Ever had this experience when you’re exercising: your body wants you to stop but something inside you wants to keep going, so you push past your fatigue and find out that you still had some gas in your tank after all? Even if you don’t run or play tennis, you probably know the feeling: when you don’t give in to your desire or inclination to stop something you’re doing, suddenly you get a surge of energy – a second wind.
Getting to the second-wind stage can be tricky, but when you catch one, it’s satisfying, isn’t it? Pulling something out of ourselves that we didn’t think we had can be pretty exciting. All at once, we get a glimpse of the fact that we’re capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for.
But here’s something I’ve learned through my writing: you can almost guarantee yourself a second wind if you make it a practice to keep going just a bit longer than you feel inclined to – to put just 10% to 15% more effort into whatever you’re working on when you reach the point where you feel like stopping. If you do this consistently, you’re likely to find that some of your most creative ideas and best writing surface during this “extra inning.”
In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg puts it this way: “Go a little further. Sometimes when you think you are done, it’s just the edge of the beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.” Goldberg is talking about finishing a piece, but what she says applies to just about any stage of a project. Creatively, our tank is never empty: wherever we are, we can always go just a bit further.