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