Quitting While You’re Ahead (AKA Pacing Yourself)

First off, a shout out to all the people I know and love this Valentine’s Day. You know who you are. Right? Right. With the obligatory acknowledgement of the holiday out of the way, just so you know I do live (somewhat) in the real world (despite looking at made up calendars more than most), I shall now leap right into today’s subject: pacing.

While we’ve spoken about those days where you’re running through quicksand (or attempting to) with ankle weights while juggling hippos and chainsaws and ways to overcome said obstacles, we’ve not talked much (if at all) about what to do if you’re leaning in the other direction, the direction of many words flowing from your fingers like you dipped them in crank-laced Palmolive. Or, for the techies among us, you’ve managed to overclock your brain, and are running much faster than you should. While overclocking can improve speed and productivity (and so can, our “special” Palmolive), you don’t have a big fan carved into the back of your head (unless, possibly, you’re reading this about twenty years in the future or a hundred or so years ago when trepanning was all the craze. In the later case, I’d have to ask you how you managed to look at this website to begin with. Rather than delve further into a potentially paradoxical dilemma, I’ll return to point. Pacing.

Like anything else you do in this great, big world, pacing is key. You have to make certain you don’t overdo it. I’m not talking Tortise V. Hare here. I’m not saying slow and steady, but somewhere in-between. A moderate stance, if you will. Work hard in the allocated hours devoted to your work and then stop. I don’t care if you’re in the middle of a sentence about a coral snake teaching Jazzercise to chipmunks while their spacecraft is plummeting towards the sun. Just. Stop. If you write, and I mean really write, and don’t play at it, you’re something like an alcoholic (only with words and not, you know, alcohol). One word leads immediately to the next and the next thing you know, the ugly lights have been turned on, the bartender has cleaned out your bank account, and you realize the quick drink you meant to get on the way home turned into a bender and you’re in for a heckuva hangover.

There are such things as writing hangovers too, in case you were wondering. If you write for sixteen hours straight (and I’m sure more than one of you may have gone on a jag like this sometime in the past–I know I have), you realize it is NOT a sustainable pace and you will suffer fatigue and brain cramps. Also, there is the whole point of diminishing returns wherein fatigue sets in after X number of hours (the exact variable depends upon whom you believe plus your own state of physical and mental health) and you’re doing a lot less than you think you are and if those sixteen hours were sprinkled across several days, you may have accomplished a lot, lot more than you did. However, when you’re facing deadlines, the enough may, well be enough. It’s just not recommended as  a general lifestyle and is certainly not “the coolness” you may think it is.

We are humans (to varying degrees) and we need down time to get ready for the next mad dash at the keyboard. If you’re hanging with those chipmunks halfway between leaner legs and burning up in the heat of the sun, you’ll be tricking yourself to get back to the keyboard to see what happens next. If you want to know what happens next, odds are we do to.

Today, I’m following my own advice. I moved out a bit ahead of this project I’m hammering away on, and I am CERTAIN I could get even further ahead if I just ignored my regular schedule and just continued on, but I know it’s not a good thing. I’ve gotten a lot done today as it is, and I’ll hit the proverbial wall and there is no reason on earth for me to kill myself getting a handful of more pages which shan’t be as good (of this I am certain too) as they will be tomorrow.

No procrastination. No rationalization. No delusions. I’ve said my piece and I know when to stop. Just. Like. That.

Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!


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