And breathe…

It’s time to knock off some of the pressure, I think.

Lately I’ve been finding it very hard to relax…hard to sleep, hard to concentrate on things.  Things that I find fun are too tied up in anticipation, too tied up in what they might be taking time away from.  Obviously, none of this is healthy.

Last night I received some sage advice: “You’re doing great with your writing.  But I hate your wordcounts.  Why are you putting so much pressure on yourself?”

And it’s true.  It’s entirely true.  If I look back to when I was writing ALL the time (let’s go with university and right after), did I ever have wordcount quotas?  No.  I sometimes did a wordcount for interest’s sake if I felt like I had had a particularly productive day but I never had a quota around it.  And why should I have?  I had no idea how long the finished product was going to be. I just wrote for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Writing has always been one of my favourite things to do, one of the best ways for me to relax.  But over the past little while it hasn’t felt that way at all.  The process has become a “chug out as much as possible in every single spare second”.  And even on days when I have extraordinarily high word counts (yesterday: goal of 2000, wrote over 5000) it’s not enough because the book isn’t done.  And apparently there is some voice in the back of my mind that if this doesn’t get 100% done by the time baby 2 arrives, it will never get done.

And maybe that’s where this pressure is coming from.  When Kid 1 was born, I wrote while he was an infant…but once he started napping less and needing my attention more, I very much fell away from it.  Now that Kid 1 is older, I’m not always going to be able to sit down at my computer while Baby 2 is napping.  And maybe, in the back of my mind, I feel like if I don’t finish this now, I just won’t.

But at what price?  Writing has become more of a pressure/stress thing for me these days than a pleasure.  And that, to me, is even worse than the thought of never getting this manuscript done.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to try (TRY) to eliminate some of the pressure.  No more wordcount quotas.  Or, if there are some, they will be very low.  Instead I am simply going to ‘write’ every day.  I’d rather spin off a brilliant short vignette of 500 words than kill myself trying to dredge up 3000 on a day when I’m not feeling into it.  I don’t know how successful I’ll be: today I tried that method and was still all proud of myself for blowing the original wordcount away.

But I clearly do need to re-centre.  And I need to put writing back into the middle of that as something I turn to for relaxation – not something that has become a huge stress-factor in my life that I need to find some relief from.

PS – One of my favourite websites, Zen Habits has in-depth discussions about how living without goals can be a path towards happiness and meaning.  After last night’s conversation, I went and re-read some of the posts on it…it seems so hard to imagine living that way but also doable and well worth it.  We’ll see how this goes.

8 thoughts on “And breathe…

  1. Good post, Em. I recently wrote a post on my blog about authors finding their comfort zone. The gist is: do what your comfortable doing, and do no more. You can only do so much – find what you’re good at. I hadn’t even began looking at Twitter. I facebook, blog and write, for now, until I’m ready to take on more. Check my blog for the Comfort zone post:

    • Thanks for the comment Sharon, I just went and checked out your post. I’m finding it to be completely true – once you start getting overwhelmed by your writing, it is going to show through in the writing itself and that doesn’t help anyone. I’ve been tempted by twitter but I’m holding off for now…maybe once things settle down a bit!

  2. Definitely take a step back and breathe. I’ve never viewed word counts as anything more than a tool to get my butt in the chair, which is why I (usually) keep them conservative, relative to what’s going on in my life at the time. Let me repeat that for you, *Relative to what’s going on in my life at the time*. You already have so much going on in your life that I could not imagine handling. There’s no need to push yourself to the screaming-point, Em.

    I have faith in you getting back on the book when Kid 2 is born, when and as you can. Feel free to tell that little voice I said so, too. And the less polite version of what you know I’d tell it if I was really there. Have some faith in yourself. There’s a reason you never walk away from writing entirely, Em, because it’s part of who you are. I know that, so should you. It will always draw you back.

    So yeah, dial it back a bit, find that place where it’s a running in the wind just because you feel like it, rather than a race you’re trying to win. You’re really only racing with yourself anyway.


  3. I suspect one thing that will help is you reminding me about the book once Kid 2 is born. All I ask is that you wait until I’m getting some sleep, at least occasionally. 😉

    Thanks for the encouragement. It definitely helps!

    • Curses, you’re on to my secret evil plan! I mean… No, I would never bug you to write (okay, we all know that line is total BS). And of course I’d wait at least a few days… hmm, weeks you say? I might manage that… 😉

  4. A good post. And I’m going to look at Zen Habits. I think I need a bit of that too. Whyever would you word count I wonder, though? It doesn’t make the writing any better!! I’m actually a slow writer, a few paras can take a while so I’d hate count the words – I’d be disappointed in my lack of progress.

    Seems you’ve identified what you need to do – so here’s to less pressure for you 🙂

  5. Zen Habits is really inspirational. I very much admire the guy who runs it (though slightly less so now that he’s running a rather pricey ‘premium membership’ on it…

    My wordcount quotas were specifically because of the pressure to try to get the work done before the baby comes. Hence, if I wrote 2000 words a day (for example), then I’d have so many done by my due date and, if it was a reasonable ‘novel length’ then I’d feel confident that the first draft would be done on time. But, as I’ve noticed, that’s actually hindered rather than helped.

  6. I don’t do word counts either. Instead I also try to just “write” on my days off from work, and if I don’t actually write, I try to at least think about something productive. For example, what my cover will look like, what loose ends I need to tie up when I do write again, etc. Word counts can def make you rush your work and not turn out a good product. I say the the heck with them!

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