It’s Not the Length of the Road, It’s the Width

One night a drunk was staggering home from the pub. He was all over the road, back and forth, side to side when he was stopped by the local constabulary, to check his condition and offer help. Yes, this was in a younger, more innocent, far less fascist age. A time (can you remember such a time?) when the police were there “To Serve and Protect,” rather than “To Observe and Suspect.”

Anyway, the concerned policeman asked after his wellbeing and determined he lived but a short walk away. The drunk asked for a ride home and the policeman demurred, “It’s only a short walk up the road, sir.”

“Yes officer, I know. But it’s not the length of the road that concerns me, it’s the width.”

Where am I going with this?

Well, from time to time I’ve noted that I get off track. I get in a burst of writing, post a bunch of stuff, just find myself getting into a really good groove and something knocks me back. I don’t think I got a single thing up last week because I got side-tracked by…well, it doesn’t really matter by what. What matters is (1) I got side-tracked and (2) I’m getting back on track.

You see, it’s not just my little side project of writing, publishing, and building up a little readership that gets side-tracked. Everything does. Well, most everything, anyway.

It happened on my path to better posture. In fact, it continues to happen. I’ll be as straight as an arrow, ramrod up my spine for weeks but something will come along and I’ll find myself slouching again.

It happened on my path to overcoming my back pain. I’ll go months feeling great, let my daily maintenance routine slip and then the aches and pains come back.

These two things are interrelated, by the way. Maybe I’ve mentioned it somewhere along the way, but the process of correcting my posture also helped heal my bad back. So when I slip on one, I slip on the other.

But you know what? The slippages are just a part of the process. It’s not a straight line, it’s a drunkard’s walk. The key is to realize when you’ve gotten off track, and to get back on.


Same as with writing.

Same as with the trough of sorrow.

Pick some small thing and do it. And by small, I mean SMALL.

  • Need to get back to your back maintenance routine? Lay down and do 5 baby cobras.
  • Need to get back to your exercise routine? Take a five minute walk.
  • Need to get back to writing? Sit down at the computer and tell a story, any story, even a silly one about how you got off track, and got back on track.

Giving yourself a victory, no matter how small, gives you an endorphin hit. You’re pleased with yourself, your proud of your little accomplishment, and you want more. It’s not about motivation, it’s about getting a win, and using that win to get your discipline, your routine, your mojo, back.

So you start thinking about how, over the last 10 days you’ve been side-tracked, you’ve actually accomplished some pretty cool things and you are so anxious to get them out of your head and up on the site that you actually have to hold yourself back.

Because there’s a flip side to feeling good about your accomplishments; you try to do too much. This is as big a danger as doing nothing at all, because that’s exactly where it leads. My kung fu teacher used to say, better to do 10 minutes of Qi Gong a day than an hour once a week.

What happens if you do 10 minutes a day, and miss once? You did 60 minutes that week. What happens if you do an hour once a week and miss? You did nothing at all that week.

2600 years ago Aesop told the story of the rabbit and the hare, and the lesson is timeless. Pace yourself; slow and steady wins the race. Try to do too much today, and you’ll either give yourself an excuse to skip tomorrow, or burn yourself out.

So, rather than tell you the tales of my accomplishments this past week, I’ll leave you here. And pick up the tale tomorrow.

Come to think of it, that was the strategy of another great story teller, Scheherazade.