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Self Control is Good for You

Since the arrival of our children, my husband has been steadily pushing a variety of child-rearing books on me. Thoughtful, interesting books like Po Bronson’s Nurture Shock, and Brain Rules for Baby. Unfortunately, I haven’t read any of them.

“Why don’t you read them, instead of this…this Japanese comic book about baseball?” he said in exasperation. Despite my protests that I had no emotional bandwidth for anything else, as I was deeply immersed in my fantasy of being a starting pitcher at Koshien Stadium, I had to admit he was probably right. In fact, from what I could tell from the points he summarized for me, those child-rearing books are really quite useful.

One of the things they stress is that self control/the ability to delay gratification is one of the greatest predictors of success. Now, if self control means a child who can do his homework without being chased around the dining table like a wild horse, then I am 100% for it. But that’s not all. Apparently it’s not too late to apply this lesson to myself.

jawa

Time to spray horticultural oil!

“I don’t have any problems getting things done!” I said indignantly. Why, just this morning I went out and sprayed the apple tree in our backyard against codling moth. I even, despite my unfortunate resemblance to a Jawa, donned gloves and protective gear to do this. Then I wandered around watering the roses and deadheading them etc. etc. Inspite of this flurry of activity, I have to confess that none of this was necessary. In fact, my real work (consisting of numerous emails, bills, and memos to be written) was still waiting, pristine and untouched, on my desk.

Verdict: a FAIL for delayed gratification, since gardening is something I enjoy.

And let’s not even talk about writing. Various family members have pointed out that this blog has very little about the actual process of writing.

“Aren’t you supposed to be an author now?” they said accusingly. “Why isn’t there anything here about your ‘craft'”?

I don’t have a good answer to that, other than I can’t imagine that people really want to know what I do when I’m writing. Other novelists, like Hemingway, seem to have had far more glamorous lives that bled into their writing. In my case, instead of exterminating big game on the plains of Africa, I was busy eradicating apple moths.

Aside from this, I am actually trying to write my second novel and must agree that self control is incredibly helpful if you’re going to embark on a long-term project like a book. For instance, you have to control the urge to make numerous trips to the fridge. (I’d like to point out that while writing this blog post, I’ve only strayed twice to retrieve some cheese and a slice of mortadella). You also have to resist temptations like reading cat blogs and googling Korean celebrities.

StrawberryHill-002

The fruits of this morning’s idle labour

For years, I only wrote short stories to entertain friends and family. I never thought I’d have the discipline to write a novel, but somehow or other I kept going on. And on. And on. Until I’d written 170K words (then I discovered, to my horror, that apparently no agent will look at a book that’s over 120K words and had to start slashing – but that’s another story). To be honest, I don’t recommend this method of producing massive, doorstop-sized manuscripts. But I am thankful that I kept writing, even when I felt like screaming and running away. Now if only I could replicate this self-control for my second book…

Book Suggestion:

  • The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway. The epitome of self control in the struggle between man and fish.

Snack suggestion:

  • Thin slivers of Manchego cheese, or a slice of ham – anything that can be eaten quickly and with little  distraction. No carbs (which will make you lie down for a “quick” snooze)!

Photo credit: Photo 1-http://www.funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/3191663/Self+Control/ Photo 2: Star Wars.

What do you find most challenging to your self control?

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14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ooh, I know what you mean about “writing about writing.” I so rarely write about my actual process (what IS my process, anyway? Who knows!) because it’s really just, write a little, erase, write more, go get cheese, decide everything I just wrote sucks, realize I need a new outline, and so on and so on! xox

    April 25, 2013
    • Wait – “erase”? Does that mean you’re writing longhand? I’m sooo impressed (wish I could do that)!!

      April 26, 2013
      • Oh God, I just made myself sound infinitely cooler than I am. Sadnly, “erase” just means backspace!!

        April 26, 2013
  2. I’m writing kids books, and those are even shorter! I still need to smell the flowers often.

    April 25, 2013
    • I think that shorter books require more craft (and therefore more “support” in the form of flowers, sandwiches, dark chocolate caramels with sea salt…) 😉

      April 26, 2013
      • Boy, I need to hook up with more comfort, obviously! Yum!

        April 26, 2013
  3. Wonderful! Hilarious! Yes, many distractions from getting writing and other things done. In the last couple of days I’ve limited my engagement with Twitter and Facebook to a morning foray and a quick check or too later. Otherwise I close down the windows! I’ve been much more productive.

    April 26, 2013
    • I think you’re the winner here for delayed gratification!! I’m very, very impressed… 🙂

      April 26, 2013
  4. The owl picture is awesome!

    May 3, 2013
  5. Sharon #

    I can relate to this post. Distractions come so easily especially when you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do. It is as if the brain is programmed to just “run off by itself to wonderland”, as my mother used to say. Great Post! 🙂

    May 6, 2013
    • “Run off by itself to wonderland” – what a great image! Your mother clearly had a good grasp of the situation 😉

      May 7, 2013
  6. nonsensicalteddybear #

    I’m impressed that you’re able to write anything on your blog at all. Because of articles saying that blogs are a great way to promote a book, I started a blog only to never write about writing or even write on it. As for my actually writing, I had to give up video games since the summer of 2012 to write the scattered pages in two laptops and three notebooks.

    March 22, 2014
  7. missvickyness #

    Highly recommend trying out the Parano Gouda from Whole Foods… with the La Panzanella Rosemary Croccatini.

    September 19, 2014

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