Not my month

Last December, I set some audacious monthly goals for myself. December, I met them. January, I met them. February. Sigh.

There’s reasons. There are always reasons. Some of them are even good.

But I think what’s challenging for me is that once I get off track, and my goal tickboxes start going unticked, I start getting demotivated. Yet at the same time, I have this hope against hope idea that I can pull it together in the end, that in some big burst of writing, it will all work out.

This is sometimes true, but more often (read: post-kid) it does not, but the belief that I could make it work makes it easy to let myself off the hook in the moment, and then more tickboxes go unticked and at some point I realize that no, I cannot pull this together. It’s too much.

I’ve been pretty good about not kicking myself in recent years, but there’s a little kicking myself. I should have used the time. Sat my butt down and wrote. Turn on the concentration playlist, start up Write or Die, take myself out to a coffee shop, something. Over the years, I’ve developed a lot of tricks to get started. I could have employed them.

I can comfort myself in pointing out that I at least did something this month, whereas in the past I would have many months of nothing but good intentions.

I like to remind myself that balance is also a verb. You don’t set it and forget it. There’s always an ebb and a flow and shift things around to make something work. But perhaps what makes it toughest while I have days when I fail to write is that I don’t have days when I fail to take care of my kid. I didn’t fail to file my business tax forms. (Although this year I came close.) I don’t fail to ensure there is some sort of dinner even if it’s pretty half-ass.

Let me be clear that there’s still a lot of things that fail to get done, since I literally made ‘clean the bathroom’ a goal so that it would happen on a regular basis. And likewise, somehow I’m also not failing to keep with up new episodes of Schitt’s Creek.

Perhaps that’s a better way to look at it. I didn’t fail to write, so much as I succeeded at many other things, none of which will help me as a writer, although I suppose if I didn’t eat my writing career would be very short.

In any case, I am attempting to avoid the obvious inspirational ending here, where I say how what I have to do is put butt in chair and write dammit. I know that. Nothing will get written any other way.

But in the spirit of self-kindness and honesty, this is simply where I am.

At least I can tick off “wrote blog post.”

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Reviseophobia

The most unhelpful thought I ever had in writing was this one: If I get everything really perfect the first time, I won’t have to revise.

It seemed like a very efficient way to write. One and done. I would only have to work up the nerve once to actually write the thing, and then tinker a little and BOOM!

And it was a hard thought to let go of, because I am lazy, and find it hard to sit down to actually write, and so if I only had to do it once, well… Plus, and not blowing smoke up my own ass or anything, my first drafts were usually pretty good. Probably because I wasn’t prepared to try anything too messy lest I have to revise, but it was always close enough to reasonably okay that it seemed like getting something near perfect the first time was an achievable goal.

Except it wasn’t.

But I didn’t realize that for a long time, and so every time I had to revise, I’d make teeny-tiny changes. A word here and there. Stuff so small that I wouldn’t even remember what I’d changed from draft to draft, but somehow I thought it would have a dramatic effect. It never did.

I’m more comfortable with revision now–I’ve written enough things that I’ve had to rip apart before I could find the bleeding heart of the story–but I must confess that every time I realize that I need another revision, there’s a small sense of “Ugh.” It’s the work of it all. The going back to the well and hoping it’s not dry. The not knowing if this is the revision that takes a reasonably okay story and turns it into a pile of crap.

It feels like I should wrap up this blog post with some sort of an uplifting “Yay, revision!” except I am in the middle of my latest novel revision, and what can I say except that it’s exhausting to keep trying to find the thing that will make the next chapter, the next scene, the next sentence work. It just is. I got excited by some of the ideas I had to make this revision happen, but the moment I had to actually revise…. well, it’s just a lot of thinking and figuring and wondering if I’m really, really sure that the novel wasn’t just fine.

On the other hand, there is no possible way that I could have come up with all of this on the first draft. Or the second. Or the third. And so on. Had I let the reviseophobia get the better of me, well, I’d be sitting with my very first draft of this thing, the one that I sat down and read and marked up with notes calling whole sections “Cheeseballs.”

The most helpful writing advice I ever had was “Learn to love revision.” I’m not quite there yet, but I’m trying.