Do One Thing

For as long as I can remember, I’ve nearly always done my writing in what can be called “single sessions” — if I had to write something like an essay for an English class, I’d procrastinate it until the last minute, and then bang out the entire essay in one sitting. This sitting wouldn’t be short — it could easily last a couple of hours, but I’ve never been one to write half an essay, stop for the day, and come back to it the next day.

I find that I do my best writing this way — when I’m just letting my thoughts flow, instead of spending time away from the writing in an incomplete state, with the opportunity for thoughts or additional improvements to come up by themselves. This is probably because I accumulate too much mental fatigue when I give myself too much time to think — if I have an essay halfway done, I’ll constantly be thinking about what I should write, whether I should just scrap the whole thing and start over, whether my writing is too verbose, or a thousand other things. So I find it a lot simpler to just finish the entire thing in one sitting, give it a few looks over, and then be done with it.

It’s contrary to a lot of the writing advice out there that advocates for leaving a sentence half finished, so that you have motivation to come back to it the next day — that advice would have me unable to focus on anything else for the rest of the day.

I’ve also found that, like many people, the hardest thing to do is to get started — to get those first few words on paper. I haven’t yet discovered any way around this, except to just force yourself to take the plunge and write something, however silly it may sound. It’s a lot like forcing yourself to take a cold shower first thing in the morning. You don’t look forward to it, it feels terrible the entire time you’re doing it, and at the end, you have a sort of “perverse pleasure” (to quote Robert Greene). Once that happens, though, it’s like a waterfall: the words just seem to flow, and I can tolerate occasional interrupts to gather my thoughts without getting distracted by something else.

Probably the most interesting thing that I realized is that I do a lot of my honest writing — unfiltered, truthful, and most expressive writing — when I’m procrastinating for something else. Like right now. I’m procrastinating studying for my upcoming finals, and these ideas around writing have been going through my head for the last couple days, so this was the natural way to procrastinate. Perhaps writing is my mind’s way of taking itself off a task that it finds too stressful, or too cumbersome to start — which is ironic, since I often feel this way about writing for school assignments. I guess it goes to show that enjoying writing is actually possible, if you let go of all the “rules” around writing that we’ve learned in school, and just let the words flow. 11