Last week, I hustled into the building for my day job running late with wet hair sloshing lukewarm tea all over myself professionally-attired, five minutes early, and ready to begin my workday.
That’s when I spotted this tacked to my boss’s office door:
“Is this new?” I asked the boss, pointing at it as he passed me en route to the refrigerator the bathroom an important meeting.
“It’s actually been there a few weeks.”
You could take that as a commentary on my poor observation skills, but I prefer to see it as a positive sign that my boss rarely has his door closed, which makes it less likely I’d notice anything tacked to it. There may be a coupon for a year’s worth of free wine tucked below his nameplate, and I’d never notice.
That’s a lie. I always notice free wine, but that’s not the point of this post. My point is that the sign resonated with me, and not in a, “hey, my boss is telling me to slack off” sorta way.
On the contrary, our entire team works very hard. We all have packed schedules, and I can guarantee no one has ever uttered the phrase, “I’m bored” in our building.
But there’s a difference between working hard for the sake of a goal, and working hard for the sake of impressing someone. There’s a difference between being a good employee and being a martyr. There’s a difference between being productive and being busy.
The latter was on my mind this past Monday in particular. Since I work part-time for the day job, Mondays are my day to stay home and focus on author stuff. When I’m in the middle of a manuscript like I am right now, I become neurotically focused on building word count. If I don’t write at least 4,000 new words on a Monday afternoon, I feel like slamming my head in the garage door.
But this particular Monday was not a word-adding day, and I knew that up front. I’d had a hardcore brainstorming session with one of my critique partners, and I knew heading into Monday that it was a day for finessing, tweaking, and weaving delicate little plot threads together. A vital task? Absolutely. Crucial to making progress with the story? Of course.
But not something that was going to boost my overall word count by much.
I knew this Monday morning, and by the end of the day, I’d made a lot of really great strides with my plot. But when I looked at my word count, I still felt glum.
Then I wanted to slam my head in the garage door again, because seriously – WTF?
I need a copy of my boss’s sign for my home office. I need to remind myself that “progress” doesn’t look the same every single time. I need to do a better job accepting a certain flexibility in the tools I use to gauge success. Sometimes, moving forward requires moving backward, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I’m guessing I’m not alone in my constant need to remind myself of these things. Do you have an urge to be busy? Do you sometimes gauge your own success based on arbitrary measurements instead of less-tangible forms of progress? Please share!
I’ll be fleshing out this character arc developing a new subplot writing blog posts to support my marketing plan sitting on the sofa thinking. It might be about writing, or it might just be dirty thoughts.
And that’s OK.