Saturday, March 19, 2011


You've read before about how I love me some numbers when I write. Nothing like cold, hard digits to prove you're getting somewhere. See? Look, I wrote 1000 words today. Can't dispute that.

The funny thing about life is you can't measure everything you do. Yes, I'm just figuring this out, but I'm a little slow on the life lesson stuff. They don't tell you this when you're in school and they definitely don't grade you on it. They really should put a number to it so I could relate.

This can't-measure stuff is hard for me to grasp. Isn't that what we're raised to believe, though? Success is something you can prove with grades, promotions, salary, house size, weight, etc. That's what the goal-making gurus always tell me, too. Don't make vague general goals like "be kinder to animals", because how will you know when you've succeeded? Your goals should be something you can tally up because then, to paraphrase George Banks from Mary Poppins, you'll achieve that sense of conquest.

He's right about that. I eat that stuff up. The fitness DVD I use has three levels. Yay! I'm super ninja kick-butt mama when I can graduate from one level to the next. Wow, I'm super-nerdy writing maniac mama when I put 1,000 words on the page. Huzzah, I'm super domestic diva mama when I put 5.5 loads of laundry in the dryer in one day.

But what about the things you can't measure? Like this week, for instance, when my CPs told me about some problems with my third-draft Rocky novel. The next step is, get this, to think about it. How do the characters relate to each other? How do they interact at school? What is their motivation in each chapter? Thinking does not add words to the page. But it makes the novel better. And knowing I need to think about those problems for this novel will make me a better writer because I'll have to think about the same things in other novels.

But how do you measure it? "I had 3.3 thoughts about my characters today"? You can't. And yet, that's where I'll make the most progress.

It's the same with children. Nobody counts how many hours I spent on the couch with my kids yesterday, trying to get them to stop screaming for no apparent reason. Nobody but them noticed the snuggles I gave them when it was dish-doing time. Yet those things matter most.

In the words of Einstein, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
Photo source
He knew what he was talking about. Though some moments of inspiration come when I'm typing madly away, many (the big, important ones) come when I'm in the shower, or lying around in bed, or doing nothing at all.
So if you see me this week and it looks like I'm sitting around being completely unproductive, don't be fooled. My internal genius is at work. Do not disturb.

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