Only writing is writing.
I don’t recall now whether I read that in a book or heard it during a presentation. Either way, its truth is brilliant.
They went on to say, “Reading is not writing. Thinking about writing is not writing. Researching what you’re going to write… that’s still not writing. Only writing is writing.
“Until your butt is in the chair and words are coming out your finger tips, you’re not actually writing.”
I don’t know if they actually said that last part, but if not, they definitely should have. Because that’s the part that finally inspired me to put my butt in a chair. This exact chair I’m typing from right now, in fact. Let me tell you how I found this chair.
I had 75 minutes before I needed to be across campus to a class I’m taking just for kicks (during the time, I might add, that I’m supposed to be writing.) And so, I was going to seize that time and write! But first, I needed to find The Place.
As every good (current or former) graduate student knows, there is no point in even trying to get productive work done if you are not in The Place. (Entire books, by the way, have been written on the power of graduate student procrastination tactics – comic books, but still.)
It could be the third study corral from the right on the 14th floor by the stacks. Or the beat up couch by the whining vending machine down some back staircase under the lab. The point is, you know it when you see it. And until it’s perfect, well there’s no point in even trying. Until it’s perfect, or you really, really have run out of time. Like its 4 a.m. and the paper is due TODAY and you really should have started it sooner and you don’t think the professor will understand that you just couldn’t get it done because someone was in YOUR place.
That’s when every good current or former graduate student switches to plan B. And actually starts to write.
So I came to the most logical nearby location to find The Place. It’s quiet and filled with so many books that I was sure their presence would ooze intelligible insights into my weary finger tips. I tiptoed past students already huddled into their places. I ventured down hallways that ended in emergency exits. I trekked up flight after flight of stairs. I discovered oversized picture books for when standing in front of classrooms of students. I brushed past volumes I am quite certain have not been opened in 50 years. I even strolled casually past an entire glassed-in area dedicated to special collections and manned by a guard who eyed me curiously when I accidentally had to pass back through again.
In all that wandering, I could not find The Place. My 75 minutes were dwindling. And so I retreated. Back down flights of stairs, through the stacks, and to Plan B: the first empty study corral near the door. And, coincidentally, near giant volumes of bound papers of Ulysses S. Grant and Thomas Jefferson. There are 41 volumes for Thomas Jefferson alone. Each one at least 2 inches thick and ranging in dates from 1760 – 1803. Plus several special editions. In case you were curious.
And that is how I came to be positioned in this particular chair.
I’ve had to stop several times because people strolled buy, sometimes wheeling carts, sometimes lugging books or backpacks, sometimes quietly, sometime talking. It’s not the noise that distract me; I just can’t write with someone looming over my shoulders. But that’s okay. Better to have something interrupted then to have never even started.
This is certainly true of writing, as my rather dismal blog-posting record these last 12 months might indicate. It’s easy to put it off until I actually have time. Until I’m ready. Until I’m in the perfect place. It’s much easier to think about it then to actually do it.
I bet writing is not the only thing. How easy is it to postpone a phone call to a friend because I’ve only got a few minutes? Or wait to send a card until I have time to write a full letter? Or to skip quiet time with God because I’d prefer uninterrupted time to little snatches?
Eventually there comes a time when we need to retreat to Plan B.
Just do it.
Dear children, let us not love with word or speech but in actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)