February222012

The Long, Slow Unfuckening of My Writing

I did something really scary today.

I only wrote 1400 words.

Ok, that’s a lot, right? I know, intellectually, that it’s a lot by any standard. But for me, it feels like failure.

What I usually do is procrastinate LIKE A MACHINE DESIGNED TO DO NOTHING and then finish a whole project in a day or a week or a month depending on the length. If I sit down to write I’m going to WRITE THE SHIT OUT OF THINGS. And then fall apart and hide form myself. I have done this literally my whole working life, and that includes grad school and let’s be BOLD AND UNFLINCHING here, undergrad and high school too. This is me and every deadline I’ve ever had:

I have no idea how to just do a little bit every day.

I know this is partly my ADD issues, but partly it’s just that like many of the things I’m trying to deal with here, I was either never taught the skill or I didn’t pay any damn attention when everyone else ever learned it.

In my head, I understand that if I wrote 1000 words a day, I’d have a novel in three months. And not be physically and mentally broken. But I panic at the thought of it, like it’s just TOO MUCH to stick to that, it’s so much EASIER to write 100,000 words in 4 weeks. After all, that’s how I’ve always done it. I have to be a superhero or I’m worthless, isn’t that obvious? I have to do it all at once!

But I’m not a kid anymore and I can’t keep whipping myself into exhaustion like I’m some kind of ELDRITCH DEMON PONY.

I know that. And yet.

Stopping in the middle of a story I could finish because I’d written 1000 words of it and that was my limit for today felt gut-wrenching. It does not feel like victory. It feels like I’m a slacker and a loser. I wrote 450 words of a blog post for tomorrow, and the first paragraph of a new book—which is a small bit of progress, too, as I only got hit with the idea train on Sunday and am biting while the hook looks irresistible rather than waiting until two years from now when I’m done with snuggling it before I even write a proposal. I have done this. With every book. You guys don’t even know. It seems like they come out so fast. But I do horrible things to myself over and over behind the curtain.

So this is my plan, which is going to be brutally hard for me. I am trying to commit to it. Every day, write not less than 1000 but not more than 3000 words, not including blog posts. Am allowed to take weekends off. I want to say I can take other days off when I’m caught up, but there is no catching up in this industry. DO IT. 1000 words ain’t nothing. I gotta pace myself before I break myself, aw yeah. MODERATION IS GANGSTA I SWEARS.

I’m scared.

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