Progress Is Progress

Hello, world. Somehow I have once again managed to find my way to the surface to post. Truthfully, I had every intention of posting at the beginning of this month and keeping up with it this time. I even had all my Writer’s Guide topics laid out for each week this month! That’s a miracle!

Unfortunately that didn’t go to plan in the slightest, and I’m not really sure what happened that screwed every intention I had.

My last post — nearly a month ago now — was right before Camp NaNo began, and I had talked about getting ready for that, and I possibly also ranted about work… *Looks off innocently*

I suppose I could account part of my “falling off the blog wagon” incident to work and how much of a hell situation is was a month ago, but that has smoothed over for the most part again about two weeks ago. Maybe I was just so burned out and fed up with life and work that I no longer cared. Or maybe I was just so bummed and mad at myself because I wasn’t working on my Camp project that I figured I had absolutely nothing to talk about. Maybe all of the above and then some. Who knows with me, I’m not going to try to find the source of my absence, it’d be pointless.

(I do know there was more than one time I remembered I needed a blog post, and by the end of the day I had totally forgotten again and it was too late to do it. That happens a lot anymore. I need to start setting myself an alarm to write my posts so I stop forgetting.)

So while the first two and a half weeks of this month were a complete bust in Camp NaNo and life, I seem to have finally managed to pull some semblance of productivity and motivation back together. Perhaps this time the pieces of my life are a little more well glued together. A feat I can credit to some friends of mine.

Camp NaNo 2017

For the first three weeks of July, there were truthfully only two days in which I edited and worked on my concordance for Fated to Darkness. Those days were Day 1 and 2.  After that it was all down hill from there.

My original goal was to work up through Chapter 11, which was roughly 146 pages or so.

At first I wanted to work on it and kept telling myself I should work on it, but it just didn’t happen between work and other obligations. After that first week, when I had fallen so far behind in only managing to do 23 pages, I started to give up.

In the beginning it came across as I was going to have to lower my goal, to what I didn’t know, but I was going to have to lower it below 100 pages because the rest of my month was so booked with work, camping, and other obligations, that I was never going to have any free time at all to edit. (Or so I thought.) Then that notion began to spiral into not caring if I won for the month or not, which lead to wanting to just delete my entire Camp project for the first time ever because I was so frustrated with myself. I couldn’t figure out why I had tanked so hard this Camp.

On the last possible day before validation began I dropped my goal to 55 pages, which was only two more chapters from where I fell off the Camp wagon. A couple hours after that, I dropped my goal even lower to only 38 pages: one more chapter.

I hated myself for it. I hated how pathetically small that number looked, when I had such high hopes and plans for how I could finish the minor editing and concordance work before November started. I could see all those plans and hopes washing away down the drain each time I sighed heavily and officially dropped my goal.

But I’ve come to realize that I dream too big for the war I fight inside my own head every single day. I’ve come to finally see that those dreams carry me away on an euphoric high way up into the pristine white clouds and sunshine for a little bit, then the storm clouds roll back in at the slightest diversion to those dreams, snuffing the sun out, and the high is gone. The storm takes my motivation and hopes with it; and Mother Nature always wins in the end.

I also realized something else though. If I cannot find the willpower strong enough to hold myself accountable to my goals and dreams, then I do need help to do so. I don’t mean just encouragement, I mean the kind of help that stands at your side as your shadow, doing exactly what you do so that you aren’t doing it alone anymore. It’s easier to motivate yourself when you have someone in your corner consistently cheering you on and helping you build castles from sand.

And that is what happened finally.

Five days ago the black clouds began to clear, and with help — and much grumbling and resistance at first — I got myself to once more sit down and try to edit. I only expected to work for an hour, if that if I could keep myself focused, and instead I ended up working for two hours. Perhaps I didn’t feel very accomplished in the end, perhaps I didn’t feel the excitement to be working again yet, and I didn’t believe at the time that “some progress is better than no progress”, but that was because again I was still dreaming too big.

I’ve been looking at the long run goal for so long instead of looking at the stepping stones that lead me there. I’ve been looking at the completed concordance, and all 43 chapters (including Prologue and Epilogue) read through, slightly edited, noted for paper edits, and all the work for Phase 2 of this stage where I take all my messy notes and organize them to the concordance, and every word of every page in the Word doc that is overwhelming.

I’m psyching myself out when I stare at the project as a whole.

Yes I have a long, long way to go in this novel yet, but don’t they always tell you to stop and smell the roses, to enjoy the journey instead of focusing solely on the destination? Isn’t it easier to see how far you’ve come when you break the journey into parts, like traveling cross country, state to state, city to city.

If I stop thinking about the goals, if I stop making the goals, then I finally stop stressing about making par, about getting to the page or chapter or word count I so-called need to.

Progress is progress, no matter how small or big.

Yes, I want to finish this stage before November, but I don’t have to plan out doing this many chapters and pages every single month. All I truthfully have to do is show up and work, and before I know it…I’ll be farther than I thought I would be. Then suddenly I won’t be worrying so much about par, wondering if I’ll make my goal for the month.

I read somewhere that it is more motivating to make a list of all the things you accomplish, instead of a list of all the things you want to accomplish and never get to cross off half. Watch the positive list grow and grow to build yourself up, and if you so wish, make that goal list anyways and watch it grow smaller and smaller compared to your accomplishment list on steroids so long as you show up to work. At some point the positive one will come to outweigh the ever-growing, daunting list.

So right now I have no true monthly goals anymore. My only intention is to be through this stage of editing before November, and at the rate I’m going now without the stress of meeting quotas, I might even be there before October.

Right now it’s just work for one hour a day at the very least with a friend to help hold myself accountable. (Most days I’m finding I do more than an hour.) It doesn’t matter how many pages I get done, or if I make it through the chapter or not, just work. The hope is the more I do it, the easier it will get, the more habit it will become until I can hold myself to it every day without issue. And the more I work, the further I get every single day.

A week ago I thought I wouldn’t make goal for Camp. A week ago I wrestled with myself over deleting my Camp project and giving up entirely. A week ago I didn’t care. It’s amazing how one week, one day, one conversation can change everything.

Now I here I sit making sure I edit every single day with a writing buddy for at least that one hour. Now here I sit somehow managing to get through almost a chapter a day without even realizing how much progress I’m making. Now here I sit truly wondering if I ever needed to drop my Camp goal at all from just four days of work.

I am over halfway to my original goal of 146 pages, and there is still six days left to Camp NaNo. I am 23 pages away from being one-sixth of the way through my entire book. I am 23 pages away from breaking triple digits in page numbers. I am three chapters away from breaking double digits in chapters.

When I look at it that way, in bits and pieces, only then do I see just how far I’ve gotten already. When I look at how many pages are being added to my concordance, how many notes are being organized and recorded to make the paper edits that much easier, I see just how far I’m getting finally.

Progress is progress, no matter how small or big it may be. Remember that fellow authors, writers, poets, and dreamers. Always remember that and the storm clouds will clear the way for sunshine once more.

Baby Steps

I think I’m trying to bite off more than I can chew lately and that’s one of my major hitches with the whole no follow through problem of mine.

I always try to make plans to get things done. Like I’ll say today I’m doing this, this, this, this and this. Only, this, this, and this doesn’t end up happening. But the other this and this does get done. (That sounded better in my head.) And because I didn’t accomplish more than what I did accomplish, I get discouraged.

I’m beginning to see that as one of my major flaws. Because I have so much to do, I try to do too much at once or I set too high a goal maybe. Still not fully sure but that’s the conclusion I’m coming to lately.

So!

Here’s my new plan:

(I’m not letting myself refer to it as a plan that way I can’t screw it up this time.)

This time around, I’m taking baby steps. Little bitty baby steps.

Instead of giving myself a deadline, I’m just going to try to go with the flow. All those notes I wanted to get done, I’m doing a different way now. (Thank you to my friend Paula for the idea!) I’m not going to finish them all at once now and then jump back into writing. Now I’m going to go back and re-read all 30k words — roughly 5 chapters — I have written for Breaking Point and as I’m reading through it, I’m going to make my notecards of characters, horses, settings, important information, etc. etc.

(Who knows, while I’m doing that I may even end up making notes for editing. But let’s not get ahead of myself here. That’d be pushing it for me. And be distracting.)

Once I have read back through it all and I have those notes, I’m plunging right back in and writing. I’m not going to make all the notes and characters at once. As I go along, I will make the notes and figure my characters out. I write better by just running with it anyways. Outlines are not my friend. And really, why bother with one when my characters have a nasty habit of taking things they way they want to and not the way I want to?

Go figure, right?

That is my hope now. To re-read my story (which will also re-familiarize myself with it) and make the notes as I read through it. While (hopefully) not getting sidetracked by editing errors.

Of course, I still have that mile long to do list as well. And work lately is starting to kick my ass. But hey, I have time. Right?

(Ha, not always. Time likes to sneak up on me and yell “BOO!” in my ear just to make me panic and stress out.)

So those are kind of my new goals. To take things one step at a time, start small with baby steps. You have to learn to walk before you can learn to run. (Or as I like to say, before you can ride a horse.) Now I’m not going to discourage myself right off the bat by saying “let’s see how long I actually stick to this”.

(See, I didn’t say it. I crossed it out.)

This time, I’m going to say I can do this. And I’m going to cross my fingers that the weather starts to cooperate with me so I can get a few other things done as well and get the ball rolling for myself again. (Seriously, my driveway is over an inch thick of ice in some places. And it’s alllllll downhill. I’m literally iced in.) I’ve started too get the ball rolling down the hill, I’m organized again. Now I just got to keep it up. Especially since Camp NaNo is next month.

Like Thomas the Train says: I think I can, I think I can.