Monday, April 18, 2011

A High-wire Balancing Act

Last Tuesday, I mapped out a plan to finish my novel by June 16th. After that, I'd take two weeks off from my story--no writing or editing of any kind. It was a great plan, but as with all great plans, it was massively flawed. (Think of the Death Star, if you don't believe me.)

So what was my flaw? Where was the tiny exhaust port that would allow a small, one-man fighter to penetrate my outer defenses?

My schedule allowed for no time off.

No days off, no afternoons off, no free hours.

I would work every day from dawn until dark. I'd rise early to write, go to my day job, and then come home and write until I dropped. Then I'd get up on my weekends and write all day long.

Let me tell you, friends, by the end of last week I was already exhausted. But did I abandon the plan? No! I blamed myself--if I had more discipline, I'd be able to keep this schedule. It's only until June after all, couldn't I punish myself for that long?

Yes, my logic was seriously flawed.

On Thursday, I read an older post on Nathan Bransford's blog about balance. I nodded the whole time, especially when I read this:
The thing about this is that I know full well these are the problems of someone who is very blessed and fortunate, and I'm not asking for, nor do I deserve, sympathy. I know I'm lucky! Oh - gee, my hobby that I love is too time-consuming. Woe is me. There are people out there who are working far harder and who are struggling and for whom the idea of finding "balance" in their life is an abstraction.
"Yes!!" I thought. "He gets it! I shouldn't complain about being worn out, because I'm so privileged to be writing!!"

The very next paragraph shot that idea down. In very concise terms, he pointed out that this is simply the way authors justify pushing themselves too hard, and talk themselves out of taking time off. Well, okay. I'm taking that time off in June, that counts--right?

On Friday, the weekly email from Holly Lisle arrived. "Everything takes longer" was the subject line. Gulp! Wasn't this what I'd been flailing myself over all week? Only three days in, and I'm already behind schedule! The opening paragraph nailed me.
You plan your writing time like you're setting up for D-Day, you
have materials laid out and organized, you have your story ready to

And then you remember that thing you forgot.
For me, time off was that thing. I was behind because I'd come home every night, worn out from the getting up early, from the nine hour work day, from just thinking that I still had to write more. So I'd put it off in favor of other things, and then started the next day even farther behind.

Therefore, I announce to you my new schedule. I will write 3-4 hours a day Monday-Friday and five hours on Saturday. My goal each week will be to revise six chapters. If I reach that goal, I will give myself a treat on Sunday. Even if I do not, I will take Sundays off from my novel.

Want to know the crazy thing? I think I'll actually finish the novel earlier!