Lit Bit: Good Practice

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got as a writer was to write a little bit every day. It didn’t have to be a lot. It didn’t have to be a huge chunk of something. It just had to be “enough.” Enough varies. Enough can be ten minutes of free writing. Enough can be two hours of leisurely prose. Enough can be half an hour pumped into the craft of a fifteen line poem. It depends on the day. But write.

The thing of it is, I am a procrastinator. Not only am I a procrastinator, I have ADHD to boot. My attention wanders around like a mayfly. It’s a hard thing to sit still long enough to finish chunks of a novel.

Now, I’d already had an inkling in this direction, as I almost had a “system” to do this sort of thing, but my father crystallized it for me on the way back to Miami in the moving expedition. He’d recently heard this piece of advice somewhere, and since I had hit upon having a couple writing projects in the wings, it gelled. You put things off? Heap on more doings. That’s right. Fill your plate heaps high with things to do, and instead of putting off and dragging heels over just a few painful tasks, cherry pick your favorite to-do items off a list of 100. You’ll get more done. And it will be like candy.

The same is true in writing: with a bazillion projects to attack, you will power through the easiest, the tastiest first. Having trouble on your novel? Been meaning to write a short story? Switch tasks. The short story’s revision got you tearing out your hair? What about that poem you wanted to write? You will get more writing done. Then the rule of sheer practice kicks in: since you’re doing the tastier writing, you’re writing more, practicing more. When you’re avoiding a task, you’re not doing it. Your skills rust like tools left in a damp shed. By switching tasks, you get more writings accomplished. Your volume of production increases. And that’s just the practical side. Never mind the sheer glee of it, the feel of finishing a piece, or the scratch of a pencil on paper, or the marvelous clatter of fingers on keys.

So I wanted to say, thanks Dad, for passing along the good advice. And seriously, if that pencil is dragging, keep your to-do list long.

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