Let me give you the truth. (And yes, you can handle the truth.) I am frustrated by the lack of progress with my Work In Progress (WIP). Perhaps calling it a SIP–Snail In Progress is more accurate. I suspect one (of the many) reasons for my slogginess is the overwhelmingness of it all. Novels are so stinkin’ big and messy and apt to misbehave at every page turn. You know? I think maybe you do, my ginger snap.
So, I’ve been on high alert for a simple way to progressively make more progress, and I think I may have landed on something–specificity. Lemme explain.
Last week, I was at this training for my day job and one of the speakers (Dr. Don Berwick) used a catchy phrase that sent up a flare in my brain:
“Some is not a number. Soon is not a time.”
Say, that’s, why, that’s true. The doc had something there.
Then! I read this quote by the brilliant and darling Kathryn Erskine recipient of the 2010 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. She said, “I don’t like the word soon because you don’t know when it’s going to sneak up on you and turn into NOW. Or maybe it’ll be the kind of soon that never happens.”
But wait, there’s more.
Then! I listened to this guy I “met” on Facebook. Comedian Tim Minchin addressed a graduating class at the University of Western Australia. (You should listen to the whole thing, ahem, after you finish reading my post, si vous plait. It’s really kind of brilliant.) Anyway, among his many glinty shards of wisdom, Minchin imparted this gem–“I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious.”
Is it just me, or is there a theme emerging?
You see it too? Oh, good.
So, let’s say you (and by you, I mean, I) want to write a middle grade novel. You need at least a good solid 30,000 words. That’s daunting. But instead of diddling (or in my case, doodling), why not passionately dedicate to the pursuit of a short-term goal?
Let’s do the math and get very specific. (I cannot believe I’m going to do math in front of you. The terror.)
You are going to write 30,000 in 6 months.
That equates to 5,000 words a month.
And that means you’d need to pump out about 210 words a day (six days a week).
That’s less than one page of writing a day. It’s specific. It’s possible. (I want to see nodding here.)
It’s not easy, but it’s a lot less scary than staring down the whole 30K.
Am I right? Yes, yes, of course. (Again with some nodding please.)
Instead of being macro-lethargic, I can be micro-ambitious–and reach my goal. I will be declared dauntless! Okay, okay, so it’s not sexy, but a declaration of dauntlessness ain’t nothin’ to poo-poo.
While I say “no” to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each November (sorry, my little pumpkin muffins), I am sure the momentum it creates can be intoxicating. If that kind of specificity works for you, I say huzzah! Ever forward!
Remember, my chicken dumplings, some is not a number. Soon is not a time. Specificity is the ticket to getting things done.
Now that you (and I) know this, let’s become micro-ambitious sometime soon, mm-kay?
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
I’m a former 2007 NaNoWriMo participant who absolutely needed that deadline to give birth to my second YA novel manuscript. I reached the 50,000 words at the end of three weeks, and at five weeks, I’d completed the draft for a total of 63,000 words. On the other hand, it took me several years to finish my first MG/YA novel; I was both a procrastinator and a perfectionist, which explains my usual snail-like pace and why I’m more driven by deadlines. I’m one of those who found the NaNoWriMo experience exhilarating–comparable to the elation that followed the birth of my children. Unfortunately, postpartum-like blues set in, and so I didn’t start revising it until a year later. (It helped to have a hubby who brought me hot tea and a homemade muffin around 11:00 a.m. every morning during that month; I still haven’t lost the extra weight I gained.) BTW, neither of those two manuscripts is published yet…Thanks for your inspiring posts; they are funny, filled with constructive advice, and give me a lift when I’m feeling down!
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Dear, dear Peggy, you make my heart so happy. Thank you for sharing your experience and for your transparency. Here’s to muffins, polished manuscripts and signed contracts! (For both of us!) Cheers! All my very best to you. Ever forward . . .
Great post! When you do the math like that, it does seem doable. I also enjoyed the last quote–I just named my new hamster Frodo. The last one was Gandalf.
Welcome Frodo to the Hammelef Home. I love wee critters like hamsters. Thank you for visiting. I hope you are doing well. I haven’t seen your sweet face in ages!
Perfectly micro-timed for little ol’ me, Ms. Vicky. Thank you.
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Wonderful! Ever forward, Carrie. ❤
A good reminder to all of us who spend our time writing!
Thank you for your wise words, Kathy. My best to you!
Well, yes. Exactly. I look at it as celebrating small victories. Every marathon runner crossed the finish line by putting one foot in front of the other.
That’s a great analogy, Ann. And I bet they never stopped to worry about their socks. 🙂