Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We All Slip

(Try not to fall off the wagon)
We all make promises that we can't keep sometimes.  We say we'll lay off the ice cream or put more money away, or next week we really will see that new movie our wife or girlfriend has been bugging us about.  It's not that we don't mean to keep these promises; it's just that we're not always as steadfast as we wish we were.

In writing, this can come back to haunt us in big ways.  I constantly revise how much I'm going to write each day.  A few weeks back, it was 1500 words a day, followed by 3000 a day on the weekends.  Why, if I could do that, my next novel would be done in three months!

Well, I then find I've skipped a day, so I promise I'll make it up the next day.  But I then fall behind again, so I make yet another promise, kind of like how I'll put $100 away next month to make up for the $50 I didn't put in the bank this month.

This happens to all of us.  For all the loud mouthed self righteousness I spew about the need to write every single day in order to hone the craft, I'm not as fastidious as I wish I was.  Work gets in the way.  Quality family time demands I not spend every free moment in front of a computer.  A semblance of a social life means I have to have friends outside my imaginary world.  And so on, and so on, and so on.

My current goal is 2000 words a day, or at least 10,000 words a week.  The fudge factor beneath 14,000 words allows me to take a break during the week to prevent burnout, but even with that, I often miss my goal.  What do I do at that point?

Nothing.  Nothing whatsoever.

Guilt is a bad road to go down.  Those of us who write tend to reflect on our shortcomings more than most, so if we allow ourselves to get swallowed by the pit of despair over not meeting our goal, the monster in that pit will eat us and make sure we never write another good thing as long as we live.  We have to learn to get past our shortcomings and move on.  I liken it to an NFL quarterback who throws an interception - the bad ones will dwell on the mistake, thus leading to a greater likelihood that it'll happen again, but a good QB will push it out of his mind and focus on getting it right the next time.

That's what we as writers have to do.  If we fail to meet our word goal today, we have to accept it and move on to tomorrow.  You have to figure out where you can find more time and vow to meet it the next day.  We also have to realize that there might be days and/or weeks where we'll exceed our goals, and that should be cause for celebration, but not a strict rule to chain us to should we not meet it on our current pace.

It's okay to slip and fall - everyone does.  However, the good ones accept it and move on.  Otherwise, we'll constantly beat ourselves up, and I don't know about you, but I already have too many scars from life.


  1. Wow Russ..... you have massive goals! My weekly goal is 1/2 of yours...... 5k a week. I’ve hit it every week but one for the past two months. I am trying to make that one bad week back up this week while on vacation. Just 1K left to spread out over a couple days.

    No matter where I am in the week...once I hit 5K I stop and allocate all extra time to my blog and family

    I've been wondering this week why I have these arbitrary goals..... I mean...I have no deadline to meet...except to myself. Is this what one would call discipline? Maybe...but it can sometimes be mentally taxing and stressful. I’m glad I’m not alone!

    I run into a similar dilemma...work, family, writing and my blog. Then plash in social media and I am constantly receiving the stink eye from my wife to get off of the computer!

  2. Kevin - sorry I couldn't answer you before now. I was on a business trip and couldn't get on the Internet. You know how it goes.

    I agree with stopping at a certain point for two main reasons - first, you need to do more than write. Second, you can hit a point at which your writing burns out. Once I go beyond about 5,000 words for a day, the quality begins to suffer.

    Now let me make it clear - I VERY rarely hit 5,000 words a day. What I've found is that I tend to do this if I'm away from friends and family and have limited access to other pursuits. I did 14,000 this past week, but I had the time and nothing else to do.

    I try to have a goal so that I can make myself do it. It's like exercise - it gives me something to strive for. However, like exercise, you have to forgive yourself when you miss a day or two. When you beat yourself up, you can fall into a self-defeating cycle real quick.