In August, I wrote about my desire to declutter my life to make room for writing. No excuses. My goal was to write at the same time every day uninterrupted, and to stop binge writing while doing away with bad habits that detract from writing but that I’d long justified as important or necessary. Since it’s been about six months, here’s a status / progress check.
I’ve failed. I’ve failed so much.
One of my four strategies was check my email no more than three times a day. When I went back to read the post, it was as though some other person had made that vow. No recollection here. But it’s a worthy goal both for my brain and my writing, so I’ve re-committed to it by sticking post-it notes to my computer to remind me.
I made the decision to have a designated writing time without alerting anyone else in my life, not my partner, not my friends or family. They first learned about it by reading my pledge in the August post, or when I answered the phone and said “I can’t talk; this is my writing time.” Fortunately they were in, which is great, but not really my preferred way to let someone know I was changing my routine. Or that they shouldn’t bother me because I’m writing when they didn’t know I’d be writing. So lesson learned. Since then, to help keep my space disturbance free, I’ve enabled my phone and my computer to automatically switch on Do Not Disturb mode during my writing time so those silly siren songs of distraction don’t ding, ping or pull me up from my desk.
The third way I failed is inertia’s close cousin. Most of the time I am overwhelmed by the task in front of me — both by the largeness of scale and the emotion attached to it. I feel as though I’m spinning my wheels rather than making progress because, well, because it means so much to me. I’ve always wanted to write a novel. It’s a life goal. That fact alone keeps me from doing anything. But then I tell myself I am a novelist. I am doing it. I have characters who feel real to me. The story is taking shape. One word at a time.
And here’s my small success, a way in which I haven’t failed, maybe I’ve even succeeded a bit: I’ve established intermediary goals. First, 10,000 words. Then, 100 pages. Then, 200 pages. And so on. (Side note: Sometimes thinking in pages versus word count feels like toggling between metric and imperial units of measurement.) Signposts between Chapter One and The End shifted focus to smaller units, smaller goals. In that, I feel (slightly) less overwhelmed. I can see a structural shape taking form. I can accomplish little goals en route to the big goal. And that’s something.
Melissa Koss is a Senior Associate Fiction Editor for The Flexible Persona.