As a freelance writer, I find one of the most terrifying scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is where we finally see what Jack Nicholson has been typing in a frenzy for the last weeks. His entire manuscript is made up of the repeated sentence ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.
I am working on a long project right now. And the two or three times a day I feel like flashing my eyes and charging around with an axe, I have to remind myself about the Buddhist idea of doing the job at hand.
For if I do the best day’s work I am able to achieve, then this is enough and I can keep sane.
Although the world has no obligation to make my dreams come true, when I start doing my best with each day, my chances of eventually reaching something worthwhile are inevitably increased. For even if my success is small, at least I have done the job at hand to the best of my ability and so have little with which to reproach myself.
Attending to the job at hand requires you to shun mental distractions. My distractions are wishing I was working more quickly, that I was more successful, younger, wiser, famous or, worst of all, able to control how what I am writing is going to be received.
These simply waste time, they are futile and contribute nothing other than dissatisfaction.
To stay sane I remind myself that I am lucky to be a writer. For as a writer I can always attend to the job at hand: writing. And we all know the one thing about writers is that they write.