Why this still confounds me, I don’t know. After all this time as a writer, you’d think I would have made peace with it. What am I’m talking about? The fact that yesterday I had a great writing session and today, I didn’t get much done at all — and it’s frustrating. Does this ever happen to you?
It’s that old shuffle: one step forward, two steps backward. Only this time around, I’d say it was two steps forward and one step backward. Why does this kind of writing rhythm prevail? Why can’t we work intensely all the time? Why can’t we just plow ahead and make tons of progress every day, instead of all this frustrating backing-and-forthing?
There’s no answer for this in my kit bag. All I know is that this pattern seems to be fairly common. One form that it takes for me is that when I’m revising, I find myself going back to earlier drafts and realizing that I like whole chunks of my original better than my later “improvements.”
The result? I end up substituting my old text for the new and feeling like I’ve wasted a lot of time for nothing. The final text that I settle on often blends the old and the new, so I suppose that’s forward motion.
Why such halting progress? One reason may be that we can’t always work at fever pitch: we’d crash and burn. And so, a day in which we push ahead vigorously is followed by another were we have to decompress and assimilate what we’ve done.
The trick is not to let those slow days halt your momentum, but to simply see them as a blip on the radar screen and to keep moving forward as steadily as you can. Just knowing that a slow day will soon give way to a stronger, more productive one can help keep you going. Write on!