On Track

The winter in Minneapolis dragged on two months too long, and it was hard not to feel like everything was on ice. I lapsed from all my self-improvement schemes. I didn’t write anything and left my WIP as an unrevised (if complete) first draft. Books piled up unread in various corners of the house. I didn’t even binge on Netflix or computer games. I look back and can’t say, really, what I did. I was in a late winter blah. It’s still cool and wet here, and with summer around the bend it feels really like spring never happened.

The day after Memorial Day was a momentous one. I had a long conversation with my agent about my WIP and figured I better get back to work on it with renewed gusto. I started planning some late-spring cleaning. I returned to my day job with big ideas. And I went on Weight Watchers.

I am weirdly fond of tracking things. When I write, I keep logs of word counts. When I take up running or walking, I track the miles. When I read long books, I keep checking the page I’m on against the page count. (My e-reader tells me exactly how far I am an how much more time it’ll take to finish, which I admittedly love, even though it is completely unnecessary and probably appalls a certain kind of serious reader). I count and parse and track practically everything. I would rather live naturally, like a rabbit sprinting across the lawn, with no mind for progress, only for the goal — but I’ve found that to make progress, I need to obsess on progress. It’s the only way I’ve ever finished anything.

So when it comes to weight loss schemes, Weight Watchers pushes my tracking-addict task/reward buttons. And at first it is wondrous, reckoning every point in and point earned, distancing yourself from the Funyon-devouring monster you were just a few weeks ago. Suddenly you are accountable, and it’s weirdly fun (at least at first.)

I am not quite up to connecting my WW account to Facebook and boring my acquaintances with my weekly neck measurements or whatever, but I can even see the navel-gazing glory of making it all public. That makes you even more accountable, I guess. And there is some peer support, posting that you are 78% of your former self and collecting “likes.”

I associate process with progress, but I wonder at what point it becomes a cart-before-the-horse thing. Sometimes word counts don’t tell me how close I am to my real goal, which is a quality first-draft manuscript. And when I see myself hunched over the keyboard, musing aloud that avocados (unlike most vegetables) are not a point-less “power food,” I feel a little bit like a wary skeptic listening to a newborn zealot of pop-sci religion.

In any case, I plan to lose some weight this summer. And to get to a great second draft of that manuscript. And potty train a kid. And all of us get stickers and stars for every day we inch closer to our goal.

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