Saturday, December 02, 2006

Less is more? More is more? Which is it?

A trumpet call please!

Hey, gang, guess what I just did? I just wrote 50,000 words on my hot new novel, Manhattan Husbands—all during the month of November, as part of National Novel Writing Month ( And during this very same time I was also beavering away at my long-awaited self-help book for lawyers, The Creative Lawyer.

Cool, huh? I’m just alive with energy and focus and what’s up with that? Sure, there’s a bit of cheating (repackaging old worksheets, finding old entries from my Julia Cameron-style “Morning Pages” to repurpose as plot) but that’s okay because the whole key in writing is just to crank that s**t out! My days have an easily understood core purpose. I just think, using an internal tone of voice most commonly associated with the Robot on Lost in Space: “Word count too low. Must write more.”

More is more!

A quick trip down memory lane

But there have been times in my life when less is more. In 2001, for instance.

During the bleak year things were not so great with my life. My internet company had collapsed after a tension-filled death spiral, my legal career was drifting ever further behind me, I was paying my mortgage on credit cards, and I had no ideas left in my head. Nothing! My big dreams—I’d already pursued them without significant results other than the depletion of my savings and the hobbling of my self-esteem.

Mind you, I did have goals at this time: I wanted to get a job in a foundation or nonprofit organization. I wanted to work out more. You know, the usual. But I didn’t experience much positive feedback and I found it difficult to pursue anything consistently. I frequently felt listless, unhappy and burdened with the profound sense of missing the boat. And then our beloved dog Astra died of kidney failure when she was only three and a half. I spent much of the year in a dark, empty place.

Periodically, I would vow to give things the old college try. “I am Michael Melcher!” I proclaimed to myself on multiple occasions. “I get things done! I have great ambitions!! When life gives me lemons I make lemonade!!!” Etc. So I’d wake up, push myself to go to the gym, make my balanced breakfast, write down my list of people to network with, make calls, send emails. This effort would typically last about a day and a half. And then I would find myself lying on my bed at three in the afternoon, letting the answering machine pick up calls.

Long story short, I was not ready to launch my big new thing. It wasn’t just that the world refused to beat a path to my door on the Upper West Side. I was going through internal change as well. I wanted to be out in the world, making it. But something inside me was slowing me down, necessarily. I wanted to get back on the ladder to success. But something was holding me back until I was in a position to find the right ladder.

Cocooning happens

I’ve seen this phenomenon in lots of clients and friends over the years—it’s the cocooning process. There are times when the thing we need to do isn’t to assemble the troops and march out to victory. There are times when we, instead, need to slow down, regroup, focus inward rather than outward, and let growth happen without deciding ahead of time what form it will take.

During my cocooning time, it was hard to imagine that a time would come when I’d wake up filled with a sense of purpose again. But guess what? It came.