before returning to the tortoise's less stressful pace. I'm hopping, leaping, and bounding off to race through my quota now.