My parents grew up during the Great Depression.
That experience taught them the importance of not wasting anything – and they passed that on to me.
At meals, they impressed upon me the fact that somewhere in the world, starving kids would be happy to have leftover boiled potatoes (again?!?), so I’d better eat mine.
I took that lesson to heart, and now I have an innate aversion to throwing food away.
I hate wasting food, so I always clean my plate.
The problem is that I used to load my plate with more food than I really needed, which sadly caused my waistband to expand at an alarming rate, and led to an urgent need to change my behavior.
For more than two months now, I’ve been re-training my brain, practicing the art of not cleaning my plate. I’ve dropped 27 pounds so far, and my portion control is finally under control.
Around the same time that I started revamping my eating habits, I started a personal challenge to write and publish something on this site every day.
I realized that I couldn’t actually claim to be a writer if I never wrote anything, so the challenge would force me off my butt and get me to produce.
It worked wonders – but it wasn’t perfect, and it didn’t last forever.
I made it 33 days without a break – 33 posts that built a writing habit. Since then, I’ve missed three days of writing for a variety of reasons which all boil down to:
You build up good habits and keep at them as best you can, but every diet has a glazed doughnut in it somewhere that trips you up. Every good habit has something that distracts your concentration, and threatens to drive you off track.
The trick is to not worry so much about marring a perfect record – be more concerned about permanent distractions.
Which leads me to why I’ve missed two days worth of writing.
In life, as in eating, I have a tendency to overload my plate.
I have such a wide variety of interests, I have trouble focusing on any one of them, and they all suffer as a result.
My to-do list as a whole became a permanent distraction that prevented me from completing anything individually.
It hamstrung my writing – for years.
Then, when I started my writing challenge, I broke free of the list for a while, and focused on just writing. Unfortunately, I focused so much that it became a distraction from everything else.
I realize now that I have too many things going at once. I need to constantly evaluate my workload and look for things I can wrap up – so I can avoid distractions with everything else.
It’s time to clean my plate.
I need to work on other aspects my writing and editing, and complete some things that have been neglected too long.
During the past two days, I’ve been wrapping up a major novel edit for a good friend, and thanks to that concentration of time, the job is almost done. Once it’s finished, I can move on to another task, and reduce the pile of stuff on my plate down to a healthy, manageable level.
So my write every day challenge is not ending – it’s changing. Rather than limiting myself to posting something here every day, now I’m just going to create something every day – whether it’s a new post, progress on my novel, a guest post, client edits, or other writing projects.
The writing habit is already established.
Now it’s time to put it to work.
Always cleaning your plate may not be the best advice for eating – especially in a society like ours where we enjoy such abundance.
But for other things in life, occasionally cleaning your plate can make you even more productive, and really allow you to concentrate on your passion.
I can almost hear my parents now…
Clean your plate, young man.