Last week, I talked about how writing a book doesn't happen by accident, it happens by continuing to show up for yourself and your creative project even when it's hard.
This week, as we launch into November and Writing Twitter (myself included) is abuzz with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) tips, I want to offer up a cautionary tale.
You know I love NaNo (I've blogged and appeared on podcasts about it even!). I've been participating for more than ten years now and I find fast-drafting to be one of the best ways to create a writing habit and turning off that pesky internal editor.
But in the run-up to the end of the year, I also see a lot of people looking at what they'e accomplished this year and panicking a bit. Maybe you'd hoped to be farther along in your draft or revision. Maybe you've even set a deadline for yourself that, for all sorts of really valid, yet frustrating, reasons, you're not going to achieve.
I'm here to tell you that it's OK. Writing a book takes as long as it takes. And often that's longer than we'd planned. Longer than we'd hoped. Longer than our other writing buddy took.
I'm someone who is very motivated by a daily word count goal and by self-imposed deadlines like NaNoWriMo. Scrivener's Project Targets have made me keep my butt-in-chair until that little slider bar is where it's supposed to be more times than I can count since I started my writing adventures.
But there's also a point when something that started out as motivation begins to have the opposite effect. There's a point at which the deadlines feel so overwhelming or impossible that they send you into procrastination mode, into avoidance, into resistance. And that's how writer's block happens. Nobody wants that!
So if you've signed up for NaNoWriMo, but are dreading it. Or if you told yourself you'd have your manuscript done by the end of the year and it's not going to happen. If you're re-organizing your Tuperware instead of writing. It might be time to let go of those self-imposed deadlines because they're no longer serving you.
If your self-imposed deadline is causing stress, anxiety, dread, fear, negative self-talk, or despair, you have my permission to let it go. Not one of those emotions is going to help you finish a project. Not one of those emotions is ever going to help you find joy in the process. And ultimately, that's going to show in your work.
So escape that deadline paralysis and do something that refills your depleted creative well instead. Even if that means taking a few days or a week away from your writing desk. When you return to your story, you'll find you have better concentration, more motivation, and, best of all, more joy.
Whether or not you're fast drafting this month, I hope you find some time to reflect on your writing journey and to celebrate all the ways that you've invested time and effort into yourself and your writing journey. Even if you're not yet where you want to be, you're showing up for yourself and your craft. And that's a big deal.
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