Have you ever had so much to do that you stare at the piles and do nothing?
A blogger on writing recently commented on the many projects she had tackled. Blogs and guest blogs, articles and agent queries, outlines, edits, rewrites, chapters, and on and on. She sounded frantic. I wish I didn’t feel the same way as I look at the lists posted to my bulletin board. Waking at 2 am, knowing sleep is gone, mind churning with worry, it’s time to face the impossible choices.
Sayings from those one-a-day calendars are tacked willy-nilly to my bulletin board and do their best to inspire.
- “Real courage is holding on to a still voice in your head that says, ‘I must keep going.’” (Cory Brook, American politician).
- “Lord, make me so uncomfortable that I will do the very thing I fear.” (Ruby Dee, American actress)
- “Hard pounding, gentlemen; but we will see who can pound the longest.” (Wellington at Waterloo)
- “Don’t assume a door is closed. Push on it.” (Marian Wright Edelman, American activist).
- “The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” (Anne Frank, Jewish diarist).
The pictures of my characters gaze down accusingly, reminding me of the books to be written, outlined, edited, rewritten. And the article on Tejana Women ranchers promised for next month which will require extensive research in county archives. And speeches to write for presentations. And research books checked out from the university that must be read and returned. (Thank goodness for on-line renewal).
And more books, just for pleasure books, that pile up around me begging to be read. And note cards from past research to be sorted and filed. And promised e-mails to answer. And the web page to redo. And the on-line course on how to do a web page. And never mind the desk that needs to be cleaned off, the drawers to be organized, the dogs to exercise, and what about my exercise? And a dozen flower beds to weed. And a trip to Austin to judge the students in Texas History Day.
So, of course, I invent a Lecture Series, and e-books to publish, with audio to accompany them, and podcasts and taped lectures and power points to offer for sale on the web page. And then there are the blogs, and Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter, and Linked-In. All sucking the seconds, then the minutes, then the hours from my days.
It would be so wonderful to just do one thing at a time and get it done and out of the way. The relief of a “Compromiso cumplido” A completed promise. But where to start? Which one is most important? I flounder .
A few years back I wrote an article on Americo Paredes, a folklorist from the Texas border. This is what he wrote.
“How I would like to sit down with these scraps that still breathe life and with the zeal of a doctor beside his dying patient, of the husbandman before a broken plant, nurse them slowly back to life—expanding, enlarging, perfecting until they are what I first intended them to be. It is this that makes me grieve. It is this that gives me a desperate feeling of futility and emptiness. For I know that I cannot revive them, that I cannot give to these dying thoughts the growth that will make them life. I am too occupied with other things, the result of which is the adding of more scraps of paper, more scraps of thought, in the pile that is covering me slowly. . . .
Time glides by like a fox, scarcely seeming to move, yet traveling at a lighting pace. And I am standing still. Each minute throws a silk-like thread around me, tying me down more firmly to the place where, Gulliver-like, I sprawl. It is futile that I strain at my bonds, so tenuous and yet so strong. It is useless to fret against the inevitable.
But I do. I know that these scraps must die with me because I shall never have time to give them autonomous life. For I cannot withhold the march of time. I cannot live forever. I know that every moment I am living I am also dying. I know that I shall pass from the world as passes a boat over the waters. And these thoughts do but hasten my end.”
So, for all of us, time marches on and we struggle to complete just one thing.