Turtle steps add up to a long distance over a year.
But we all know that maxim already. But there are days that I have to remind myself of this truth. It’s gets hard to remember it when the rabbits are racing by (or at least bragging that they’re racing through things).
Many of us have jobs and family obligations that demand a lot of our time. And there’s a temptation to take an “all or nothing” stance to writing. That attitude that either we need to be writing thirty manuscript pages a day, or else quit. Yet, writing just one page a day adds up to a 365-page manuscript over a year–a good length for a novel.
Finding the time to write thirty pages a day may be impossible. Finding the time to write one page a day is not. Even if you’re a slow typist and writer, we’re talking about finding 15-60 minutes of time–the time can even be broken down into increments of 10 minutes if needed. Most writers I know need only about 15-30 minutes to write that one page (about 250 words).
It’s like people’s attitude towards losing weight–the “shock and awe” approach. Many go after the extreme weight loss over a two month time period by starvation-type dieting, instead of the steady permanent loss over two years by small changes each week in lifestyle.
I’ve learned from trial and error that tiny steady changes over a year can lead to more extreme results than a “shock and awe” approach to a goal. And when the time frame goes to three to five years for turtle steps, the changes seen can be stunning.
Part of it has to do with the fact that the “shock and awe” approach is often unsustainable over a long time frame. Sooner or later a crisis happens, or one’s health collapses from overwork, or when one doesn’t meet the outrageous goal for the month, one quits trying at all since there’s that “all or nothing” mindset. For example, being on a strict diet and going off the wagon to eat half a pizza at a party, and then saying, “I failed, so there’s no point in going on” and continuing the eating binge for weeks.
Slowly I am learning not to compare myself to the rabbits bounding by, and to instead keep my mind focused on the next small step as I move along in my turtle-like way. The rabbit path is not feasible right now, but it’s not the only way to get where I want to go.
Or to quote Benjamin Franklin:
It is true, there is much to be done, and, perhaps, you are weak-handed; but stick to it steadily, and you will see great effects; for ‘Constant dropping wears away stones; and by diligence and patience the mouse ate in two the cable; and little strokes fell great oaks.