For years now, I have had the two best writing companions a writer could ask for. They’ve listened to me vent about my novel, they’ve let me run ideas by them without offering any sort of criticism, and they’ve always warmed my feet during those long, cold winter nights spent in front of the computer. Are you wondering who they might be? Well, they’re my doggies, Max & Sammy, of course!
I did it you guys! I finally reached 50K on my new novel and I don’t think I could be any happier.
I’ve got to admit, early on, reaching my goal seemed daunting, but looking back, I can tell you that it was definitely doable. I just needed to get into a routine of writing, which is something I’ve lacked the last few years as a writer. But now, I am so glad that I’ve gotten into the habit of sitting down and writing away, even when I don’t want to. And, I’ve got to say, it is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
And as the month closes and I find myself finishing my novel, I can say without a doubt that the one thing I’ve learned this month is that if you really want something, you have to put in the time, and make it a habit. No one else is going to do it for you.
“A natural first reaction to any large project is to run away.
When we encounter ideas for big projects, we either turn the other direction or we procrastinate (which has the same long-term impact as running away). It’s easier to run or sit around idly than it is to write the number of words it requires to make a book or to otherwise create something that requires an innumerable amount of time to make.
Of course, our instinct of running away from large projects is the same reason those who don’t run away — who dedicate endless hours of their life to the work create something that stands out — are those who reap the rewards. The published authors, esteemed painters, business owners, and so on.
Still, it’s incredibly hard for even the most experienced and knowledgeable creative professional to start, let alone complete, large projects.
This presents a problem for us creatives. Our natural desire to run away from big projects means our ideas are never fully explored, their potential – and our own potential – may never be discovered. What a waste of talent and ability, let alone creative ideas.
If we’re ever to do something worthwhile as creative individuals, we need to find ways of coping with the daunting feelings that a colossal project presents.
For example, I’m working on a making new creativity app right now. It is undoubtedly the largest project I’ve taken-on in my life so far. We’re talking about months of work ahead of me.
I’m scared at the thought of how much work I’m going to have to invest in this project. The more time I spend thinking about what it’s going to take to complete it, the more I want to scrap the idea entirely. I want to give up, to run away in the other direction and forget I ever had the idea in the first place.
Running would be easier, but I know it’s not the best route to take. Besides, what else am I going to do with my time if not work towards making something worthwhile? To top it off, nobody else is going to do what I could with this idea. If I run now, the idea dies and it will be wasted.
Rather than run, I’ve decided to break the project down into smaller tasks.
Breaking creative work down into smaller steps allows you to move slowly, while still being productive.
Instead of looking at our work as a gigantic project, it can be immensely helpful and motivating to break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Each chunk becomes an effort to move the metaphorical boulder of work forward without worrying exactly how far you’ve moved it.
For my new app project I’ll only spend anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes a day working on it. I should probably be spending two or three hours, but I just don’t have the time right now.
Can you guess what’s happened after six or seven days of these small bursts of productivity? I can actually see progress being made. It feels so good to have progress visible after a few days of small tasks. The good feeling allows me to keep my momentum going too. Rather than looking at the project in all of its overwhelming possibility and getting squashed under the weight of how much is left to be done, I look at it as a long-term process that I know I’ll get done sooner or later because the progress is there.
Yes, there’s so much left to do, but I’m not overwhelmed by that fact. I know I’ll get to it and, most importantly, that I can tackle the project one little chunk at a time.
Even if it means writing just one line to your book, or taking one tiny step to get the work done, that’s progress, that’s exploration, and that’s good.
Break your work down into smaller steps and you’ll not only make progress, and find yourself motivated to keep going, but you’ll also undoubtedly find yourself thinking about the work (and possibly generating new ideas because of the distance) throughout the day.”
Don’t you just hate writer’ s block? I don’t know about you , but it strikes at the most inopportune times. Most days, my mind is overwhelmed with ideas: ideas for my MC, ideas about how to make my story flow better, ideas about how to start my next scene. But then, when I sit down, my mind goes blank.
Some say it’s a disease that only creative minds succumb to. Others say it’s a curse. And then, there are those who shall not be named, who insist it doesn’t exist at all. Which camp do you fall into? I am a little bit of them all.
But, before you get angry with me, please allow me to explain.
As much as I hate sitting in front of a blank screen, I’ve found that it can also be quite liberating. When I find myself in this situation, I flip through all of my notebooks and review all of the ideas I’ve been jotting down, praying for inspiration. But, what I’ve found, more often than not, is that those ideas just don’t feel right. Which leads me to believe that deep down, I think writer’s block is the minds way of searching for something new … something fresh, if you will.
Or, if you are like me, what you really have is a case of cold feet.
Most of the time, writer’s block strikes when I find myself wrestling with a difficult scene. Whether it be to find the right words, or to find the smoothest way to work a scene, it never fails that I find myself hesitant and slow footed. And, although I will admit that sometimes I cave and give myself a break, I’ve found that the only way to conquer it, is to work through it. Difficult scene or not, I jump in, fingers itching to type, and put one finger in front of the other. Sometimes, all it takes is a few words for me to get started, and then, without fail, I’m off into my own little magical world.
Given that it is still November and many of my friends are doing NaNoWriMo, I would love to hear your thoughts. So, please share, what do you do when Writer’s Block finds you?
“You don’t write because you want to say something.
You write because you have to say something.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Week 2 has officially begun and I am feeling more determined than ever to reach 50k words on my new novel. So far, things have been a little shaky but have is an update so far:
Target Word Count: 50,000
Average Words Per Day: 1,934
Total Words Written: 25,144
Words Remaining: 24,856
The numbers above are pretty good, although not quite where I would like them to be. Here are my goals for the week:
Total Words Written: 35,000
Right now, that is a little over 10K for the rest of this week. It’s a pretty lofty goal, but I know Thanksgiving is coming and I need to plan accordingly.
Wish me luck!