“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.”
“There’s no traffic jam on the extra mile.”
Just recently, I started running again on a track not far from home; it’s rubberized, so it’s easy on the knees. I’ve started slowly: two laps around, a quarter mile. I’ve been running this same distance a few times a week for a while, just coasting along. But recently, I’ve been going a little further: After I finish my two laps, I start a third one. I pick out a marker that’s a little farther along and keep going until I get there. Sometime soon, I should make it all the way around for lap three.
Here’s what I’ve learned from this: Giving a little bit extra is extremely satisfying and energizing, whether it’s on a running path or the page. So often, when it comes to our writing, we think that we can motivate ourselves by setting ambitious, high-flown goals. But in my experience, this approach can backfire: Instead of pushing forward, we end up paralyzing ourselves. We haven’t reached for the moon, we’ve reached for Mars.
But if we ask a little more of ourselves during each writing session, then slowly but surely, we’ll gather strength and momentum. Just today, I finished revising a chapter in my YA novel. I’d been at it for a few hours, so I was tempted to stop, but I decided to push on to the next chapter as a way of challenging myself to “go the extra mile.” I ended up playing with a few more paragraphs and an intriguing idea popped out of them. Who knew?
As you launch your writing sessions this week, whatever your schedule, why not experiment with “extra miling” in some form? You might decide to keep writing a while longer than you planned to, or to finish one chapter or scene and then forge ahead into the next. When you do, you might surprise yourself and keep going (See Second Wind). Make this a habit and who knows where it might lead? Here’s something else I’ve learned: When you give more than expected, your muse will sit up and take notice. Write on!