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When life won’t let you write

Tune in tomorrow to find out the winner of the giveaway: an eBook of The Emotion Thesaurus!

In early December, I sat down and planned out the next couple months of writing. I set up some deadlines for myself based around my family’s plans for the year, knowing that I wanted to end up with a fairly complete novella and a rough drafted novel by the middle of February, for a total of about 90,000 words. By now, I wanted to be at 35,000 to 40,000 words, even with two weeks off for Christmas and vacation.

Instead, I’ve spent the last six weeks like this:

  • December 9-16: Meet my writing goals on day one! Fall 40% short day two with a sick kid at home (again). Day three, getting ready for Christmas. Day four, catch the stomach bug that’s run through the rest of the family, wiping out the rest of the week.
  • December 17-23: Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, packing, Christmas.
  • December 24-30: Put on Christmas at home, then spend the rest of the day flying cross country (with 3 kids 6 and under) to put Christmas on at my parents’ house. Begin getting sick. Preparations for my youngest sister’s wedding and family time. Wedding day and sickness. Family photos. Sickness develops into plague*. Sleeping is about all I can do.
  • December 31-January 6: Plague* slowly begins to subside, only to be replaced with more health problems. Continue to fight plague*. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Fly back across the country. New sickness.
  • January 7-13: Remnants of plague settle in for siege warfare. Start writing again! Also tackle reorganizing all my children’s toys to make room for the new ones. Finally start unpacking. Writers’ block sets in.
  • January 14-20: Writers’ block, then finally just start writing again. Sudden weekend plans knock out another day. Husband offers to take kids so I can have a writing day Saturday. Arrive at library. Food poisoning begins. Write SLOWLY until I just have to go home and lay down.

Not all bad things (I mean, what’s not to love about Christmas and the best wedding my parents have put on yet?), but between busy-ness, unusually bad health and blocks, I’ve only got 15,000 words.

Frustrating, isn’t it?

Sometimes life won’t let you write, and when you’re on deadlines—self-imposed or more external—it’s even more stressful. It’s so easy to let the burden of all those unwritten words weigh on you until you can’t face that too-short WIP and—hey, Facebook!

But guess what? FB-stalking your elementary school besties doesn’t add any words to the WIP. Instead, it fuels the vicious cycle of procrastination. For me, that usually goes like this: “I have too much to do, I don’t even know where to start. So I won’t”—and I fall even farther behind in my goals.

Obviously, this pep talk is for me, too. I need to try something new.

Just keep swimming writing

I will probably up my daily writing goals a bit to try to make up for the shortfall. My usual goal, purposefully set somewhere that’s low and attainable for me, is 2000 words a day. If I up it to 3000 words a day, I can finish on the same deadline. (Note that these numbers are totally personal. As I drafted my last three novels, I shot for 4000-5000 words a day, which is doable, but a lot.)

But there will still be days I fall short, most likely, especially if my goal is 3000 words (which is exponentially harder than 2000). Instead of feeling defeated and looking at how far I am from my goal, I need to focus on how much I’ve actually accomplished.

Every word I write is one I didn’t have five minutes ago. If I end the day with 1000 words, I’m not nearly a day behind—I’m 1000 words closer to my end goal. I mean, I wrote 853 while coming down with food poisoning. How is that a loss? (Aside from the “coming down with food poisoning” part…)

What do you think? Can positive thinking work—at least to help us avoid a cycle of stress and procrastination?

* Not an actual plague.

Photo credits: Sick! (medicine)—Michelle Dyer; Just Keep Swimming—Angel Kittiyachavalit

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3 Responses to When life won’t let you write

  1. Caroline says:

    I’m so with you. I broke my wrist the end of December, had surgery 4 days later, back in the hospital 2 days later, then a little over a week later plague hits the house. Don’t even talk to me about work! I don’t anticipate being able to write much of anything for another 3-4 weeks. I *am* however, brainstorming with my husband and my writing buddy, and reading reading reading reading. All grist for the mill, right? I’m sure I’ll be able to use this experience somewhere in a manuscript …

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