Instant Results

Relaxing Spa Images

Image Copyright Kuleczka, 2013. Used under license from

Insight of the day: I love getting instant results. That’s why I typically plant my vegetable garden in a few eight-hour sessions, rather than spreading the work out over a few weeks. That’s why I walk fast, even when I have no destination. That’s why it’s been such a challenge for me to complete my book–which in the last year I’ve been drafting and revising, hunched over my computer, in long stretches, day in, day out.

My lust for sustained, fast, visible progress—to grow a four-season garden . . . to develop a manuscript quickly (after years of coaxing it along) . . . to walk miles half-running, shoulders thrust forward, headlong—has brought me a persistent pain in the neck. Apparently, I devote myself to instant results even though it’s impossible to get them and trying to get them hurts. Thus my adoration of instant results borders on obsession.

Falling in Love with Blogging

In recent weeks, I’ve come to think of the pain in my neck as my best friend. She’s always leaning on my shoulder, wanting to talk. This is what I learned from her today:

The culture has trained me to produce and achieve as efficiently as possible, and I’ve been a good learner! I’ve long had a tendency to hammer away at my work until it was done—bang—to berate myself for my failure to execute fast enough—bang—and to suffer on account of the way I judged myself.

While I used to be full of regret about my many unfinished stories, my pain in the neck has just told me that I’ve always been interested in completing them, just frustrated that I couldn’t do so at once. I’ve been operating under the fear that if I didn’t finish each manuscript immediately, I wouldn’t come back to it later; I’d let it languish and grieve its loss.

Taking a Break

That’s one of the true tales of my life, oft repeated, and now that I’ve told you the beginning and middle, I am going to work on the end. My physical therapist says I need to take a break from my computer every thirty minutes, and the timer on my iPhone has just thrummed.

Nectaplum Blossom

I shot this photo on one of my breaks.

In a minute, when I reach a good stopping point, I’m going to get up and take a walk, reducing my speed, keeping a destination in mind, lingering to appreciate the gardens I pass along the way. I’m going to contemplate how to end my affair with instant results so my best pain-in-the-neck friend can relax a bit.

Ah. She’s just told me I should fall in love with blogging. She says each post is a short, doable assignment, a few hundred words at most. If I do it right—letting ideas come to me naturally, relaxing my shoulders as I write, not pushing myself to achieve too much too quickly—I can protect my health.

That’s a conclusion I can live with. Bang!

Have you taken regular breaks from your computer today? What’s your favorite way to take a break? How does taking a break affect your writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Cherilyn says:

    Nice. I did take a vigorous walk from my house up the North Berkeley streets today. That helped. Then for the past three hours I’ve been sorting through the piles of papers on my desk, all relating to different work directions, all of which are ongoing; then to dishwasher, laundry, cooking, sorting the mail that piled up, taking out recycling, responding to emails. I have no idea how people find time to watch TV. Sometimes the list of “just living” seems immense. So much multi-tasking, or maybe it’s more like mulit-LIVING… our lives so complex.

    My favorite break is going into my little garden and seeing what is blooming. It’s always a surprise and a joy. I just have to not start making lists in my head about what needs “doing” in the garden. Sigh. 🙂 But something about the garden is deeply healing. The growth happens all by itself. There’s also quite a lesson in an incredibly exquisite bloom, all that complexity, symmetry, beauty and color in a tiny little package that lives and then dies and would do the same if no one was looking. It exists, briefly. I suppose so do we.

    • Walking is a wonderful way to unwind. And going into the garden to see what’s blooming—what a great way to take a break! Thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom, Cherilyn.

  2. LewEllyn Hallett says:

    My shoulders are killing me as I type! I don’t share your tendency to push hard and fast through things, so I might sit even longer as I dawdle over projects. Now that spring is near, I’ll be walking the dog more and I try to take stretch breaks but that 30 minute timer would be a help. My mind does not work clearly if my body is hurting, and my body hurts if I don’t move it often enough. The mind needs refreshing, too, so I sometimes work at a coffee shop or library where there are opportunities to take a social break. I can be too chatty, though, so I have to rein that in. I’ll try your 30-minute break plan–I know I can convince myself to keep at it steadily for just 30 minutes at a time. That could prove productive.

    • The timer on my iPhone really helps me remember to get up and move around. I’ll go up and down the steps a few times, pace the kitchen floor, and maybe do a lap or two around the living room rug. That’s about a five-minute break. Sometimes I play music and dance. Let me know how, and what, you do with the 30-minute plan, LewEllyn.

  3. Judy Anderson says:

    Hmmm, making friends with the pain in my neck is a foreign concept. I mean, really… what kind of friend shows up uninvited at precisely the most inconvenient time? And this week, like a slap in the face after taking my first bike ride in over a year–a meander through my neighborhood admiring the lush greenery and newly budding plants–wham, slam, pain in the neck!!! There’s a lesson here I know, but right now, an unwelcome one. Nevertheless, I thank you for the post and for giving me something to ponder. Bang!

    • Judy, sorry to hear you hurt your neck while riding your bike. I have to be careful with that when I ride. I recently had my handlebars adjusted and that made a big difference. You might want to check with your bike mechanic to be sure you’re not overreaching. Before the adjustment, I was overreaching, and it hurt!

      I agree that uninvited, sudden pain may not feel like much of a friend. It’s the persistent pain that I like to talk to and learn from. I posted some writing prompts for writing about pain here:

      Don’t forget to ice your pain in the neck!