Order. Routine. Discipline. So much of my life is organized, task oriented. There’s a sticky-note checklist for everything and a fine point Sharpie to mark my success.
As a middle school teacher, I face a minimum of 43 papers to grade each day. Sometimes it’s 86 or even 129. I attack the stack daily – before school, at lunch, during 5 minute breaks, after dinner…and on and on it goes. The stack shrinks and grows, shrinks and grows. Sometimes I win altogether as the stack disappears by the persistence of my discipline. I win, and for a few hours I bask in a sense of accomplishment.
The first morning of Spring Break, I sat down on my couch to relax. Three deep breaths later I was up and on the move. Doors, windows and cabinets had cried out to me for a little love and care. I responded with clean white paint and a lot of time. I worked through meals. I skipped the naps I had planned to take. With discipline, I pulled out my brush each day to make progress and finally, finally see the results of my labors. I worked relentlessly to win over the chipped, peeling and mismatched paint. I worked, motivated by immediate results.
For someone who lives a life driven by order, routine and discipline, I find it incredibly hard to write regularly. My discipline in other areas of life is driven by physical, visual results. The stack is smaller. The door is a crisp, clean white. But how many times have I made myself a writing “To Do” list only to check things off and find that I am no closer to my greater goal? I write myself into corners. I write, rewrite and delete. If only the path were more clear. I wouldn’t even mind 100 steps as long as I knew they were “the right” productive steps to take. Without immediate results, my checklist loses the power to motivate.
Writing requires that I expand my expectations and change my need for an immediate, measurable outcome. There will be a finished product someday; a check on the big list of personal goals. My method may not be the shortest, most direct route to the goal, but I will keep trying. I will learn to find satisfaction in the journey. And for the sake of immediate success, my checklist might just read “Write Something Today.”