When Enough Is Enough

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.

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11 thoughts on “When Enough Is Enough

  1. Jennifer K says:

    That tidbit about stopping in the middle of a scene is one of my favorite gems of writing advice. It’s so much easier to jump right back in – that was a lifesaver for me during NaNoWriMo. Great post!

    • Mine too! I don’t recall who said it first but it’s always stuck with me. I’m doing a lot of note-taking during this first draft and those cues really help to spark my inspiration first thing in the morning when I get back to work.

  2. hesthermay says:

    Great job getting so much done! I love good writing days.

    I am only never disciplined enough to stop in the middle of a scene, but I have heard that advice several times… 🙂

    • Thanks! I spent the afternoon feeling very proud haha but this morning I’m back at it, trying to balance keeping yesterday’s accomplishments in perspective while also pushing myself toward today’s goals. But I understand what you mean, sometimes I can’t leave things hanging, and the need to finish out the entire chapter in one sitting is like this awful itch that won’t go away until I do. I’ve forgotten to eat lunch a few times because of it haha but my goal this year is to achieve more balance when it comes to writing and that means learning when to stop.

  3. Risa Alden says:

    What a great post and love the advice about stopping in the middle of something! Will definitely try that!

    • Thanks! It’s helped me a lot recently as I’m trying to meet a rather ambitious deadline. I just don’t have two hours to waste in the mornings anymore on having doubts or trying to figure out what’s next so stopping right in the middle of something gives me a great jumping off point and it limits the amount of excuses I have not to get back to work.

  4. Very impressive! I agree 100% with ending the day in the middle of a scene. I learned that the hard way, after many days spent staring at the dreaded flashing cursor.

  5. Gwen Stephens says:

    I remember in the 90s when the TV hit Seinfeld went off the air. Nobody could understand why he’d decided to kill it, when their ratings were at an all-time high. Seinfeld defended his decision the way you have above: to avoid burnout and to go out on a high note. Congrats on your impressive word count. Glad you’ve got your mojo back. 🙂

    • Me too! Some days are still more difficult than others, none of the advice I listed above is air tight, but that’s just the way it goes when you’re doing creative work. My main goal right now is just to maintain that moment while avoiding burnout. It’s just so hard to find that perfect balance between progress and the right amount of rest so 4K is definitely not something I’m going to be shooting for every day but it’s nice to know that I can do it when I need to.

  6. Reblogged this on laekanzeakemp and commented:

    *To celebrate my two-year blogging anniversary, I’ll be re-blogging some of my favorite posts from 2014 throughout the month of December*

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