Well, yesterday was also a bust. I got a couple hundred words written, but sleep deprivation and the temptation of a new Fallout game coupled with the temptation of the updated Spyro game proved too strong for me. Instead of writing, I played some Fallout 76, got Chinese food, watched my roommate relive Spyro, and then went to bed. That was plenty for yesterday, to be honest.
As you can clearly see by today’s rather late post, today isn’t much better. I’ve been trying to ride the line between cutting down on my goals for this month and getting enough rest to recover from the emotional and stress burnout resulting from the combined week of being super busy with extrovert stuff at work and dealing with the news about my grandfather’s health. As it turns out, the line between then is on the wrong side of “getting enough rest.” and I’ve actually been getting worse instead of better. Unfortunately, it took me three busy days at work and three nights without enough sleep to realize that. At least the last night of not enough rest wasn’t a dumb choice this time. I just couldn’t sleep, which is a frequent side-effect of long-lasting high-stress periods and burnout.
It took a Vlog brothers update for me to realize what was going on, too. I was under the impression that I’d just kick it into gear like I always do during periods like this and eventually get everything done. I can pull of some pretty ridiculous stuff when the situation is right, but I rarely do it when I’m already burned out and tired from previous times I pulled off something ridiculous. Like spending a week talking to people and running meetings every day that should have been spent quietly while processing the storm of emotions that comes from learning my grandpa, who gave me most of my nice clothes and my favorite jacket because we are the same size. Well, we used to be. The same grandpa who loves telling me about his coin collection and who has gotten me interested in the history and stories behind rare coins. It’s difficult to see a future without him in it, even if I’ve always know I’d get there eventually.
I always try to make excuses for continuing my writing. I often say it’s therapeutic, that it helps me work through difficult emotions and complex thoughts that need some adjusting before I can really see the shape of them. What I conveniently leave out every time I tell myself this is that the therapeutic part comes from doing free-form writing exercises, like my Sunday flash fiction, Friday poetry, or Saturday musing posts. I’m not going to get anything therapeutic from working on a story I’ve already formed without putting in the work to significantly change it. Some stories I could work it into, but not either of the ones I’m working on this month. I’d have to change them so much they’d be completely different stories and maybe even different genres. The closest I get to therapeutic writing is the reflection part of every day’s National Novel Writing Month post and part of me feels guilty for putting all this in here since I’m really not sure how much of this you all want to read. I originally planned to write about my progress here and how the writing stuff was going, but I’ve spent half of the month doing almost no writing so that’s kind of a bust.
Maybe the answer is giving up on the romance novel. I’ve barely written any of that, only a couple thousand or so words, and I’m already planning to rewrite those words entirely so it would make sense to just stop trying to do that. I already gave up on trying to do Coldheart and Iron posts every Tuesday, still. I did, however, just shift my plans so I’d do four Coldheart and Iron posts ahead of time, to be posted from December first to December fourth, so I’d be entirely caught up as of that Tuesday and so I could take a break to rest up from a month of writing like crazy. I don’t want to stop the blog because I’m really proud of my consistency here. Daily posts. Even if the post is going up at half an hour before midnight because I almost forgot and had a wedding, so all I could do is copy and paste a poem I’d been saving for an emergency into the WordPress app on my phone and then post it without fixing the weird crap WordPress does to my typical poetry formatting. This matters to me. I’ve done a year of posts, but I’d still like to be able to say “I did this thing for the entirety of 2018.” I’d also like to say that about 2019. I wouldn’t mind being able to say that about every year. It’s kind of a big deal and I can’t imagine it not having a positive impact on my life. Plus, I don’t really want to be one of those writers who lands a publishing deal that allows me to support myself on my writing who then stops doing stuff like my free blog.
I love writing. I love stringing words together and turning my ideas into stories. I love sharing my writing on the off-chance that it could help someone else and I love having a place to put this stuff that makes me feel seen, even if it’s only by one person in a day. I’d love to be able to throw sense to the wind and just pump out the rest of my writing goals in the seventeen days (counting today) I have left in the month, especially because I know I could probably do it. I also know the burnout would be catastrophic unless I took more time off of work and I really can’t afford that. Next week’s time away from work for US Thanksgiving won’t be the break it usually is, either, since I’ll be spending more time with family on account of my grandfather’s declining health. It’ll just be another weekend. My last weekend to make up for any lost time.
I have a lot of really good reasons to dial down my goals, especially considering I’ll still break ninety-thousand words this month even if I just stick to my blog and my National Novel Writing Month project. That’d be a new record of words written in a month for me, which is an admirable goal in its own right. I still want to throw my trepidation and good sense to the wind by stubbornly declaring I’ll stick to my original goals, though. Even now. I’ve actually deleted the words I wrote saying that. I need to rest and, as much as it pains me to say it, I don’t think I can do everything I said out to do this month. Just the thought of trying to do everything is overwhelming, and being overwhelmed takes more time than I’d like to give it.
This feels a lot like defeat, but it isn’t. It’s a chance to actually succeed without hurting myself. It’s going to take a lot of mental repetition to make that thought stick, but it’s true. I hope your goals are going better than my original ones are. I hope they’re going as well as my adjusted goals are, since I’m not far off track when it comes to those. Either way, I believe in your ability to do this and I wish you the best of luck today and tomorrow.
Failure is a part of life. Failure also makes for good stories because most people find characters who do nothing but succeed to be rather boring. There are a thousand proverbs and parables about learning from failure but success is often seen as the end of the road. That being said, failure can be difficult to overcome or to work through, and some people are better at it than others. How does your protagonist handle failure, big or small? If they fail, are they pushed on to try harder next time or do they feel defeated or beaten? Show your protagonist responding to failure (you can include the part where they fail, but that’s not necessary) and how it informs the way they decide to move forward in your story.
If you want some more examples of excellent storytelling, then you need to check out Hamilton. This musical is one of the best, most-clever bits of writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness and the musical itself is a work of absolute beauty. The lyrics and music are stunning, constantly referencing itself, foreshadowing future events, and so damn catchy I still haven’t gotten the music out of my head three months later. Not that I want it out, either. Even though it’s pretty sad in the end and it feeds into one of my biggest fears (of never having enough time), I still can’t stop listening to it. This is one of those things that marks a turning point in the way the world functions. After Hamilton, musical theater has a whole new dimension to it and anyone going for the standard “classic” stuff is missing out on the brand new world Lin-Manuel Miranda has opened our eyes to.
I have a really bad habit of keeping snacks and drinks on hand for when I’m writing. Which generally means keeping them on hand as distractions from writing since I usually avoid any potential for getting my keyboard messy or wet, which means stopping my writing so I can have a snack while browsing twitter on my phone. This is a bad habit since it tends to promote both overeating and procrastination. It distracts me from getting words written and adds to what is typically a rather sedentary month for me since I work at a computer in my day job and then go right to my computer after work. Today’s tip is to find something that replaces the desire to snack with something more useful. I’d suggest gum, but I can’t stand it. Instead, I keep a bag of sourdough pretzels nears my computer. Since they have no dust or crap that sticks to your fingers, they’re safe to use with a keyboard. They’re also salty and really dusty, so they’re not something I can eat a lot of in any short amount of time. I’ll eat maybe two during a few hours of writing, which is a single serving. They also make me thirsty, which is where my gallon jug of water comes in. I drink about one of those an evening which keeps me well hydrated and makes me want to focus so I can get stuff written between hourly trips to the bathroom to deal with the excess liquid. It’s a process and it works for me, since it cuts down the crap I consume and it helps me maintain my focus on writing more. I don’t know if that’ll work for you, but exploring the ideas wouldn’t hurt.