Shuffling through old notebooks and torn out newspaper articles, I discovered a neat column by Oliver Burkeman talking about early 1900s writer Arnold Bennett and his book “How to live on 24 hours a day”. The central message of the book being – cultivate your capacity to pay attention and time expands.
I’ve nearly crested 10k words on the novel, a little behind the NNWM curve, but if you included the blog posts I’ve written in the same first few weeks of November that number would be doubled. Right now I’m having to consciously shelve blog posts in order to get on with writing.
Mainly that’s because the thread of the last week or so has resonated with me so much that I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m trying to research at work, write at work, form conclusions and arguments at work, then go home and write. It’s terrific. I’m exhausted, but exhilerated.
What’s interesting about what Bennett says as well is how ‘zoning out’ – looking to recover from the daily blur of activity and the need to concentrate – is actually more draining on your energy, your motivation and your general oomph than travelling at 100mph until you collapse into bed turns out to be. In fact, ‘zoning out is tiring, not relaxing’.
“The mental faculties… do not tire like an arm or a leg. All they want is change – not rest, except in sleep.” In the past, feeling tired, I’ve sought zone-out in videogames or reading or just mooching around the house or slumping in front of something vanilla on the TV. I’ve actively not been active. I’ve suffered for it.
At the moment, slightly jittery at work attempting to write, think, postulate (like right now) then returning home after an hour’s drive to talk with my wife and then, finally, sit down in the studio for an hour or so of writing, occasionally I’ve longed to be able to zone out and stop thinking.
Believe Bennett (and I do) and in fact what I need is more opportunity for thinking, more chances to develop what’s going on behind my eyes. I’m writing this quick, unthinking, but still a product of thinking, though it’s spattery and scattergun, and there are plenty of things I want to say that aren’t going to be satisfied by this approach.
But so long as I do this, whenever I have a chance, so long as I concentrate on the act of writing and trying to chisel out an hour or more around the day to fit more and more writing into, as long as the only reason I’m not doing something is because I’m spending time with my wife or spending time sleeping, then I’m concentrating on the right thing.