I came to a realization, this week just past. It began as a niggling sense of pressure, even when I was relaxed. It showed itself by the mild irritation I felt even when I had completed a full day of work, with all priorities handled. It manifested via constant tweaks to my 2019 weekly schedule, because I simply wasn’t satisfied with how it was working.
The realization was: I’m trying to squeeze too much writing into my time.
Yes, I know. Writing more is the whole point of this site. Write More has been my mantra for years and years. I love writing and wish I could fit a shit ton more of it into my time, because there’s so many stories still to be written.
The key words in that wishful thinking is “fit”.
I can’t fit some of my spare time writing into my schedule. Trying to get it in there by hook or by crook was making me cranky, and that’s just the short term outcome.
So I made the decision to cut all Must-Do spare time writing from my expectations and my schedule. That means the new books under the pen name are gone. So has the pen name been removed.
I spent most of 2018 with my foot on the gas, pedal to the floor, trying to get six weeks ahead on everything, so I could have a vacation at the end of it. I got there. I had my vacation, which gave me insight into how much the year of Mach-10-with-my-hair-on-fire had impacted me.
This year, I am deliberately dropping the pace down. I will settle for 13 novels, and whatever fun stuff I might happen to squeeze in, here and there. If no fun stuff happens, no problems.
I realize you’re probably rolling your eyes at my “settling” for 13 novels, but that really is a stroll for me. After 2018, a year of easy writing is needed.
As soon as I did that–cut the schedule, cleared out the Must-Do spare time writing–I could feel my skull and my skin relaxing. My shoulders went down.
Writing Speed Is A Muscle
The faster you try to write, the faster you will write, even when you’re not trying. Like excess poundage, your body and mind get used to the new speed and the new pace of delivery, so dropping back a bit feels like a doddle. In 2014, I would have found 13 books for the year a real stretch.
Next year, or perhaps even later this year, if I think I’m ready, I’ll drop down a gear, floor the pedal and stretch myself once more. And once that burst is over, my “normal” output may well be higher than it is now.
But for now, I’m aiming to write less, at a pace that doesn’t require me to concentrate 100% of the time to make sure I don’t come off the rails. Instead, I will use that energy to focus on a couple other business priorities. Sometimes, for the sake of long term gains, it’s worth it.
Are you pushing too hard? Would dropping back your pace of wordage and production serve you, in the long run? It never serves in the short term–but writing fiction is a long term career and you need to extend your focus farther out.
Also be wary of leaping on this idea as a way to not write as much as you could, or at all. I’m not talking about cutting your writing time in half just because it gets you off the hook. I’m suggesting that, if you have been writing at full speed for a long time, and maximizing your output any way you can, dropping back to a slightly slower pace may have benefits. Just as a complete vacation away from all writing helped me this year, a slower pace will also allow me to renew and restore my creativity and motivation, and could help you, too.