As writers, we’re constantly striving to achieve that end product. Our book, our novel, our short story, the epic fantasy that has been inside of us for so many years. So we set ourselves targets, goals that sometimes are realistic and sometimes just aren’t. We go through ups and downs, highs and lows of the emotional rollercoaster that isn’t just our own lives, but our characters’ lives. There again, how can we make our readers feel and believe the story if we ourselves don’t? How often have we read a book and laughed and cried with a character that’s so believable you wonder how it happened. That’s what we’re striving for, that perfect book – the best seller that will make our passion, our hobby, our livelihoods explode.
And, within this haze of goals and ambitions it’s easy to get lost. It’s easy to get bogged down and focus on the word count, how many chapters we have, if we’ve done enough and then to start to analyse and over analyse things. We make lists, to do lists and then to do lists of our to do lists until suddenly it’s spiralling out of control and we end up in the dreaded land of writer’s block where our creativity is killed and stifled. I’m as guilty as the next person – and I love a good list, it’s the lawyer in me I guess trying to make sense of the chaos that is my brain and needing and longing for a bit of order – but sometimes to do lists really don’t help, sometimes all they do is put the fear of God in you that you haven’t done everything you’ve set out to do … and it seeks to reinforce the self doubt, the worry and the anxiety that plague us all.
That’s when the struggle hits home. Why haven’t I written a thousand words today? What have I done with this time? Why did I spend all that time on twitter? Why did I spend all that time on YouTube? Why did I … and so on and so on it goes, questioning ourselves over and over about procrastination that is only natural, and yet it becomes another tool through which to berate ourselves and to say ‘you’re not doing enough’ or words to that effect.
What, though, we seem to struggle with is acknowledging our successes – and, as a good friend pointed out to me not so long ago during a discussion on this topic – this is not just a writer thing: this is a very human thing. Where it’s much easier to do ourselves down, rather than to stand back and go “I did this today” and to be proud of what we have achieved. We all need to learn to celebrate those little victories, to take them and to cherish them and to remind us of them over and over again. To say when the voice at the back of the head berates us for not meeting our word count, to say ‘at least I wrote’ and to see the positive in it. The days where a block hits, or writing just doesn’t happen … to see how we were productive. It might have been something as simple as watching a YouTube video on why the wind howls through the trees to get the atmospherics right in your story; or maybe it was that time spent on pintrest looking at inspiration of what clothing your characters wear, what they eat and where they live …
I’m trying to take my own advice. I’m setting myself more achievable goals, rather than trying to fix everything at once. I’m trying to do away with the lengthy to do lists that say that I need to do everything ever and then some. And, I’m trying to remind myself that what I am doing day in and day out is productive and that no matter what it is a win. Especially at the moment, with the pandemic still raging, the news being nothing but doom and gloom and the never ending lockdown … it’s too easy to get trapped inside of our own heads.
So, if you’re reading this remember that you, yes you, are fabulous and that you can do incredible things.