Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pacing Ourselves

Farmer on a Bicycle-- Alexander Deineka--1935 On Saturday, the kids and I went on a bike ride.

We’re mismatched bikers. My teenage son is the super biker, easily losing us without even realizing it. My daughter is still on a little-kid bike with no gears, and I need to stick behind her to make sure she doesn’t get left behind. Me? I’ll fall off the bike if I bike too slowly…which sometimes happens when the greenway gets too sandy and my daughter pops off her bike unexpectedly to walk the trail instead of bike it. I always seem to think I can stay on the bike just going slowly behind her as she walks…but I topple off it, instead.

There was a man running on the greenway while the children and I were on our bike ride. To me, he was sort of like Pepe Le Pew from the Bugs Bunny cartoons…not for any olfactory reasons, but because no matter how hard we biked, he always ended up right on the point of passing us.

Obviously, this is because we were stopping a lot. My daughter had to stop once because her legs hurt. The chain on my son’s bike came off once and we stopped to get it back on. My daughter stopped for water a couple of times.

Each time my daughter and I stopped, my son kept biking ahead until a point where he realized we weren’t there anymore (which seemed to take a while.) So my daughter and I ended up pedaling really fast to catch up. Which wore me out (since I’m no longer designed to be a speedy biker) and then I had to stop and rest.

And each time we got passed by this man in his late-50s who was jogging along very steadily. Every time I’d hear the pat-pat-pat of his feet, I’d look up with disbelief. No matter how fast we’d been biking before, our little pit stops meant he always caught up quickly.

Finally I said to him, “I think it’s really sad that you’re going faster than us and we’re on bikes!” Which he thought was funny, although he blushed a little.

But it’s like that, isn’t it, for a lot in life—slow and steady wins the race.

Before deadlines ruled my writing life, I always wrote a page a day. I remember telling the critique group that I was in at the time my daily goal…and they thought I wasn’t writing enough.

But—I ended up with a finished book before they did. That page a day was manageable for me. So I did it every day, without fail.

If I feel like I’m behind with a book and start scrambling, I’ll end up burned out or irritated with the manuscript or myself.

If I go too slow, I get overwhelmed by the project and the amount I have left to write.

It’s like a New Year’s Resolution—it’s better not to make a resolution to lose twenty pounds. Better to make a resolution to cut out junky afternoon snacks, or to stop drinking soda, or to walk twice a week or something else that’s more manageable. Something we’ll actually do.

Because everyone wants to feel successful. And if we haven’t set ourselves up for success with our pacing, it’s easy to just ditch the project altogether when we get frustrated or burned out.

How are you pacing yourself?