07 February 2006

Prolificity: Something every day.

I've quoted Pliny's line: "Nulla dies sine linea" -- "No days without lines" or "Never a day without lines." If I had lived by that dictum since the first time I read it . . . nevermind.

Anthony Trollope got up in the morning and wrote for two hours. Nothing fancy -- just wrote. Niall Ferguson has said that his whole "trick" of producing so much boils down to "I get up and I work."

For years now I have risen early in the morning, but it hasn't always meant finished work to show. I read, I jot, I ponder. In an ideal world, those early-morning hours would be for my most abstract thoughts, and I could spend time later in the day hammering the thoughts out into pages and chapters and so on. But that's not the world I live in -- not yet, anyway.

I'm thinking of this because today I finally handed in an essay that was due months ago. My professor cared much less than I did that it was so late; he knows I worked hard in his class, and he knew that I was working hard on the essay. For me, though, the piece was one more -- remains one more -- among my many projects that have never reached their potential. In the high-tech world they have a saying that applies to microchips and software alike: Late products don't get better, they just get later. That was this paper. All of these repeated failures, including the many unfinished pieces that clutter my files, weigh on me. Extra baggage is the antithesis of prolificity.

Never a day without lines is fine, but waits to be misconstrued by non-completing scribblers like me. Better to say, Never a day without lines ready to show to the world. Early deadlines. Travel light.


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