In early May, I urged readers to capture their life stories in writing. I said it was a way to leave a legacy and possibly to help future generations understand aspects of the past. I should have added that when you write down your life, you also provide fodder for all your younger relatives who will become genealogy buffs as they age. Today I read one more reason for writing down your life in a study of working people who were asked to spend 10 minutes a day keeping a journal about their work day. According to an article in the Harvard Review, which is a precursor to a book* to be published on this subject, there are four reasons for individuals who think they’re too busy to do this to give it a try. The researchers say that journaling can help people in the workforce stay focused on their goals, increase their patience, plan better, and learn and grow from their mistakes.
Why do I, a retired person, care what the research recommends for busy salary earners? In some ways I’m still working and I’m my only boss, which means that no one is paying me for this work. I’m writing a memoir of sorts. At the moment it has little organization and I’m not sure what to expect from the final product, because I’m following the advice of my husband and a friend to write now and worry about insignificant details like purpose, audience, and structure later. However, very soon the book is going to need some structure and a clear purpose besides my own entertainment.
A friend and I registered for a writers’ conference that is happening in early August and we also signed up for short interviews with an agent and an editor during the event. (We picked different ones from a list of possible candidates as we tried to match their interests to ours.) Yesterday, we visited the Writers’ Cottage, the home of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, to interview its associate director about how we should prepare for these sessions. He said the purpose of the meetings is to pitch our book ideas and receive feedback from people in the publishing industry as to whether they see a market for our ideas and if they have an interest in working with us. I am now terrified. I realize that I have been too relaxed in my approach to this work, as in, Oh, my critique group meets in a few days; I’d better write something before then. No meeting for two weeks? Great. I can relax now that I have no real deadline hanging over my head. I have a lot to do between now and August, work that requires focus, patience, planning and learning from my mistakes, work that requires a daily journal. I think I’ll begin now. “Today, I went to church, gave a presentation, and after the service attended a committee meeting, worked on a picture puzzle and this blog, and then went to see a movie presented by the Seattle International Film Festival.” I demonstrated focus and patience in each activity; also, it took planning to squeeze everything in. Learn from my mistakes? What mistakes? It was a great day!
It’s now clear to me that if I stick to writing this daily diary my book proposal and 100 pages should be complete in no time.
*The book, by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, is called The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work.