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