One of the first things I learned in martial arts training was that if I focused on what I had done in the past — what had gone wrong with yesterday’s training, or worrying about how I’d sparred against a partner — I distracted myself from my current training and even undermined myself. It was too easy to get discouraged: “I’ll never be good enough to beat Mr. Smith” or “I’ll never nail that kick” aren’t helpful thoughts when you’re in the middle of sparring Mr. Smith or trying to nail that kick. Even if I’d done well in training in the previous session, I had to focus on what was in front of me today. “I did great last week! I’ll do fabulous today! I’m invincible!” isn’t all that helpful when you’re faced with a completely different opponent than you had last week, and your faith is easily shaken if all you can think about is what happened before.
In training I learned that what matters is this match, and this match only.
For writers, this concept helps them continue to write in face of obstacles and failures. It doesn’t matter if yesterday all you wrote was gibberish. It doesn’t matter if your last ten query letters were rejected. What matters is that you focus on your writing today. Forget what happened yesterday. This doesn’t mean that you don’t learn anything. It means you focus on doing the best you can right now, without obsessing about what has happened before.
If you sit down at the computer and say to yourself, “Why do I bother? No one published my last book,” you’re focusing on the wrong thing. Writing a book that no one published contributed to your growth as a writer. With each writing project you do, you’re mastering the techniques and skills needed to be successful. So think of those past encounters as training for the future, and approach each new writing session with only one focus: to do the best you can for today.