The 110% Rule

by thiszine

“If you have a passion for something, take no hesitation to pursue it 110 percent. It’s about focus, intensity, perseverance and believing in yourself and what you are capable of.” ~Alissa Augustine


I found this quote on the Women on Writing (WoW) blog the other day. The blog post goes on to “check-in” with writers to see if they are pursuing writing to the full extent.


I think it’s a good idea to keep the 110% in the back of your mind as you go about your creative endeavors, even if you don’t know where those endeavors will lead or why, at times, you spend your days pursuing your writing when you could be cleaning the bathroom or jogging or saving the world from the swine flu. If you’re like me, some days you’re brimming over with excitement and energy to work on your writing. The next day, you drag yourself to your laptop and stare darkly at the screen wondering why you even bother with this silliness. Shouldn’t you give up your writing like you gave up all those other silly pursuits founded in childhood, before you knew what the words paying rent, full-time job, health-care benefits, and sorry, your piece isn’t quite what we’re looking for at this time meant? As a child, I used to dream of marrying Michael Jackson but I gave that dream up when I realized things wouldn’t likely work out between MJ and I, for a number of reasons. Oftentimes, I think maybe I should do the same with writing.


Then I wake up the following day with an idea tripping around inside of my head as if it were drunk and the only way to carry it safely home is to write it down. So I open my laptop, create a distraction by checking my e-mail and reading a few blogs, thinking maybe this idea isn’t really there, that it doesn’t really want to stick around. I make a cup of Barry’s Gold tea. I drink it. I make a salad and eat it. I realize I only have an hour before I need to leave for work and still the idea is there, walking into the walls of my brain, piss-drunk and not leaving anytime soon. So I sit down and write, sometimes slowly and in pieces, editing as I go, sometimes with a frantic rush of my fingers across the keyboard. I realize that I need to leave for work and I curse myself for not sitting down earlier to write, to take that time, and I swear to myself that tomorrow will be different. I’m going to spend all day writing.


Tomorrow comes and, of course, I sit at my open laptop with my fingers on the keys, waiting. I write a sentence, read it, hit delete. I try another sentence. It doesn’t work either. I sigh and look out the window, thinking maybe this is pointless, maybe I should go and clean the bathroom.


110% sounds like a lot because it is. It’s a huge qualitative feat that isn’t easy to arrive at because writing isn’t easy. Life isn’t easy and trying to fit writing into your life–even when you’re a professional writer who writes all day, teaching at Standford and working with your agent–isn’t easy. With something so intensely personal, it’s difficult to always have the confidence in yourself, in the quality of your work and its ability to find a receptive and sympathetic audience.


Does that mean writing shouldn’t be pursued 110%? It’s taken me a while to arrive at the answer. For two and a half years I worked full-time as a teacher in an urban school and then, because I wasn’t paid enough, part-time in the evenings at a bookstore. I didn’t do much writing during those two and a half years because I was stressed about work, about my students, about the sheer unfairness of kids living in poverty only two miles away from kids attending private schools whose privileges were stacked ten deep so that everything would always work out in their favor. I didn’t read much because I didn’t have the time. I didn’t realize I wasn’t very happy, not really, and when something happened that completely tore down this busy, stressed, frustratingly imperfect world I had created around myself, I sought therapy and a good book, in that order, and discovered again how much I love to read, how important reading is. I’d spent the last two years teaching reading to others and along the way forgot the joy of reading in my own life.


Now I’m determined not to lose again the sensation of a good book between my hands, the joy of being in on something with the writer whose book I’m reading. I’m a born-again reader, which has led me to becoming a born-again writer, tying my two passions together even if I don’t know what I can do with them in the long run. I’m focusing 110%, uncertain but with determination.



2 Comments to “The 110% Rule”

  1. I think you’re right Brighton, especially if you have that drive to write, no matter how difficult it is on certain days.

  2. Good, solid thoughts, and true. Writing is hard. But living without writing is harder in the long run, so I think.

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