Thursday, February 24, 2005

Eating an Elephant

It's an old joke and it's probably not even very funny, but it's a truism I keep in my head when I start to feel overwhelmed.

Q. How do you eat an elephant?
A. One bite at a time.

How do you run a marathon? One training run at a time, one step at a time, one second at a time - whatever unit of measurement works for you. I truly believe that anyone in reasonable shape can run a marathon. When I ran my first one, I was 50 pounds overweight. It took me nearly 7 hours, but I did it. Finding the time to do training runs and avoiding injuries are the two toughest tasks in marathon training. After you've tackled that, the actual race is a breeze.

How do you write a book? For me, it's actually two pages at a time. That's my production quota - two pages a day. Some people do more, some people do less. If I'm on a hot streak, I write through it. If I'm struggling, it helps knowing that I only have to fill up two pages and it doesn't have to be Shakespeare. If you're panning for gold, you have to sift through a lot of dirt before you find it. And when you're writing, you have to write a lot of crap to get to the good stuff.

When you're faced with an impossibly huge goal, picture eating an elephant. Break the goal into manageable bites, find some ketchup and get started.


At 25 February 2005 at 14:07, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the idea but I'm a vegetarian. I guess I could substitute a tree... or maybe a soy elephant? Bocaphant?

- Shane

At 1 March 2005 at 01:53, Blogger Stacey said...

That's a great way to look at it. I am writing my thesis for my master's this summer and was wondering how in the world am I going to sit down and write 100 pages...I definately need to give myself a page-per-day minimum, two pages doesn't seem like much until you think you've said everything there possibliy is to say about the postmodern memoir ;)

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