As I was getting ready to write this post (and wondering what I was going to say today), I added in the prompt and inspiration I’d prepared at the beginning of the month. The first line of today’s prompt feels incredibly apropos. “There’s a price to be paid for everything.” Truly a motto to live your live pay. Right now, I’m paying for a week of heedless late nights resulting from the mood boost of my therapy light and the addictive feeling of making progress on my writing projects. I keep falling asleep while writing or being unable to stay awake and alert until midnight despite the caffeine I allow myself. I haven’t gotten much written the last few nights because I’ve been so tired as a result of being short on sleep and, instead of taking time to rest, I’m making Future Chris pay a steeper price by only getting five to six hours of sleep a night. Which is enough for things to not get any worse, but not enough to recover. I’ve got a few nights off in a row coming up, thanks to the holidays, and I’m planning to use them to get a few night of consistent, quality sleep.
This idea has been on my mind a lot lately as I’ve been trying to find a better balance between taking care of myself and relentlessly pursuing my goals. I mean, if you read my blog regularly, you’ve probably seen that as I’ve been circling around this idea all month. But it’s not just on my mind. It’s even something that’s been coming from outside influences as well given that two related topics, how to plan and pick projects in order to avoid burn out and how important it is to take the time to actually celebrate your successes, have been the subject of Vlog Brothers videos in the past week. I tend to engage in a cycle of burnout and recovery rather than avoiding burnout all together, live most people try to do. I don’t even celebrate things. I acknowledge them as they pass and then continue working on whatever project currently has my attention. Neither of these things are healthy habits and they’re things I’m actively trying to work on.
I mean, the fact that I actually chose to not finish my daily minimums the last two days, when I was within a few hundred words of reaching them says a lot about the progress I’ve made. A few weeks ago, I’d have just powered through, gotten even less sleep than I did, and made things worse for myself. I’m trying to concede to my limits and focus on the fact that they’re daily limits, not long-term potential limits. Only getting one thousand one hundred words done last night is not going to have a significant impact on my writing goals for this month. Going to bed at midnight instead of struggling until one or two in the morning helped me recover enough that I’m not worried about driving to Chicago this afternoon. I’m also going to continue to focus on going to sleep at midnight every night, at the latest, and trying to get down to work on my writing sooner after work. It’ll be a lot easier to do since exhaustion from not sleeping is usually why I’m unable to sit down to my writing for a while after work.
Additionally, I’m planning a break for the end of the month, to celebrate another successful National Novel Writing Month and a new personal record for number of words written in a single month (I passed sixty thousand last night and I’m on track to pass ninety thousand by the end of the month). Even if I fail both goals, I’m going to turn it into a break to celebrate my year of writing and for essentially doing one third of my lifetime writing in the past four hundred days. I’ve made tons of personal progress as a writer in the last year and I’ve blown some personal goals completely out of the water. I feel weird saying this, but I deserve some recognition from that, even if it’s from no one but myself. I’m not saying I need people to pat me on the back or tell me how amazing I am (though I’m certainly not going to turn anyone down if they volunteer to do just that), I just want to take some time to celebrate my success with my friends. I have no idea what that celebration is going to entail since I’m not really a “go out and have a party” kind of person, but it’ll be fun. Maybe I’ll just make a nice dinner and invite my friends over to eat it and drink cheap champagne for an evening.
As much as the statement “there’s a price to be paid for everything” implies a lot of negativity, I don’t see it that way. I’ve spent my whole life paying for the wisdom I have now and the experiences that have formed me into who I am. Some of them have been prices I willingly paid, like giving up a lot of other goals and my time in order to write every day for a year. Some of them have been prices that I would have avoided, like the foundation for most of my common sense and wisdom about the way the world works. Some of them I didn’t even have a choice about. Ultimately, though, I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of pre-paying lately and I’ve finally get myself to the point where all my cards are stocked up and ready for the right opportunity to cash in on all the work I’ve been doing. I think I’ve been paying the price for a level of expertise and ability I never considered possible and now I’m finally seeing it pay off in ways I didn’t anticipate.
I’m in a spot where I can now work to minimize the negative aspects of some of my habits, like my penchant for staying up late or sacrificing sleep. I know I can pump out a coherent blog post of over a thousand words in an hour. I know I can do a thousand words in an hour if I’m actually awake and two thousand or more in an hour if I’m focused. I don’t need to plan six hours a day to write three thousand words, I can just plan two or three. I just need to set rules and enforce them. Sleep by midnight. Take a day to celebrate my accomplishments. Take my health seriously. If I actually give everything it’s due priority and stop trying to just cram things in wherever I can find a little space, I might actually start to relax and be even more productive. Which is terrifying and exciting. More productive? What would I even do with myself if I was MORE productive?
Anyway, I hope your writing is super productive today and don’t be afraid to carve out some time for yourself today! Holidays are important, but as are your habits. You might need to make some time concessions when it comes to when you’re doing your writing, but you should be able to still get your daily words in. Even if you don’t get all of them, try for a few. Daily progress adds up! Even a dozen words is better than zero. Good luck!
There’s a price to be paid for everything. For most goods and commodities, it’s the assigned cash value of said goods and commodities. For rash actions or heedless words, it might be a loss of social standing or the destruction of an important relationship. There are a lot of ways to interpret the saying and I’d challenge you to come up with a novel way for your protagonist to “pay the price” for something they’ve done or something they’re knowingly choosing to do. Trials and tribulations are important, but sometimes it’s just a simple trip to the grocery store that winds up being a little more expensive than expected because they were out of generic orange soda so you had to buy the more expensive name-brand stuff. Or maybe they went to the club and, instead of paying a ridiculous amount for a drink, chose to go home alone instead. I’d love to see what you come up with.
In reference to yesterday’s inspiration, today’s inspiration is about the series that got me interested in reading more than picture books. Redwall, a series of stories about anthropomorphic animals featuring a bunch who live at the titular Redwall Abbey, was written by Brian Jacques and generally (but not always) follows the successor to one of two or the major lineages: the spiritual successor of a warrior who helped found Redwall Abbey or the spiritual successor of a different warrior who left the area that would become Redwall Abbey and made his new home in a mountain fortress. They’re both great stories, Jacques is easy to read, and the food descriptions are some of the most detailed and delicious-sounding I have ever read. Even now, decades later, they’re still fun for me to read.
I’ve previously mentioned writing sprints in the tips section, but I want to revisit them as we approach US Thanksgiving. The idea is to set yourself a short timer, for five to fifteen minutes, and then to spend all that time focused on writing. It’ll take some getting used to at first, but you’ll find your word count climbing steadily higher and it’ll be easier to focus during your writing periods because you’ll have the chance for a break between them. Plus, they’re the perfect size for taking refuge in the bathroom to get a break from your little cousins nagging you about some game they’re playing or your aunt trying to pin you down to talk about college or the fact that you’re still single (all hypothetical scenarios that are not based on my life). They’re also perfect for taking a break in the guest bedroom you’re sleeping in between dinner and dessert when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the number of people and amount of noise present at the dinner table (which is a scenario based on my life). Just keep your laptop handy, get a good text editor on your phone, or dictate some notes to yourself using a vocal recording program on your phone. Anything works.