So, after almost 3 months of not writing, I finally started writing last week. I wanted to go slow, no pressure, just to start getting in the daily routine again. Not writing for so long made me lose that spark that got me in front of the screen every single day. And it’s a scary thing when you have come to rely on something so much and suddenly, it’s gone. Suddenly, my moods were trending toward bad (on good days) and downright homicidal (on bad days). Everyone noticed this. And there was work stress I couldn’t handle without writing, so I was a bag of nerves for awhile. So I said, enough’s enough. I gotta start somehow. Even if it’s just 100 words. Something.
So that’s when it occurred to me that baby steps were the way to go. I’ve had success in the past using them as a method for prodding myself to write. I wrote most of one novel that way — 15 minutes of focused writing a day. Or 300 words a day. Something like that. It’s a low goal that’s almost impossible to fail at. Even with my pain nearly excruciating, I can certainly sit down and bang out 100 words. Most days, I go over. But some days, I get around 100 and that’s totally okay.
This is a tricky time. In the past, I wrote between 800 and 1200 words a day. I was a madwoman, fueled by deadlines and ideas and where the story was taking me. But I’m not a machine. I discovered that after the revision of my debut novel, Fey Touched, in March of last year. I was so fried, both physically and mentally, that I didn’t write for at least 2 months. I started on book 2 in June, but with all the preparation for release and promo and such, there wasn’t much time to really dig into it. I started really rolling on it in September. And I worked long and hard and a bit crazy until my health took a nosedive in February and stopped everything. Now I’m starting from scratch and it’s so important to be patient with yourself.
I took a wonderful, enlightening course recently taught by the wonderful Holly Lisle. It’s How to Motivate Yourself. People who know me well are probably snickering because, hello, I was once the Queen of Motivation. I have a woman inside my head that used to crack that whip and shame me and guilt me into getting stuff done. Oh yeah, I was motivated.
She’s still cracking that whip, but I’ve since started ignoring her….Oops? No, seriously. When I’m unable to do anything, having her screaming at me was going to drive me insane, so I started ignoring her. It worked…too well. Now I’m not the most motivated person on the planet, and while you could say it’s because I’m in pain, I don’t buy it. I can write 100 words a day, pain or no pain.
So I thought, why not? It couldn’t hurt, and maybe I’d learn something. And I did. Boy, it was life-altering. Amazing. I don’t think I can get into details because it was a course I paid to get into, but I believe she’s going to have it again in the future. It’s not just about the superficial. We dig deeper and deeper into the whys and the why nots and the real reasons why we’re not motivated to do this or that. I discovered a scary thing that I still haven’t quite figured out, but it was an amazing thing to learn about myself.
Part of this whole thing is to be kind to yourself. So when I sat down to put together my goals, I went with the 100 words a day thing. I said that I was allowed to go over if I felt up to it, but it wasn’t required. One hundred words and I’m done if I want. This way, if I’m truly not feeling it, I can stop without guilt. Because apparently guilt doesn’t work so well as a motivator. I also told myself that there was no pressure whatsoever. Before all of this, I pressured myself to produce, produce, produce. And while a bit of that is good, too much pressure is just bad. Especially after a long hiatus. So, no pressure. Story-wise, same thing. I’m such a perfectionist that I’ve rewritten the first ten pages of various novels a hundred times. No so with this one. Everything stays. I get the words down, then I worry about them later. I’m only required to write 100 words. That’s it.
It has done wonders for me. I’m happier, I’m less grouchy, and I can take work stress better. But most of all, I’m back to myself, and that’s invaluable right now. I kept feeling like I wasn’t myself. And, of course, I’m deep into a new story, pantsing it my merry way, and all is right with the world. Baby steps rock.