It’s a calm night around the first of July. The sun’s just gone down, leaving a grey gloam over the fields of fresh-cut hay. Off in the distance, however, a wave of storm clouds threaten on the horizon. But instead of kicking back on the proch to watch the ensuing thunderstorm, I’m sitting on a tractor, raking hay and hoping the storm passes by.
Putting up hay, like many other aspects of farming, isn’t an endeavor that respects a schedule. You irrigate the fields nonstop until the water’s gone and then, when the hay’s ready, you put it up. Doesn’t matter if its your birthday or the Fourth of July — you’ve got about a four day window to rake, bale and stack the hay before it gets rained on. Hence the expression: make hay while the sun shines.
This same urgency would serve many lackadaisical authors as well. It’s easy (waaaaayyyy to easy) to give in to a thousand different excuses and procrastinate the writing. Here’s a sampling
- It’s too early to write
- It’s too late to write
- I don’t have enough time
- I can only write at home on my couch
- I can only write when no one’s around
And so on and so forth.
I’ve been there — I’ve found myself crippled in the past when, for one reason or another, I missed my “writing window” for the day or told myself I shouldn’t write at all because I couldn’t hit my word count. Sometimes it’s a roller coaster. In the winter, life slows down and I can stick to a balanced schedule better. Summertime, on the other hand, is an insane ride at hyperspeed with a thousands different things (including — you guessed it — putting up hay) going on. It’s easy to allow resistance to talk you out of doing something when your ideal conditions aren’t met. So what are we to do?
We make hay while the sun shines.
We do what we can when we can, because something is always better than nothing.
Sometimes (read: most of the time) if you’re balancing out a day job, a family and a million other things, it’s easy to get discouraged at the lack of progress on your latest project. Instead of getting down, however, you’ve got to attack it. By attack, I mean writing whenever you get a spare moment, pounding out a hundred words here and there whenever you can wrestle away a few minutes for yourself.
You’ve got to do what you can when you can with what you have.
It’s easy to convince yourself you need ideal conditions to write: a 67.5 degree room temperature, 38 minutes of quiet meditation beforehand, the sound of two gophers mating outside your window — whatever it is kick this crap to the curve and just do the work. Fifty words a day is better than nothing. ONE word a day is better than nothing.
Conditions and results will vary. You’ll likely get frustrated. But as time progresses you’ll learn to plan ahead for these crazy times and take advantage of what you’ve got, when you’ve got it.
Forget the notion that writing can only occur under ideal circumstances. It doesn’t. It happens whenever you make it happen. If JK Rowling could start Harry Potter on a napkin, you can make ten minutes.
As the saying goes. Make hay while the sun shines.