After a positive start, I’ve been feeling a little less optimistic this week about the beginnings of this new novel. It’s not that I’m not enjoying the writing – I really am once I get into the flow. But between me struggling to get myself going in the mornings and Arthur deciding that maybe 7.30am is a bit late to start the day after all it’s been trickier and trickier to concentrate.
Instead of the 1500-ish words I’ve been aiming for, I’ve been managing about 800. And there’s been one morning again when I just couldn’t face getting up to write at all, partly because that target suddenly seemed just so completely out of my reach.
The business of target setting is a funny one, and one that (for me) is so important to get right. I am fully aware that there is an awful lot more to this novel-writing business than just getting the words out. But if you’re not even getting the words out then the likelihood of ever writing a novel is, well, slim at best. And I find that the words are much likely to be forthcoming if I have a sensible, achievable target to aim for each and every day that I sit down to write. It can’t be too low, because otherwise this first draft would drag on forever: I’ll lose momentum and consistency and probably never get it finished at all. But it can’t be too high either because otherwise (as I’ve proven to myself this week) I’ll get all defeatist about it and begin, little by little, to give up.
I had to have a serious chat with myself this morning to avoid the situation spiralling out of control. And in doing so I decided I should probably cut myself some slack.
There was no way I was going to be able to magic any more time out of the ether – not in the immediate future anyway. And with the way I’m working with this particular novel – feeling my way through it rather than sticking to a rigidly worked out plan – there was little chance that I was going to manage to squeeze many more words out of my mornings. The only solution was to aim to write less – to put back my self-imposed deadline just a little.
This means my daily word count target is just a little less daunting, and hopefully therefore will be able to do it’s job as a motivational tool rather than scaring me off. It worked this morning: in fact so much so that I wrote more than I was aiming for, building up a buffer for days when things don’t go quite as well.
My new deadline has the added advantage of coinciding with an extended weekend trip we are taking to Florida to celebrate the wedding of one of my bestest friends: I’m hoping that in itself will be enough to motivate myself not to push things back any further.
We shall see…
But however things unfold, I think an important part of keeping going when the going gets tough is knowing when to keep on pushing forward and when to ease off a little, to allow yourself to ride the waves and find solace in the troughs as much as you revel in the peaks.
I think I’ve got the balance right now – and if not, well, I guess I’ll just need to keep tweaking until I do.