I’m currently in the midst of a somewhat dangerous experiment.
You see, every December for the past five years or so, I’ve told myself that I would finish the novel I started writing the month before.
And I haven’t done it.
Every day in December, I’d tell myself, “Ugh, not today. I’ll just pick this up again tomorrow.”
And I never would.
I have two unfinished NaNoWriMo novels that I don’t want to abandon. Yet.
And now … I have a third book in the works.
But I’m trying something a little different.
I finished NaNoWriMo over a week ago. And every day since then, I have continued writing 1,000 words every day. I don’t need to do this. I am approaching 60,000 words. But I am mostly convinced that if I keep doing this, if I keep writing 1,000 words every day until I finish the book, I can do it.
I can finish writing a first draft.
It wouldn’t be the first time. But it would be the first NaNoWriMo draft I’ve actually taken the time to work through to the end, even though it was time-consuming and hard and extremely mentally and physically draining.
Every year, I stop.
Maybe if I don’t stop, I’ll actually reach the finish line.
Many of us do this thing where we promise ourselves we’re going to follow through. Then we get to that point in the day when we said we were going to start, and we can’t quite get ourselves over that hurdle stopping us from actually doing it. And we fall back on this notion that we’ve done enough work today, we deserve a break, we’ll just write it tomorrow.
And we never do.
Maybe the problem is that we keep stopping. We take the “breaks are important” idea and stretch it out too far. We find any excuse we can to not do the thing we keep saying we want to do. Because it’s work, and sometimes, work is not fun.
I’m not going to beat you over the head with the “consistency is key” talk, because if you’ve read anything on this blog, you’re probably sick of hearing it. But there’s a reason I keep repeating it. When you’re in the midst of a sprint, and you get tired, you think, okay, I’ll just walk for a few minutes. When in reality, instead of walking, all you have to do is SLOW. DOWN.
You don’t have to stop completely. And maybe you shouldn’t.
But you probably do need to take it easy. I cut my daily word count from between 2,000-4,000 words a day to strictly 1,000(-ish). Is it still tough, some days? Yes. But I am still making slow but steady progress toward the end of my book. I did not stop. Not even over the Thanksgiving holiday. Each morning I woke up, spent an hour writing, and then went on with my vacation. Because I am determined to finish this book. If I take even one day off, that might not happen.
But that’s because I know how I work and what I need to keep going and avoid creative burnout. You might be different. In no way am I saying you have to write every day. No way. Don’t hurt yourself.
But don’t keep pushing off this task. Don’t say you’ll wait until tomorrow unless you really mean it, because there are a lot of tomorrows in this lifetime. Don’t wait. Say when, and stick to it.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.