Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stick Figure Wisdom

I like task lists. I like chore charts. I like schedules. 

Not that I actually keep to any of them stringently, mind you, but I really like them. 

I use them to make myself write when I would much rather be watching Hulu. I'm also motivated by the dream of what it will be like to finish a book, really finish it so that it’s polished up perfectly and ready for the publishing elves to rush it off to the printer. (Wait, that’s not how it works?)

But the always wise xkcd had an important reminder for me the other day. It was attached to this comic: /

When you scroll over it on the website, you'll find this message:

"I never trust anyone who's more excited about success than about doing the thing they want to be successful at."

That sounded pretty smart, and suddenly I was reevaluating my recent relationship with writing. It's all tied up in to-do lists and future career goals and the desire to just have a completed and polished manuscript already. Too many times I write just so that I won't feel guilty about not writing, because I know that if I don't write I won't finish manuscripts and if I don't finish manuscripts I can't get published and if I don't get published I won't have the life I want and blahblahstressblah. 

Don't get me wrong; I think some of that (the obsessing, the goal setting, the obsessing about goal setting) is completely necessary. Countless authors have pointed out that it’s vital to get your butt in the chair and write every day (or every other day or something similar), even on days when you don’t want to do so. I’m glad that I set schedules and goals for myself or I wouldn’t get much writing done. 

But there’s a danger as well, especially when I wait until late at night and then decide that I MUST COMPLETE MY 1000 WORDS. I usually succeed, but I suffer from Nano-syndrome (as in what I tend to do as the Nanowrimo deadline draws near): The first 400-600 words are pretty good, but then I just start throwing twists into the scene and fluff into my sentences to pad my word count to 1000 so that I can go to bed.  Every once in a blue moon it results in a creative and unexpected idea, but most of the time I just have to go back and fix the rushed and overstuffed mess that I created. It isn’t pretty.

And it makes the writing process a chore, not the superawesomecoolfulfilling pursuit that I want it to be.

My new goal (to add on to all of my other goals because I’m addicted to goals) is to focus on enjoying the writing itself. And now that I’m writing the second first draft instead of the first first draft for Nanowrimo, I’m going to focus on quality over quantity, especially late at night. 

We’ll see how it goes. 

How do you keep your eye on the prize without losing sight of your love for the writing?

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