Putting Myself In The Pressure Cooker

Well, I’ve definitely learned something. I was doing exactly what I thought I was doing. It’s annoying to have to tell myself I was right and that I was wrong and that I was being stupid. Yes, that probably sounds crazy, but keep in mind that it’s a conversation with myself, and I’ve told you before, writers are crazy. It’s what we do.

You might recall I said in my last awards post that I was never satisfied with my word count, that if I did 3k last draft, I would be pushing myself for 4k on the next? That’s literally true.  It’s what I’ve been doing, and I think that’s been part of the problem. 4k every day is a lot (especially after an 8 hour work day), and some days it isn’t there, but do you think I let myself understand that? Heck no. Yes, this means I’ve berated myself on the days it isn’t there, tried to wheedle and coax myself into getting there anyway, and I keep giving in to myself on it instead of saying “Look self, I’m over 3k, pace was 2.5k, enough. We’re good for the day.” And that only gets worse on the weekends, where the line is “If I can do 4k on a weekday, I should be able to do a lot more than that when I have all day. 6k minimum, and I should keep pushing even after that.” It’s never enough for me, it seems.

That is not to say I was wrong in my last post about the wall being related to a story problem. That was the wall, but when I got that problem sorted, I still had some trouble getting the engine to turn over and realized that it’s because I hadn’t even started it and already had the pedal matted.  Not good, only floods the engine. I was sitting there and seriously telling myself that I had to make sure I hit at least 4k every day now, and that this weekend I should use the time to make up for the lack of writing after I hit the wall.  After a moment, I realized exactly how stupid that sounded and went off to read for a while.  It was a delicious thing to turn away for an hour and do something else.  I won’t say it’s easy to resist the pressure I put on myself, but I think it’s worth doing sometimes, if only to me back on an even keel.

It’s great to drive myself to finish the book, but if I drive myself to the point of wanting to walk away, that’s just counterproductive (and the above mentioned stupid). Then I end up quitting over not meeting some artificial, self-imposed quota or deadline that wasn’t reasonable to begin with.  In a way, I’m laughing at myself right now.  I’ve told a number of people to take the pressure off of themselves, to be reasonable in their goals, to dial it back to where it’s still about loving writing. Do you think I take my own advice? Yeah, right, that would be sensible, which I rarely manage. So I am going to do that, I’m going to take my own advice. I’m going to dial it back, tell myself that 3k, which only a couple of months ago would have thrilled me as a regular achievement, is perfectly acceptable. I’m still over 20k ahead of pace and even that isn’t the point.  I need to let myself be a little sane (don’t laugh too hard, we’re talking my version here), do some things that aren’t writing the book or I’m going to do myself some harm here.  I don’t think I could quite make myself hate writing, but if I keep this up, it may become a job in the less pleasant sense, rather than the job that doesn’t feel like work as it has been for the past few months.

I’m the one who keeps talking about maintaining balance, so it’s time to bring this back into balance. What’s funny about that is I have this feeling that if I can rebalance this, the numbers will probably jump again on their own, if I’m not trying to force it anymore.  That’s just the way things usually work in my life.

I haven’t reported numbers on Possession for a while now, so I am going to do that now, so that maybe I (and the rest of you) can really see that it’s not like I’m in danger of not hitting my goal or not finishing the draft.  I know where I am with the outline, and the chances are excellent that, like the second draft of DM, I will finish the book at or before the end of my February NaNo, even with me dialling it back.  As of the end of the day yesterday, the manuscript stood at 62,151 words. I’m about to start chapter 16. Even with the problems this week, not including today because I haven’t gotten started yet, I’ve put in a total of 13,396 words. That’s fantastic, and I really should be happy with that.  I’m trying to be, trying to ignore the totals from Thursday and Friday (though Friday at least wasn’t bad, especially if you realize that I was rewriting a not so small section that wasn’t right when I forced myself to write it in pursuit of the artificially inflated finish line).  I really need to maintain some perspective here, something I’m spectacularly bad at doing myself most of the time, for all that I can help other people do it.

I do want to say a very, very big thank you to all of you who have taken the time to read, like and comment on the posts in the last few days. Your words of encouragement, support, and advice have helped more than I can tell you.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the supportive community is what makes WordPress a wonderful place to blog.

In closing, today’s picture. I thought we could all use some sun and colour on this February morning.


About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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30 Responses to Putting Myself In The Pressure Cooker

  1. jmmcdowell says:

    It’s easy to give advice to others. It’s always harder to take it ourselves. We need goals and we need to push ourselves. But we also need to take breaks and assess how we’re doing. Relentless drive often leads to burn out. And as you said, you don’t want to stop enjoying the writing itself. Give your mind a little vacation and, as you said, you’ll be zipping along again.

    • Julie says:

      Yeah. I don’t think I’ll take a full day off, not while I’m doing a NaNo, but I am going to let myself be happy with hitting pace, or exceeding it a bit without feeling like I have to hit some other arbitrary number. The goal is the number for a reason, because it’s what I felt was reasonably achievable. I have to write that down somewhere, or I’m likely to forget/ignore that fact. :p

  2. 4amWriter says:

    Oh my goodness, you sound like me the way I was when I was struggling to find writing time. This was a few years ago, and I had yet to find a routine that was conducive to my lifestyle with babies, and a new house, and a new job. I was so sure that any day I would lose the privilege to write as often as I’d like, so I took advantage of all the free time I had. And I went way overboard.

    Basically, panicking and getting a little OCD about the whole thing.

    Finally, I grounded myself and realized as long as this is what I want to do, then I will figure out how to do it. And I will get it done. There is no need to kill myself on the way!

    So, that goes for you too Julie. Don’t kill yourself on the way! Please! 🙂

    • Julie says:

      Yeah, I think you’ve kind of nailed it. I’ve had a lot of years where I just couldn’t seem to get the writing to work for me, and I’m not wholly sure why it is now, but I’m enjoying that. The flip side is that I’m afraid I’ll wake up one day and have it suddenly not work anymore, so I feel like I have to take advantage of this window for all I’m worth now.

      But I’m onto me now, so I think I’ll be able to rein it in a bit. The new attitude is helping so far, yesterday and so far today, so I think we’re now out of danger as far as me killing myself by over-writing. 🙂 I’ll be good from now on, I swear.

  3. Pete Denton says:

    Routine is really good and goals are great, but you are allowed to relax a little too! It sounds like you’ve done a fantastic amount so far so I’m sure it’ll spur you on again. Just don’t worry on the days when you have nothing left, or only a little.

    • Julie says:

      Yeah, I’m often very unfair to myself, and I think that’s something I need to work on. The funny thing is, the goal hadn’t changed, but I was forcing myself to try to exceed the goal by as much as I could, instead of just hitting goal and continuing if I was up for it, then celebrating what I accomplished. I was taking the fun out of the accomplishment. That’s just dumb in my books (pun not intended).

      Reeling it back it has helped though. I’m enjoying my writing again today, rather than feeling pressured. It’s back to being about the writing again, instead of a numbers game. I definitely need to relax more often, let the brain rest and work in the background. Thanks!

  4. Em says:

    This sounds very similar to a post I did recently, doesn’t it? I’m glad you were able to recognize the trend in yourself and I hope that it makes your writing journey more enjoyable!

    • Julie says:

      I was totally waiting for you to say that, you know. And it was hard to miss the trend, especially when it got piled on top of a lot of other things this past week. I swear, this was the week from hell on so many levels.

  5. “Then I end up quitting over not meeting some artificial, self-imposed quota or deadline that wasn’t reasonable to begin with..”

    I was nodding and smiling as I read this cos yeah, self imposed quotas are definitely not something one should become stressed about.. within reason anyway 😉

    Like you said, its always easier to give advice than to take your own but it sounds like you’ve taken stock and will be following your own sage counsel.. so well done that girl!

    • Julie says:

      Thanks. It’s taken me a lot of time and much hindsight to learn the skill. And I still screw it up as often as not, but writing is too important to me to take that kind of chance. 🙂

      • you’re ahead of most, if you’re learning it let alone applying it 😉

        PS I read your email / writing on the weekend but have yet to reply because I am a slack slack individual .. but I loved it and will flick you a note soon!

        • Julie says:

          lol, thanks for the feedback, will wait for the email. I was going to give you another couple of days, as I know life’s been crazy for you 🙂 I’m pretending I’m patient. It’s almost as good as actually being patient, you know.

          • hahah I reckon you COULD be a tiny bit more patient than I but .. only just *grins* Life has indeed been odd lately .. but I should have tons of time to do things so am just being a slacker shhhh 😉

  6. i think you might be obsessed. in all sincerity, do you have a life? 🙂

    • Julie says:

      Um, what’s this life thing you speak of? Isn’t that what my blog is? 😀

      In semi-seriousness, did you only just figure out that I’m obsessed with writing? I mean, you’ve been reading this blog for how many entries and only just got that? Nicely done 🙂

      • lol seriously! do you do anything else besides write and go to work?

        i’m absolutely with you, except my current one is dropping weight for a “biggest loser” / bodybuilding contest at my gym so it’s been a nice break from editing BUT i’m trying to learn how to be obsessed / hyper-passionate about the gym AND writing which means i’ll have no time for much of anything else.

        i feel like such an underachiever at times when i read stories about people who learn languages, get 2nd degrees, and run marathons all at the same time…

        and folks who write 3K words a night as easily as they might trip over a crack in the sidewalk!

        • Julie says:

          And you know what’s funny about that? I’ve learned that the people who do those other things are often amazed at those of us who have written a book because they can’t imagine doing it. I think it’s just a general thing to find the achievements of others somewhat mind-blowing if you haven’t done it yourself or can’t imagine it.

          And I’ll do sometimes work on new photos, but it’s winter, the time of year I hate shooting. Come spring, it’ll be time to work more on that balance, as I love shooting spring flowers, the buds on the trees, all of that.

          Oh, and from experience, tripping on the sidewalk is way easier than writing 3k a night, no matter how it might sound when I write about the word count after the fact.

  7. In my opinion, going to read is one of the best things you can do when over-pressuring yourself. For me, when I read, time flies by. It’ll feel like I’ve been reading for 5 minutes, when it’s been 30 or 40. So, if it takes me that long to read a chapter, it sure as heck ought to take longer to WRITE the darned thing!

    And, of course, reading helps refuel the brain, exposes you to other thoughts, and gives those synapses some down-time to recharge (ok, I really wanted to use the word synapse today).

    My 2 cents? Take a DEEP breath. Look at your overall goal. If you’re ahead of where you need to be to reach your overall goal (so many words by X date, or similar) then you have earned time to relax. If you are behind, then no slacking. On target, move forward.

    But if the words don’t want to come, then it’s probably time to take a short break anyway.

    Anyway, that’s what I’m telling myself as I managed to NOT pull myself out of bed this morning to write 🙂

    • Julie says:

      The problem with going to read is right now I’m in the middle of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, which is both fantastic to read and intimidating as a writer. I keep feeling wildly inadequate, and run back to my book for comfort and to remind myself that I’m here to write my stories, not try to write someone else’s or to write like someone else. Double-edged sword, really. But it was nice to get my head back on straight.

  8. Ooo tulips, how Dutch. Nice lighting too.

    And yes, you need balance. To put it in the terms my work has caused me to largely think in, you need to take a little walk on the Grey Road.
    You get way, way more done than I do. The novel chapter I’m working on, I started it on the 12th of this month and as of today its about to hit 2k 🙂 Admittedly, I let myself get distracted a lot more than a should (I’ve been engaging in a big debate on one of my writing forums the last couple of days) but even compared to some of the more focused writers I know, you’re production is quite vast.
    And if you burn yourself out, you won’t be any good to anyone. Just keep the name of this blog in mind: Word Flows. Not word Firehouse of Eternal Pulsating Doom from Beyond Time and Space, yeah? 🙂

    • Julie says:

      Thanks! And as for writing, I think I’ve mentioned before that I drive myself perpetually for more. I’m learning to rein it in a bit, at least.

      And yeah, I’ve seen you having fun with that story concept thread. (You’ve probably seen me around Hatrack occasionally. I post under Heresy, though I lurk more than I post.)

      Thank you for the compliment on my production. It doesn’t always work this way, but the trilogy is kind of front and centre in my mind, mostly formed all the way to the end, and I think that helps. I’m not trying to build a new world with this second book, though I am building it out a bit. The real, eternal, burning question is whether any of that production is any good, and if it is according to others, will I ever actually think so myself? 🙂

      I shall keep your wise counsel front of mind thought, not a firehouse. Lol, I love that 😀

      • So YOU’RE the person I’m always thinking is Dr. Bob until I actually read the post?! And you’re also one of the few Hatrackians (who actually post) who predates me!
        I wasn’t even talking about the story concept thread. That’s great fun, getting even more of an education on Jewish thought from Dr. Bob. I was talking about the Cat Rambo thread and the one extrinsic started about…what is it he calls it…Persuasive Unision, that’s it.
        Basically, what we’ve been discussing here and I’ve been posting about on my blog…how its all subjective and you should write what and how you feel you should all that…I’ve been fighting with certain people on Hatrack about all that stuff for years. Although sometimes it seems like freaking millenia.
        “Firehouse” was supposed to be “firehose” but I think you figured that out.

        • Julie says:

          Yeah, I realized how long I’ve been on Hatrack when I went to my profile the other day and saw 2003 as my register date. How did that happen? And yet I remember when I was a total noob there.

          There are some debates on the forum I just don’t get involved with for a lot of reasons. In this particular case, it’s because I know what I believe and while other view points are interesting, it’s not going to change my mind. Also, I have a very middle-ground view on the issue of writing what you want vs what the market thinks it wants, and I’ve noticed there isn’t always a lot of room for middle ground in some of the debates. But I usually read the threads, just to see what people are saying 🙂

          And I kinda like the firehouse idea. Hmm, I wonder if I can turn that into a story. *already full brain explodes* 🙂

          • The main reason I get involved is because I know Hatrack has a constant inflow of new people, beginners who I feel should get…a more balanced view, or a counterpoint depending on how you want to look at it or the state of things at a given time. Things are actually better lately, from my perspective, than in the past. A while back a…certain person tried to basically divide the community and failed and since then balance mostly seems to reign, but not always.
            ~uses a little White Road magic to contain and repair head explosion.~

          • Julie says:

            Fair enough. I just don’t usually feel like getting into it with those kinds of people. I did, however, once start a thread because someone was misbehaving in Fragments and Feedback (in those days there was only one) just because we didn’t all bow down and worship their genius 🙂 I was shocked at how long that thread went on, even after I withdrew from the debate.

  9. All of these frames within frames within frames are starting to make me feel like we’re in a Night Gallery episode. I’m expecting Rod Serling to walk in any second…

    Just had to comment on that for some reason.

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