I didn’t used to get excited about writing more than one day in a row. But oh, how the might have fallen. Because I am excited that I’ve written at least a little bit for two days running, and that’s two more days in a row than I’ve done in longer than I’d care to think about. Thank God for sisters: they make awesome motivational speakers/writing coaches/literary border collies.
It’s happening again. I’m sitting down to focus on one story, and I catch myself drifting off and daydreaming and plotting out an entirely different one. One the one hand, I can hardly complain about multiple story ideas bouncing around in my head. On the other, I can’t help but wonder if this is just another sneaky way to procrastinate. (Spoiler: It totally is.)
Even so, it’s a sight better than other, non-story related methods of dragging my feet. Let me explain: there will always be distractions while writing– that goes without saying– but the ones that are the hardest to deal with are the internal ones, not the external ones. If you’ve got external ones, like giddy kids the next room over or construction going on outside or just plain busyness in life, you can almost always snatch a few minutes to write here and there and still make progress. It’s not ideal, but it works.
But if you’ve got internal ones, alternately known as a lack of motivation, or an overactive inner editor, or maybe even writer’s block, it’s that much harder to make those five minutes count. And when you are getting hit from both sides, that’s how you end up with a long stretch of time with not so many words. Or I do, at any rate. But if the internal distractions are still writing related, then at least you’re still training yourself to do that writing thing.
Or in other words, I’m just grateful that my brain is playing the right game and not trying to use the metaphorical ball to play fetch with the cute stray mutt that just walked by.
And who knows, maybe that new idea that ambushed me a couple days ago will be worth pursuing sometime. I wrote it down, just in case.
Or: Misery Loves Company
I’ve been trying to figure out why I have so much luck doing NaNoWriMo in November, but when I try to participate in either of the Camp NaNoWriMo events in April and July, I seem to fall off the wagon before it even starts rolling. It’s mortifying, really, because I know I can will myself into performing great feats of writing, and every time April or July rolls around I promise myself that I’ll do better this time… and then I’m eight days in and haven’t written a word on my chosen project. As I said– mortifying.
And yet, that’s never been a problem in November. I’ll grumble and drag my feet and wonder why in the heck I’m putting myself through the insanity yet again, but I’ll write. I may even get behind, but that just means I write more later. (Some years I’ve gotten really behind and that’s when the aforementioned feats of writing prowess happen. It’s ridiculous, but I’m quite proud of the fact that I have written over ten thousand words in a single day multiple times. Please forgive my shameless bragging.)
At this point, I’ve got two theories as to why this is. The first is that the November event is a whole big to-do: fifty thousand words, thirty days, one novel. Go! Thousands of people participate every year, and we’re all in it together, encouraging each other, recommending our favorite writing music, exchanging wordcount updates. It’s a whole lot of momentum, and it’s always helped me keep at it. There’s a little of the same during the smaller events, but they’ve just never quite matched up to the excitement of the big one for me.
The second is that the Camp events let you set your own goal– which you would think would make it even easier to keep on task, but always seems to take away a bit of the excitement for me. It’s more of a personal challenge that way, but apparently I’m just more motivated by chasing the same goal as a bunch of different people.
All that being said, I’ve found a way around this. Sort of. My best (read: most productive) NaNo ever was in 2015, when I ended up with a complete, if rough, manuscript and a substantially higher wordcount than most years, and I got there because I spent the entire darn month racing with my sister who was doing the same thing. So this month, I suckered her into doing camp with me.
Her wordcount is waaay better than mine, but I have gotten work done on my own project too, so I’m pretty sure this is a win.
PS: Thank you, dear sister, for writing with me. I truly appreciate it.
There’s a certain thrill in a deadline, in having a specific point in time by which you must finish something or fail. And, for better or worse, I’ve always gotten along with said deadlines fairly well. Give me a deadline, and I will get more done than I ever thought possible.
Unfortunately for my stress levels, these bouts of productivity tend to happen either the night before or the morning of. I cannot count the number of essays I completed just before they were due, writing them in a rush of panic and sudden clarity. The sad thing is, the few I did write sensibly, over the course of several days, almost invariably turned out to be of poorer quality than the ones that poured out in one great flood. (Much of that, I suspect, may come down to lack of practice, but the point still stands.)
On a broader, less chaotic level, just having specific deadlines means I’m far more likely to finish things. Before I started this blog, I had set myself the goal (a deadline, perhaps?) of writing every day*. My target wordcount varied a little depending on outside circumstances, but generally landed between 100 and 350 words. It was fantastic! As I began to write regularly, whether or not I really felt like it, the words began to come more and more easily. I made progress in my stories, and it took less coaxing to get the words down on the page.
The problem was, I just had to write a certain number of words. Any words. I made sure they were fiction, but beyond that, it really didn’t matter. I could play around with a new story or fiddle with an old one. I could painstakingly carve out the next tiny segment of my current novel, or I could poke at a completely new idea that had just wandered into my head.
And then I started this blog.
Suddenly, I didn’t just have to write, I had to write complete stories and blog posts, and I had to write them in time to post them on schedule. It’s a self-set schedule, I grant you, but somehow, that almost made it worse. And so, I wrote: mini-essays, short stories, random musings. The one thing they have in common is the fact that they all need to be self-contained, complete thoughts. No more writing the first 250 words that I can coax from the ends of my fingers for me! (At least, not until I’ve done my work.)
I’m not going to lie– I’m only a couple of months in and it’s already hard. It takes a level of discipline that I don’t quite have yet, which would explain why I’ve ended up staying up until 5am, begging my darn story to just finish itself already. Hopefully, it’s going to get easier. I expect it to. In some ways, I need it to, since the human body can only survive on coffee and adrenaline for so long.
In the meantime, though, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that I’ve completed more short stories in the last few weeks than I had for months before.
* Or rather, almost every day, as I quickly found that taking Sundays off meant that I was far less likely to burn myself out.