Keep the Momentum Going


I lost momentum on the book– some things were out of my control, like a clot-caused short circuit in my brain, but mostly I just wandered off into the weeds. But now I’ve got some free time stretching ahead, and will be off for a while to recover from the stroke. This is the perfect opportunity to get the momentum back and still keep up with the blog and poetry. I’ve been doing some reading of writers I like, and also looking for encouraging words to help me get my motor running again. Like this one that references one of my all-time models: 

One of the vital things for a writer who’s writing a book, which is a lengthy project and is going to take about a year, is how to keep the momentum going. It is the same with a young person writing an essay. They have got to write four or five or six pages.

But when you are writing it for a year, you go away and you have to come back. I never come back to a blank page; I always finish about halfway through. To be confronted with a blank page is not very nice. But Hemingway, a great American writer, taught me the finest trick when you are doing a long book, which is, he simply said in his own words,

“When you are going good, stop writing.” And that means that if everything’s going well and you know exactly where the end of the chapter’s going to go and you know just what the people are going to do, you don’t go on writing and writing until you come to the end of it, because when you do, then you say, well, where am I going to go next?

And you get up and you walk away and you don’t want to come back because you don’t know where you want to go. But if you stop when you are going good, as Hemingway said…then you know what you are going to say next. You make yourself stop, put your pencil down and everything, and you walk away. And you can’t wait to get back because you know what you want to say next and that’s lovely and you have to try and do that. Every time, every day all the way through the year.

If you stop when you are stuck, then you are in trouble!

ROALD DAHL

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21 Replies to “Keep the Momentum Going”

  1. Sorry to hear of your health woes – my father suffered a similar stroke a few years ago. Hope your recovery is an inspired one 🙂
    Love the Roald Dahl bit – well played.

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    1. Thanks for the kind thoughts. It’s funny about the quote…. sometimes things just float — or are shoved — past our noses just when we need them, aren’t they?

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  2. I wouldn’t take what Hemingway said about writing too seriously, though, as he kind of permanently walked away from it, didn’t he.
    Thank you for liking my posts!

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    1. Yeah, that always bothered me, too. I take what he said about writing a whole lot more seriously than his views on being all macho and matadorish, and then bailing out. The suicide always pissed me off a little, even though I suspect it was a genetic thing in his family. Even as a kid, I looked at that and thought I’d try to be better than that.

      And thank you for posting your posts! I’m enjoying them. 🙂

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      1. Steven Pressfield in his book, “The War of Art” said it best. He calls what prevents artists, or anyone who tries to do anything in life that’s positive, “Resistance”, and it must be aggressively confronted and fought. Hemingway had an extreme case of “Resistance”. It was easier for him to commit suicide than to face the void of the blank page. Instead of committing suicide, he should have written about it!
        “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”
        Steven Pressfield

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          1. He probably would have liked it, maybe even have gotten addicted to it, like people do with Facebook!

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        1. I looked at some quotes from Pressfield’s book in Goodreads. Gonna get that book. This one stopped me;
          “We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”

          That’s a hard one, but I’m working on it. Still, publishing on a blog theoretically available to the whole world is a bit intoxicating. But as I said, I’m working on my own motives as I go. 🙂

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          1. Tonight, I’ll probably have a dream about Hemingway and Fitzgerald blogging on a plane flying over the Himalayas, or something even odder! If I do, I’ll be sure to write it down and dedicate it to your recovery from your stroke. I hope you are doing well.

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            1. That would be an honor. Thank you. Can you actually will yourself to dream on topic like that? That’s amazing. I’ve tried that and it’s never worked.

              It may take a while, and I’d have to do a little research on Ernest to get the tone right, but I may also try a short story, shooting for his style, about battling the modern publishing blogosweird.

              I am doing well. As the doctors told me, I really dodged the proverbial bullet. A fraction of inch one way or the other, and it could have been a different story. The randomness of life is a constant. I’m going to take advantage of it, though. Impatient as ever. Oh, and I ordered “The War of Art”.

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          2. I’m new to thing blogging business, and I did not see the “reply” button to your comment, so I will do so here.
            No. I’m afraid I have no control over my subconscious. Who knows, though, perhaps tonight I’ll get lucky and dream a dream about a dream where Hemingway and Fitzgerald are still alive and doing what they should be doing; writing and not self-destructing.
            Your idea is a great one. Run with it!!
            Your impatience has to go, though. Your brain doesn’t like it. Even your blood is impatient. 😉
            You obviously dodged a bullet for a reason, so don’t let us down. Win the war.

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    1. April 24th. As these things go, it was serious enough to get my attention, but mild enough to mean I should be able to recover nearly 100%. It affected my right side — some numbness, a touch of paralysis, a little swelling and coordination problems — from the neck down. The first 24 hours I had trouble with my right hand and walking. It was like the feeling when your foot falls asleep when you sit on it too long. I had trouble writing my name, for instance. But to be honest, it scared me that I couldn’t type, more than anything else. And I got pissed. ;-). I was admitted to the ICU but they let me have my laptop and I forced myself to do touch-typing that night and the next day. The docs said forcing those muscles to work stimulates the damaged area to rewire itself and get new blood supply. I don’t know how much it helped; the damage was probably slight anyway in that particular spot. But I was relieved and most of the symptoms are gone now. I’m going to take a few weeks off (I have a generous leave policy at work), and fill the time working on the blog and the book.

      Thanks for asking.

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        1. No. Nothing else showed up on the MRI/CAT scans, or the other tests. It was a tiny blocked vessel, too, which means a recurrence is possible, but unlikely. I’m taking steps to minimize risks, too. Big time.

          It’s a cliche, but ‘none of us gets out of this life alive.’ I don’t like to worry about that, since none of us knows the hour or the day. I do want to do what I can do while I’m here. That’s all any of us can do.

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          1. Well that’s a really positive attitude. It must have been a very difficult thing to go through.

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            1. Thank you for the kind wishes. I appreciate them very much, and want to return the favor if I can. It hasn’t been the worst thing. I have good doctors, and my best friend was an MD, so I got good advice and care early on. I really dodged a bullet, and it was just easier to see this as something I could draw strength from. Most things are, actually, if you can see that side of it. Besides, I’ve seen others go through much, much worse and they taught me what real courage is. 🙂

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