Photo credit: Anh Nguyen on Unsplash
In the law, we often criticize the opposing party’s position by arguing that they’re elevating form over substance. In other words, they’re too concerned about how something is to be done, rather than focusing on the purpose of what’s to be accomplished.
Last night, I elevated form over substance.
As you know if you’ve been following my posts on the #1000wordsofsummer challenge, the timing of this challenge has not been ideal. I’ve worked more and harder in the past two weeks than in the prior two months, even without the challenge. With it, I’ve been flat-out. (Last night, a friend referred to me as the Energizer Bunny. I wish I had that bunny’s energy.)
This isn’t to say that the challenge hasn’t been worth it. Some days, the writing has been a joy, and I’ve created new story lines I’d likely never have thought about if I hadn’t had this external pressure to sit down and write. Other times, though, it’s reminded me of back when I tried NaNoWriMo in an effort to move the first book along: while I wrote 50,000 words, I ultimately cut about 95% of them. I was slapping words on the page to achieve the word count, not taking time to think about the story and how best to tell it.
Last night, I was in the latter situation in a big way. I was exhausted. Not that I’d accomplished much of anything in the way of billable hours, but other commitments and appointments consumed my day and evening. By the time I opened the Surface to write, my brain was fried. The only reason I even tried was that in my last blog post, I’d talked about persevering, and I figured I needed to live up to my own words.
So, I opened the document and began to put down words.
I can’t tell you what I wrote about, because I paid far more attention to the (gradually increasing) word count than to the substance of what I was writing. I dozed and woke, over and over, forcing myself to continue as if facing a court-ordered deadline. I devoted more energy to crawling over the 1,000-word finish line than I did to coming up with actual content. I have a strong suspicion that when the challenge is over and I’m no longer consumed with spending my writing time on new words, this scene will be the first to be edited, if not excised.
Simply put, last night’s writing session was a largely pointless exercise.
I won’t say it was completely pointless, because it kept me from the Fatal Interruption, and that has value. But overall, it was a fine example of elevating form over substance: I wrote a certain number of words (form), but I wasn’t writing good words (substance).
Now, it’s a beautiful afternoon, sunny and mild, with wispy white clouds brushing the blue sky. Windows are open; the office fan moves the crisp late-spring air. It’s Friday after a grueling two weeks. Everything in me wants to declare a day off, but there are still many items left on my list: errands to run, clients needing responses, administrative tasks to address. Housework to do, lawn to mow (ahead of tomorrow’s rain). Cats to play with (after their naps). A friend to call with birthday wishes. Books to read. A book to write.
Today’s pledge, then: not just 1,000 words, but 1,000 good words. It’s a lot harder. It’ll take longer. But if the 1,000 words are good ones, there’s less of a chance that next week, I’ll delete 995 of them.