One life lesson I have had to learn over and over again is to pace myself. The reason I am such a slow learner is because my mind is half as young as my body, so my mind says “Do it” and my body replies “Not so fast.”
I thought I had learned my lesson for the umpteenth time last week when I vacuumed, washed the car, and then mowed the back yard. My mind was triumphant. “Look what all we accomplished today!”
My body refused to let my back straighten up for three days.
So I had to tell them at the animal shelter my days of shoveling dog poop and scrubbing down the pens were over. My back just won’t take it any more. However, I am up for cleaning the cat cages, which involves less scrubbing and bending.
Today was the big fundraiser for the shelter so I got up and drove out there, ready to volunteer where needed. My job, as it turned out, was to sell cupcakes. As a job, it was a piece of cake (pun intended) as the cupcakes were so delectable and beautiful that they sold themselves. I just took the money.
It was a nice change of pace from cleaning litter boxes.
As writers, we all need to learn to pace ourselves. We study the craft and understand what pacing means in a novel or short story, but do we apply that to our lives as well? I worry about my friends who crow that they spent fourteen hours in front of their computer. To me, that is like vacuuming, washing the car, and mowing the lawn all in one day. I haven’t checked, but I bet they probably couldn’t write another word for a week.
I should have taken those three tasks and parceled them out over three days. That way I could have spent some time on other less strenuous activities such as reading or watching movies (I call this “research”).
Yes, I understand the desire to write for hours at a time when the words and ideas are coming so fast your fingers can’t keep up. And I understand the giddy feeling of accomplishment when you check all those chores of the to-do list.
But either way, we are courting mental burnout or a very sore back.
It’s a good thing to know just how much we can accomplish before either the mind or the body calls quits.
And to know when to stop and move on to something else.