Instead of reading this post, you could be writing

This morning I had finished my morning pages, replied to emails and blog comments and bookmarked new blog posts for later reading (I’m loving the Read It Later Firefox add-on), and sat down to do 30 minutes of motivational reading before plunging into my writing project. I opened Sage Cohen’s The Productive Writer to chapter 3, “Thinking Productive Thoughts,” and read this:

“Instead of reading this chapter, you could be writing. You have choices; you make them all day long, often without noticing that the habits and rhythms you have are actually composed of a series of decisions that you made at one time and continue to make every time you repeat them.”

too many choicesChoices. Like the choice to read about writing before, well, writing. Duh.

I didn’t read past that paragraph. I closed the book, took out my work for the morning (doing research for and expanding the short flash narrative I’d posted yesterday), and wrote. So I guess my plan to get motivated worked—just not as I had thought it would.

This theme of choices is one I’ve written a lot about, and I continue to feel it’s one of the more important challenges we face today, and not just as writers. In the May/Summer 2011 issue of The Writer’s Chronicle, author Sherman Alexie admits in an interview of his “own pop culture obsessions and the ways in which these obsessions can completely extinguish all other things in my life. I can get so wrapped up in my iPod that I forget everyone around me…. We can sit in front of a computer or with our iPod and be utterly in control. The only random thing is the shuffle button. But in the end you lose, because you’re an addict of a whole different kind.”

It’s true that when I’m sitting at the computer, going from site to site, tab to tab, I do feel not only that I’m in control, but that I’m being productive. It’s not until afterward, when the morning has passed and what was most important to me remains undone, that I feel intensely the lack of control.

Except this morning. “Instead of reading this chapter…” Maybe those words will echo in your mind, as well.

12 thoughts on “Instead of reading this post, you could be writing

  1. As I’m reading this, I have a short story waiting to be finished, staring at me in Word in the window behind this one. So, yes, I know this feeling far too well.

    • I really didn’t mean to put a guilt trip on anyone! 🙂 It was a good reminder to me, though, of how much choice I do have. Sometimes I forget. Good luck with your short story!

  2. Oh yes, they do. I had that feeling myself when I sat down to catch up on blog posts tonight, and had a fleeting and ignored “or you could work on the story” thought. Now that I’m temporarily finished with writing courses, I’m craving interaction with others who love writing, but I know I need to find the balance between that and actually DOING what I love.

    • Ah, yes, it’s that elusive balance! Thanks for the reminder that our “online sitting room” is where we writers often meet up. 🙂

  3. Going from tab to tab. Guilty. Your post reminds me that I want that book. I put it on my TBR list, and then I forgot about it. This summer, I plan to dive into books on the craft, so guess what I’m in search of this weekend?….

    Thanks for another great post!

  4. This was a good wake-up call for me. I read your post on my Blackberry, just after deciding to do a few household chores before starting my writing practice for the evening (aka procrastinating). Thanks for the reminder Lisa! Another fantastic post!

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