I had another good day today, on the verge of great, though I don’t want to jinx it. But for the first time in a long time I actually had to force myself to step away from the laptop. I reached 4,000 words in just five hours, something I don’t remember having ever done before and by the end of it I didn’t want to stop. Sure I was exhausted but in the midst of that mental strain was this strange euphoria. Almost like a runner’s high–which I would know absolutely nothing about because, well, screw that. But it was just the most encouraging fatigue, the kind that says, “I did something important.”
Maybe that was the real reason I didn’t want to stop writing, because every word that came out of me felt important. Not perfect and certainly not easy but important. I made some huge breakthroughs in the past couple of days and I really think I owe it to this commitment I’ve made to write without question and without doubt and fear. And I’m doing it and it feels amazing.
So then why did I force myself to step away?
Reason One: To Maintain Momentum
Some really great writing advice that I’ve never forgotten was to always finish the day right in the middle of something whether that be a scene or a conversation or a chapter. Nothing wards off writer’s block like being able to pick up the next day right where you left off. Because let’s face it. Isn’t that where most of us get stuck? Beginnings are hard and intimidating and for some reason that pressure is always the most crippling. Which is why so many of us never do. Instead we procrastinate and feel guilty and then we go eat our weight in peanut butter cups because once again we have failed to live up to our full potential which means that our stories will never live up to their full potential. But if we started each day knowing exactly where our story was heading, well then we’ve already won half the battle and all that’s left to do is keeping going.
Reason Two: To Avoid Burn out
4,000 words is A LOT! My sweet spot is closer to 2K a day but recently I’ve been stretching myself to reach a deadline and even though I’m making progress at lightning speed this pace also makes me much more susceptible to burn out. I’ve been burned out before, quite a few times actually, and the thing that frustrates me the most about it is how long it takes to recover. There is a natural ebb and flow to every creative process: a time to push ourselves and a time to rest. But when we have deadlines or obligations or when we feel ourselves being driven by guilt or greed it can be hard to make ourselves stop. But we have to. For our health, for our peace of mind, and for our relationships. Real life matters just as much as our dreams and if we neglect it for too long either those things will disappear or we will. Maybe both. So learn to disconnect when you have to and stop constantly living in anticipation of the future. It will actually make you more productive in the long run.
Reason Three: To Recuperate and Celebrate
Let me say it again: 4,000 words is A LOT! And we all have our limits, that word count we’re all stretching ourselves toward. Some of you might not bat an eye at anything under 5K and some of might struggle just to reach 1. But the point is, when we actually manage to meet those goals, our first thought should not constantly be, “Okay, now a thousand more.” I’m not saying we shouldn’t continue to push ourselves in a healthy, constructive way. But the mentality of never being satisfied is a toxic one, especially for Creatives. Instead we should celebrate our victories and we should learn to take a moment and take pride in our accomplishments. As writers we are the workhorse, we are the machine and we need the proper maintenance to continue functioning at optimal level. This means taking care of our health mentally, physically, and spiritually but in essence what it all boils down to is being kind to ourselves. And part of being kind to ourselves is acknowledging that our best is enough. That the work we do is enough. That we are enough. So celebrate your hard work because regardless of how big or how small, how much or how little, as long as it is your best then it is absolutely enough.