X Marks The Spot

Early in the year, I’d been told by my husband a motivational technique that computer programmers have adopted from Jerry Seinfeld.  Yes, that Jerry Seinfeld.  It was a simple technique, though effective for a lot of people who’d been inspired to copy him.

Every day, Jerry said he would attempt to write a joke.  It didn’t matter if it was a cruddy joke or a good one, he would simply give it a go.  Once he’d written it down, he would cross out the day on his calendar.  Mission accomplished, so to speak.  It didn’t matter if he deleted it the next day, whether he ever used it or not, it was about creating a work habit.

My husband read about this on a computer programming forum, or in an article of that topic, and then told me about it, suggeting perhaps I should do it for my writing.  I was dubious – how much can an ‘X’ motivate, really?  But I gave it a go, and I was determined to at least try it for a week before I judged too harshly.

I ended up writing X’s across the whole of February.  I found that once I had a little string of X’s, I didn’t want to have a gap.  It would be a cavity on a perfect row of teeth.  A hole, a missing piece of charming smile.  And it gave me a massive sense of accomplishment, to look over at my calendar (which hangs on the wall beside me as I write at my PC), and see a block of X’s.

The one problem with this technique is that I need renewed enthusiasm when the month flips over.  I’ve let it slide in the first week, or I’ve missed entire months altogether.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still writing, but I’m not working on my main book project, and that was what I was using the X’s for.  I have a complete, finished book in a horribly rough draft mode.  I wrote it in 2005/2006 and it needs work.  A lot of work.  But it’s finished, and the story itself is good enough to keep.  I just need to edit some errors out and insert some integral twists and sparks.

So, the X’s don’t motivate me at the start, but once I have the first row going, they do serve as a reminder that I can accomplish things, and it’s like a small piece of acknowledgement to something that is now in a painful place.  Writing, I love.  Editing, not so much.  I really have to wrap my mind around the fact that editing is like shaping a novel – that just because all of the paint is on the canvas doesn’t mean the picture is finished – there are highlights, and shadows, to help give depth.

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