Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sun Tzu and Project Weariness

Image from Wikipedia;
image author vlasta2
Long ago on another blog, I started an elit campaign: one public domain ebook for every letter of the alphabet.  For A, I was doing Art of War by Sun Tzu.  As I've been trying to get into it again, I am reminded of  an interesting quote:

When you engage in  actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their  ardor will be dampened. [When] your ardor [is] dampened, your strength exhausted and treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. (Sun Tzu 36)

This works with projects today, too.  No matter how passionate a person is about a  project, he or she can experience "project  weariness."  Then "other chieftains" or rather distractions will spring up and pull the person away.  In fact, I'm suffering from all this now, on my first ebook-to-be.

The easiest cure for project weariness is not to get into the situation in the first place.  How?  By following other Sun Tzu advice:

The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. (35) 

Lots of writers set up deadlines and goal dates based on what they think they can do or other  external pressures.  But something else should be included in that deadline:
  • how long the writer can stand working on a project before he or she gets "project weary" and
  • what activities cause the weariness.
Everyone's answer will be different.  As for me, the gal with the attention span of a flea on ADHD?  I tend to super-focus on one project.  So, that means three or four months of obsession is as much as I can bear on a novel before I need a sizeable break from it (read:  a  year or so).  However, I don't count prewriting in that time frame.  That tells me I should be doing as much work possible upfront while keeping in mind that too much might produce its own form of project weariness.

And thinking over past novels, I realize that the revision phase is a major, major area of project weariness for me.  That means I need  to continue developing my ideas on rolling edits so I have one month of edits instead of a three-month block of them. 

So in the end, it's a fine balance.  But when setting a deadline on a writing project, it is important to keep personal stick-to-it-ness in mind.  This will help guide the writer's actions, so the writer is doing most of the work when passion is high and before other distractions set in.

Cites:  Sun Tzu. The Art of War. Trans. Lionel Giles. 1910. Project Gutenberg, 1994. Epub Edition.


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