I have signed up for National Novel Writing Month, and am fourteen thousandish words in, which is way behind the projected 20,000 words I need as of today. So, what is it like? Well, to start, I need to learn to juggle. Never been good at it, though I once bought that juggling for klutzes book in the kid’s section of the book store. No hand eye coordination whatsoever.
Of course, I should have known this, having been on the sabre drill team in Junior ROTC in high school and having made the silly mistake of trying to catch a sabre flying at me point first. Yes it hurt. Yes, I still have a scar on my palm to remind me not to do that again. Always good to learn from little faux pas like that one.
That being said, I’ve been fumbling and stumbling along, juggling editing of The Stolen Songbird with the creation of a new world and a new novella, work, home chores, and that dratted candy game that an unnamed person got me sucked into. In my head, I know that I’m a big girl. I can just turn it off and write, but oh the seduction of all those little candies falling and exploding and zapping and zotting in all the pretty colors.
In short, I’m back to fighting the fear of finishing by not doing anything properly or making progress on anything that really matters to me. But sometimes, I can get too close to a problem to see what the problem is. This leads to the anxiety of having several swords of Damocles hanging over my head, an upset tummy, and strangely enough, exhaustion.
I’ve tried to train myself to recognize the warning signs so that I can nip it in the bud, but sometimes when I get to this spot, I’m too in the dark to realize it right when it happens. It really started for me on November 2nd, when I was late on my second 1,667 words for NaNoWriMo, and I began to feel whelmed. By the 4th, I had officially reached overwhelmed, but again was too close to the problem to see it.
Finally, early this morning, I noticed the big flashing neon sign that said ‘YO Pen Monkey!’ (For some reason, that inner voice always sounds the way Chuck Wendig writes) ‘Get your head out of where you have it stuck, take a step back and figure out what went wrong! Face down the angry ferret badger of terror and grab it by the tail, swing it around your head and give it what for!’
For I am a writer and I will finish the stuff that I started. Today the lollygagging ends. Time to be a professional and kick the fear in the teeth.
But how? First things first. I can’t clear my plate if I don’t know what’s on it. That means prioritizing. Some of the managers at work have a sticky note on their monitors that asks ‘what is the most important thing I need to do right now?’ While I wish I’d thought of those sticky notes on November 1, or even in October, so that I could have planned better for the creative chaos November has wrought, it’s never too late to go back and get it right.
So how to prioritize. How does one go about it? I used to just do handwritten lists, but they would need to be modified so often and scratched out and restarted that I scrapped that for the 21st century. For me a simple grid or table in MS Excel or Word works best. My table has columns for the task, frequency it needs to be done, the next due date, the date I took my last action and what it was, and what needs to be done next.
Let’s take today for instance. I have three author tasks that are overdue. I promised myself that I would put out a blog post every Sunday. So, I’m late on this week’s post. I am still reading Songbird backward sentence by sentence and am now three chapters from the end with quite a few to go. And I’m on average about 6,000 words shy of where I need to be for NaNoWriMo.
But equally important to keeping track of the tasks is knowing why they’re overdue. Is it something in my control, or out of it? And if it is in my control, what’s stopping me from getting back on track? Time to look at the tasks again.
Is the delay in Blog Post in my control? Absolutely. I made a choice last night to rest since I wasn’t feeling quite 100%. Was that a good decision? Yes it was. I finally realized at about three this morning why I was feeling poopy. With that knowledge comes a sense of control, and a way to find the path back out of the cave. So, I’m feeling better and have more energy today. Therefore, I am not going to listen to that little voice that wails ‘you FAILED! You stink! You didn’t get it done on time!’ I got up this morning, and started writing on paper while my computer updated and then started typing it in.
Is the delay in editing within my control? My edits are certainly in my control. Why have I stopped? I got so excited at seeing the book in print from the Espresso Book Machine that it felt like it was real already…like the hare in the race, I stopped to chill by the side of the road. What can I do about it? I can start setting aside at least two hours just for editing every day. No excuses. Take the manuscript to Peet’s and glue my rear to the chair and edit.
Is the delay in NaNoWriMo within my control? Hell yes. Then what’s the problem? I know I can do 1,667 words each day I write. I’ve been doing it for the last three years to get Songbird done. So why should doing thirty of those 1,667 word days in a row be a problem? That took think time. DOH! I completely forgot my Strengths! Context. Number one on my list. I need background. I need outline. Wasn’t it me who said a few posts ago that ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’? Sometimes, I can truly be a thickhead.
I am so not a pantser (that’s inkslingerspeak for a person that writes by the seat of their pants with no plan or outline at all). For some people, that’s a very liberating thing. Not so for me. It leaves me feeling naked in public, and completely off balance. I completely forgot to outline my novella. I was so focused on getting the beta draft of Songbird ready to print that I blew by the prep work I would need to do to be ready to write on November 1st.
So do I quit? Give up on NaNoWriMo and go hide in the corner? Hell no. I take a step back, take a day, and outline. Forget about word count until the outline is done. I know I can get it written if I have a blueprint. To misquote Willy Wonka, sometimes you have to go backward to go forward.
Finally the little butterflies and ferret badgers are slinking back into the darkness… Time to step up and get ‘er done. For I am a writer and I will finish the stuff that I started.