50: The long game.
- November 19, 2017 -
Lately, I’ve been working to become more deliberate about shifting my gaze to the wide-view lens of the long game.
There’s a great deal to be said for this type of focus, I think, since it so often pushes you to cultivate a more balanced life. It’s been something of a challenge for me, though, learning to adopt this more broadly focused mindset, because I’m not naturally attuned to its demands.
No, by now, I’ve long since come to realize that I’m a sprinter. I work best in short, focused bursts, and I’m most productive when working towards established deadlines and clear-cut goals. But, by definition, the long game doesn’t work this way. The long game is like a marathon with no end in sight: you still have to put in all of the training and you still have to show up on race day, but, once you start running, you don’t know when — or even if — you’ll reach the finish line.
(In many ways, this has been one of my biggest challenges as a writer, this getting comfortable with knowing neither what the outcome will be nor when you can expect to hear about it. When it comes to submitting your work for publication, for instance, the wait times can often be weeks or months, and even then you can’t be sure that you’ll get a response, much less that it’ll be a positive one.)
Beyond just the extended periods of waiting, though, there’s a lot about settling in for the slow burn of the long game that’s different from the quick bursts of the short game. It’s acknowledging, for instance, that I can’t just stay up late for an indeterminate number of work-heavy nights each week, loading up on coffee and sugary snacks to get me through the most pressing deadline du jour. I can’t skip the gym, neglect my relationships with others, or allow myself to get derailed by everyday micro-aggressions. Because if I’m really going to get serious about playing the long game, I need to make sure that I’ll have the necessary stamina just to get to the long game.
This means recognizing that the panicked last-minute writing sessions aren’t going to get the work done in a way that’s sustainable. It means becoming more consistent about maintaining my creative rituals, and it means remembering that I can’t simply show up at my desk on the days that I feel like it. It means learning to take better care of myself, and — especially these days — it means knowing when to turn off the phone, stop refreshing the feed, and close the laptop.
Waving from my desk,