As I’m approaching the end of a major portion of my rough draft, I’ve been reflecting on the single-minded focus I’ve had during this stage of writing. For the last few months, I’ve written next to nothing but Strin & Fred, which has been a change for me. Over the past years I’ve been writing lots of flash fictions, some novellas, a handful of short stories, always moving to a new idea.
I’ve purposely forced myself not to dabble in other projects during this time. This, of course, has made me more efficient. But it has also made me less unsatisfied, I think. When there are ten ideas fighting for my attention, it’s harder to be fully invested in the one I’m working on–and an idea in the head is always more fun, more epic, and more emotional than the one on paper.
I recently listened to a podcast about War and Peace and Tolstoy. Tolstoy, apparently, believed that less personal freedom provided greater personal happiness. He meant this primarily in the area of marriage, where choosing one spouse and committing to raising a family, while cutting off many other opportunities, afforded greater pleasure than a frenzy of self-fulfillment. G. K. Chesteron, in Orthodoxy (go read it), said something similar, if I remind right.
Today’s culture is all about providing choices, the more the better–websites, channels, books, ways to pay, ways to spend, etc. But with all these choice, it’s harder and harder to choose just one, because we’re afraid we might choose wrong or we might miss out on something fun or important. After all, YOLO, y’all!
I have this ridiculous dream of buying the entire Penguin collection on Amazon, but in reality, spending time and really reading and enjoying two, three, or a half dozen books I enjoy is worth way more than the desire to somehow grok the history of literature.
Making a choice, and thereby deciding against the innumerable other options presented to us, is not only necessary, it’s essential to truly living, maturing, and enjoying. I don’t need to do everything–or even ten things. I just need to do one or two things well, finish those, and start on something else.
My guess is that the specialist is much more satisfied than the dabbler.