The Garden Hose (Day 8)

If I take my garden hose and adjust the nozzle to “mist,” the water will sprinkle out ever so gently; and if I point the hose in your direction, it would be as if you were caught in a light drizzle of rain.

Now, if I take that same garden hose and change the nozzle setting to “jet,” all of a sudden the force of the water would increase; the same amount of water is concentrated into a tighter opening.

If I had just planted a garden full of baby cuttings, I might water them using the mist, but never would I use the jet setting, for the latter would be too strong and create great puddles in my garden.

This is the point: the same amount of water can dissipate into mere mist, or it can be concentrated and thus become forceful. Our energy is like that water: we can focus our energy to create something powerful, or we can lose it all in a slow leak.

You have a goal, just as I have mine. All of your efforts need to be concentrated towards that one goal until you bring it to its beautiful completion. If your efforts are not concentrated, woe to you for you will constantly be falling behind and falling prey to your own doubts.

In today’s world everything is so accessible (“at your fingertips!”), and however lovely that may be, it can also become the source of that “slow leak” I mentioned earlier. The Internet has rendered everything so available that it takes a great amount of will power to remain focused on a single goal.

A brief recounting of my day will better clarify my point. Today, as I was eating my breakfast, I found a website that teaches Latin. Wow, I thought, I had always wanted to learn Latin. An hour was spent learning the different pronunciations of the alphabet. Then I decided to take a break and bake a cake. As I searched for recipes online, I realized I had opened a Pandora’s box—what started off as a search for the perfect apple cake evolved into a recipe for a yogurt marbled plum-cake. It was then that I understood the wisdom of the traditional cookbook which limits one’s choice to five or six recipes in the last section of a book that has a front cover and a back cover. The internet has no such boundaries, and so again, I lost so much time looking for a good recipe that by the time I was done my search, I no longer had the time to actually bake anything. I could continue, but I think you understand the point.

But let us not blame all of our woes on the expanse that is the Internet. I also have four books, all read to differing degrees and all very different in nature, that stare at me every day. I spent a great portion of my day today merely trying to figure out which one to read and for how long before starting to work on my own book.

Suffice it to say that I did not get my writing done for the day—and that is a very bad thing for someone who is on a mission to complete a novel in a very short time frame.

Today, my energy was dispersed in the “mist” setting, spreading everywhere and nowhere. Yesterday, it was concentrated and that is why I actually got something done. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, makes it a point to tell the reader how important it is to read and read and read. He reads whenever he finds a spare moment—which is great, but it does not really work for me. Sometimes, we have to take a break from constantly reading if we actually want to get some writing done.

When a bunch of books, however interesting, are staring at me, imploring me to read them, I start to feel a sense of oppression: “I am behind.” This morning, I woke up with a panic as I thought of all of the things that I needed to do, and as I tried to cross off all of those things from my list, I ended up not doing the one thing that actually really counted: writing my novel.

If I could re-start the day, I would remind myself that nothing else on my to-do list really matters unless I get my writing done; doing everything except the writing is like ironing a shirt without first washing it, or applying deodorant without first showering. The absence of the primary action (washing) renders the secondary one (ironing, putting on deodorant) completely useless.

Limit the number of tasks you give yourself. Your to-do lists (if you are so compelled to compose them every day) should be short enough to store in your head. The most important thing should always be to make it one step closer to achieving your goal, and that cannot be done if you are stretching yourself thin with all kinds of unnecessary tasks.