Writer’s Diary: Pacing

Last weekend I felt inspired. So inspired that I wrote 5,500 words in one day. It wasn’t even a day off, I had work and social engagements that day. Sometimes I am like that, and I just want to write. The problem with this is always the same: a period of mental exhaustion that lasts for days afterward. I can still work, but I just can’t write creatively for up to a week. This week I have not written much at all and the thought of writing has been nauseating because I feel so mentally drained. As such, I have fallen behind on my writing this week. I expect that tomorrow I will feel much better as I will get my Sunday morning sleep in. However, the importance of pacing my writing is once again presented to me. Self-discipline is the key to making the most out of whatever one does.

I used to get quite angry with myself when I wrote too much. Not in the healthy sense of “I should have paced myself, self compassion is the best approach” but rather in the unhealthy sense of “why am I so weak that I need to take several days rest after writing a lot?” These days I am far more accepting of myself and my limitations than I once was. However, this week I was reading up on differences in IQ. I was curious about what the difference between a person with an IQ of say 100 would be to a person with an IQ of 115. There was almost nothing available to answer this question. Heaps on how to measure IQ and to test the accuracy of the test, but scant detail on how to qualitatively differentiate people of various IQ ranges.

The little I did find mostly confirmed what I had already heard: People with an IQ less than 95 generally can’t process abstract ideas. They depend on directly observable evidence and narratives to understand complex ideas or behaviours. While people with an IQ of 110 or higher are pretty much guaranteed to understand abstract ideas like “fairness” “self-honesty” and “beliefs versus knowledge”. While this wasn’t particularly interesting, what was interesting for me was the emphasis on literary ability that one writer on IQ research placed. The ability to write a coherent story that was more than a few thousands words long was considered a mark of a superior mind. Apparently my ability to write the story “Space Fall”, a draft of a novel 23,000 words long, represents an intellectual feat that only a person with an IQ of 130 or higher could have produced.

This made me think about something: I don’t fully appreciate the value of being a writer. Being able to write, and understand narratives deeply, is a challenging intellectual task. It fact, in the 19th Century during the golden age of the British Empire, the degree that nearly all MPs had was a classical arts degree. These days almost no British MPs have such a qualification. Most of them are lawyers, teachers, economists, and science majors. Yet there was a time when reading the classics and writing long theses about them was considered the most venerable qualification for a leader. Realising this has helped me to expand the level of compassion that I have for myself when I over work myself writing because it reminds me that writing complex stories is taxing and I should pace myself so as not to exhaust my brain because it is easy to do. Human beings need narratives like fish need water. Like a fish we swim through a world of narratives largely oblivious to them being there. Yet they impact our lives so very deeply.

So to you other writers and essayists out there. Never underestimated the ability and skill needed for your craft. If you get tired after a long writing binge like I do, find your ideal pace and work consistently as that is the key to being the most productive while also producing the best quality.

Normal publishing should resume this week. Sorry for the delay this week.

Author: philosophicaltherapist

I am philosophical therapist based in Australia. However, I offer Skype services for people who live in regional districts, or internationally providing the time zones do not clash. In my practice I emphasise honesty, self-knowledge, curiosity, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, compassion, empathy, respect for emotions, and understanding how key relationships work.

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