Saturday, January 17, 2009

There's No Traffic On The Extra Mile

image I haven't read the book, written by the music director of American Idol, but I loved the title: There's No Traffic on the Extra Mile. Isn't that the truth? I don't think I've read a truer title in my whole life.

The extra mile is pretty much abandoned, isn't it?

Even those who achieve, let's say, published status often abandon the extra mile. The marketing isn't worth it, or writing that fast isn't worth it, etc. That's fine. No judgment; that's just the life they want. Nothing wrong with it at all. You have to live by your priorities, or else your life isn't worth living.

Still, it's true: once you get on the extra mile, there are no traffic jams.

We say this to kids a lot, but it's the one mantra I tell my students that they really just don't "get:" You get what you give. Or even: You get what you put into it. 

I like mantras. My student's parents will often laugh, because I program these into my students real early, and the kids will suddenly pipe up with one of my sayings at an appropriate time, and they'll be like, "Where did you learn that?!"

I do believe these mantras have a power, and I hope my students will remember them at just the moment they need them, years from now.

imageSometimes they're just mantras to keep me going when the going gets tough. Y'all know I've got baby fever like I've never had a fever in my life. It's terrible! Somedays I feel like I'm going to burst!

But LaDonna said, the other day, that she got through the waiting periods of her life by saying, "The universe is busy lining things up for me!"

I say that every day now. (Thank you, LaDonna!)

And Erica very generously said, a few weeks ago, that she hoped "Amazing things are in store for you this year!" (I don't know the exact wording, but it was sweet.) And I keep repeating it to myself. (And to my uterus!)

I set high writing goals this year. When I did them on January 1, I was astonished to realize I had really just made time to commit to do what I loved to do.

That was a big phew, because I wasn't exactly up for a year of burnout.

Still, as the work wears on, it's easy to turn a desire into a should. And once it becomes a should, it can slip quickly into drudgery, into the danger of becoming a don't-want-to. So I keep reminding myself that I actually can't wait to do my writing every day.

image It's a little odd, though: I have to keep reminding myself to cherish and enjoy those things that I want to do.

Kath asked, today: What separates the ones who never pick up pen again, from those who, even if you cut off all their fingers, do? Along with that, what keeps you going? I answered that the universe doesn't seem to give me a choice. Every time I've been tempted to quit writing, I've needed the money. And by the time I got through it, I found my love for writing again.

But still, I need motivation to keep the enthusiasm and the dedication alive.

So how do you keep going when the going gets tough? How do you motivate yourself? How do you keep going when you find a love teetering on the edge of the should drudgery?

And do you have any favorite mantras? Any mantras I can borrow? :-)

23 bonus scribbles:

Edie 1/17/2009 11:46:00 PM  

I have two mantras:

"No gorilla is going to run in and rip off heads." -- Isabel Sharpe's then 8-year-old son

"It's all good." - Edie Ramer's son

Spy, I'm picturing you pregnant -- belly sticking way out -- and you have a big, happy grin on your glowing face.

Sarah Laurenson 1/18/2009 12:46:00 AM  

"Aim high. You may still miss the target but at least you won't shoot your foot off." Lois McMaster Bujold

Charles Gramlich 1/18/2009 02:36:00 AM  

I must admit, it gets harder and harder to go the extra mile when it never seems much to matter.

Erica Orloff 1/18/2009 10:09:00 AM  

Hi Spy:
I agree . . . and I don't. There may be no traffic on the extra mile, but have you raised your own children? Is your marriage intact? Do you have a sense of serenity or have you been blinded by your goals? Have you stabbed anyone in the back to get to the extra mile? There are one or two bloggers I can think of who tout career success to the exclusion of all those things. That's not my path.

Do I write a lot? Submit many proposals? Work my ass off? Yeah. But I raise my own kids with no childcare. I have quality friendships. I volunteer. I am mostly at peace.

. . .

spyscribbler 1/18/2009 10:25:00 AM  

LOL, I love that Edie!

Okay, I was with you until you mentioned the belly sticking way out, LOL! Oh dear...

spyscribbler 1/18/2009 10:26:00 AM  

Sarah, not shooting off my own foot would be great! I've been known to do it, LOL!

Melanie Avila 1/18/2009 10:44:00 AM  

One of my favorite mantras is "you'll never get it if you don't ask,' which ties in to "the worse they can say is no." I've used that to help me ask for raises, ask favors of friends, and now, to gear myself up to query agents. If you don't ask, the only answer you can get is no. If you do, you have a chance.

I like the idea of the extra mile. I think I went the extra inch last night and that felt good. :)

Mark Terry 1/18/2009 10:46:00 AM  

Success is a journey not a destination.

Just do it.

9/10 of success is just showing up.

Solutions, not excuses.

Edie 1/18/2009 11:05:00 AM  

I was with you until you mentioned the belly sticking way out

LOL You'll be proud of that belly! It's part of the deal, so may as well embrace it.

I ordered "There's No Traffic on The Extra Mile" from my library.

spyscribbler 1/18/2009 11:23:00 AM  

Charles, I know what you mean. Sometimes, I think you need to go an extra 10 miles to show any effect for your extra efforts. And then, even then, is it worth it?

spyscribbler 1/18/2009 11:27:00 AM  

You skipped my third paragraph, Erica. :-) That's why the extra mile is abandoned. For most people, it's just not worth it. I'll be homeschooling my kids, knock on wood, so I won't be there, either, for sure! :-)

I'd opt for a life, too. Except for this year. This year will hopefully be the last year I've got the time to go nuts, LOL.

spyscribbler 1/18/2009 11:34:00 AM  

Melanie, yay! I tried that mantra out this summer, and good things happened, LOL! You're right. I still tend towards cowardness on that bit.

spyscribbler 1/18/2009 11:50:00 AM  

Oooh, Mark, I forgot about that one! I tell my students to enjoy the journey, but I need to use that one. :-)

spyscribbler 1/18/2009 11:53:00 AM  

Edie, you're right! Last night I had the STRANGEST dream about child birth. I mean, you could see the legs and arms right under my skin, and when the boy came out, he was AT LEAST a good 30 pounds. He was sitting on the table, (upright, LOL!), wide-eyed and looking to be at least a year old. It was a little frightening.

I think my uterus is getting carried away.

Kath Calarco 1/18/2009 02:01:00 PM  

Spy, a thirty pound baby! Yikes, what did you have to eat before you went to bed? An extra helping of Wheaties?

I go the extra mile when the spirit moves me. It helps make up for the days I lack motivation. And I have MANY.

I agree with Erica's comment about writers "who tout career success to the exclusion of all..." They may have found success in publication, but damn, what about successful living?

Mantra: Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today, because if you like it well enough today, you'll do it again tomorrow.

Travis Erwin 1/18/2009 04:48:00 PM  

Feel free to use "Lettuce is the Devil."

Robin 1/18/2009 04:58:00 PM  

Oh, dear. I am dark and disturbed. I just realize the mantra I use the most is "life sucks and then you die". Ugh! My kids use it now. It's my way of saying "tough shit" when they complain about stupid stuff, but it's neither nice nor uplifting. Forget you heard it.

Sandy James 1/18/2009 05:27:00 PM  

My mantra -- which my dh is supposed to tell me every day so I quite obsessing over sales -- is:
Publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. I'll let you know how that works out. ;-)

Good luck on the baby front. I lost my first child, and it seemed that it took forever to get pregnant with my oldest. I totally understand your frustration. Hang in there.

spyscribbler 1/19/2009 10:46:00 AM  

Kath, seriously, it was one scary childbirth, let me tell you!

I'm intending to focus on writing a lot this year, as I don't yet have a life, LOL. But as soon as I get pregnant, and/or we hit the road, my life will definitely be different.

spyscribbler 1/19/2009 10:46:00 AM  

LOL, Travis! I love greens. :-)

spyscribbler 1/19/2009 10:47:00 AM  

Robin, that's hilarious! That's good one, though. Glenn uses it, too, so I think of it fondly. :-)

spyscribbler 1/19/2009 10:48:00 AM  

Sandy, it feels like a sprinting marathon! I need to start using that mantra with myself. It's a good one!

Lauren 1/19/2009 01:25:00 PM  

That is an interesting title. Although, I think that sometimes going the extra mile can be twice the work as all the miles up to that point, but often is very well worth it. I think that it is important to think about why to not do the extra mile, because, as you said, sometimes the payoff isn't worth the expenditure, but sometimes people don't do it because they are lazy or they are afraid of trying and then failing.

I like your "you get what you put into it" mantra. It's very true.