Same Project, New Goals

Lately I’ve been slacking. Why is it that the projects that burn the brightest inside of us are also the hardest ones to start? Why is it that even after the initial hurtle of beginning the project, that same challenge repeats itself every day?bookstore

The trouble is, I don’t have a routine anymore. There’s no rhythm to my work. Each writing session feels disjointed from the last, and my work suffers because of it. So what went wrong? A couple of months ago, I was staunchly writing 1000-2000 words every day. I was ruthless on myself. Now that I’m dealing with earning an unpredictable income, and having to prioritize temp work whenever it comes my way, actually writing my novel seems to require supernatural levels of motivation, which I usually do not have.

In short, things have to change. Lucky for me, identifying the root of the problem is half the battle. The root is this: I’m too concerned with perfection. I want even my first draft to be solid gold. If I’m not so sure my plan lives up to those standards, I’m afraid to begin it.

To solve this problem, I’ve decided to embrace the idea of the Shitty First Draft, which I initially heard about through another writer friend of mine. The concept is pretty self explanatory: you write without a worry or care about what anyone else will think of your work, allowing yourself to write absolutely terribly, while keeping in mind that what you’re creating is only the beginning, and that no one has to see it. Embrace this concept, and suddenly the pressure is off. Your only concern now is to input those goddamn words into that document or notebook.

Of course, this is easier said than done, particularly if you’re like me. So, in order to push myself to actually get this draft done, I’ve decided to create a couple of new goals, just in time for the New Year. Here they are:

  • Finish the first draft, no matter how shitty, by my birthday, which is April 28th. This draft, formerly known as draft one-and-a-half, and sometimes even referred to as draft two (though the first version was never officially completed) has been through many confusing incarnations. Thus, I’m still considering it my first draft. See why I need a better system?
  • Make a challenging yet reasonable word count goal to hit every week, rather than every day. They say a writer must write every day, and I certainly agree that that would be ideal. The thing is, sometimes life gets in the way. I’m not making excuses, I promise, but for the sake of my sanity, if I’m temping for 8 hours one day, I’m not going to be able to come home and get my thousand words down. And unfortunately, due to the nature of my temp work and freelancing jobs, my schedule is unpredictable. This is why a weekly goal is a better idea for me.
  • Get feedback from a trusted source, after completing the draft. The keyword here is trusted. I’ve heard too many plagiarism horror stories to risk this. I want feedback from someone I can trust, and also from someone who’s opinion I trust. That is to say, someone who reads a lot, and specially reads my genre and will “get” what I’m trying to do. If there’s one thing I learned form my Masters degree, its that the world is full of literary snobbery. I have no desire to hand off a chapter of my urban fantasy to a literary fiction elitist, just so they can wipe their nose on it disdainfully. Which is not to say I don’t like literary fiction. Actually, I love it. But I don’t believe something has less value just because it appeals to a wider array of people. Anyone who thinks that way will be unable to give me valuable feedback.

Here’s something I’ve just realized: writing about writing is so much simpler than simply writing. You read that correctly. I could go on and on about my process until the entire internet is bored to tears, while actually working on the novel itself can seem like a gargantuan task. Hopefully though, these new goals will help me get past that. Here’s to better writing practices in 2016.

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