Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Loading 16 Tons

Technique Tuesday

I'm sure most of you have heard the old mining lament about loading sixteen tons ("and whadda ya get? Another day older, and deeper in debt. St. Peter don't ya call me cause I can't go, I owe my soul to the company store.").

I have a thing for numbers, so I had to figure it out:

WikiMedia: A mule pules a load of coal.
One ton is 2,000 pounds, so sixteen tons is 32,000 pounds.

That sounds like a lot.

If you have an eight-hour workday, you'd have to load 4,000 pounds (2 tons) an hour.

That still sounds overwhelming.

But if you could load 100 pounds in a minute, it would only take 40 minutes to load 4,000 pounds. I'll leave it up to you to decide how to split your 100 pound load over the course of a minute (I like the idea of two 50 pound lifts), but I want to point out that at this pace, you'd have a 20 minute break every hour.

There's no question it would take strength and stamina to keep loading all day. Still, after we break it down, the job moves from overwhelming to doable.

Writing a novel is a lot like loading sixteen tons: in general, you've got to produce somewhere between 60,000 and 100,000 words. That sounds like a lot. But if you break it down to 1,000 words a day (and keep up the pace) and you'll finish your novel in two or three months.

My point isn't that you should write everyday, it's that you'll be surprised at what you can accomplish if you move your project forward by a doable, sustainable amount each day.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net