Are you setting writing goals? Are you meeting them? Are you coming short? Are you expecting too much of yourself?
I’ve had a lot going on in my life for the past … ohhhh … month. First our kitchen floor fell through. Again. It did this once before maybe three years ago, something about the sink. This time it was the hot water intake for the dishwasher which meant our hot water heater was going non-stop for a good long while. We kept wondering why our electric bill was so high-geez! Good thing we have well water. I couldn’t imagine the water bill!
Anyway, so that put us without a kitchen for two weeks, which was honestly the least of our troubles. A new puppy, who brought mites with it, and another infestation, all within a single 48 hour period quite literally drove me insane. I was sleeping four and five hours a night. Two weeks of that, and I started to hallucinate. Normal, but annoying. And dangerous.
I spent every waking hour I could trying to fix our problems. There was no writing.
Two weeks later, we finished the floor.
Dad and Arlis did 100% of the subflooring, etc, and I did the top flooring. Again, there was no writing, for obvious reasons.
Then, on that very day I went to work to show everyone my pictures of my new floor, and how all my troubles had a light at the end of the tunnel, I came home to a message on my answering machine. My husband’s test results came back. He had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
For those who don’t know, this is a deadly tick-borne illness with potentially life-long organ damage. And when I say deadly, I mean actually something to be afraid of, not the “potentially deadly” the media uses over the measles.
So yeah, he started treatment for that. So far so good. I think it’s been about two weeks since then, and he seems to be OK for now.
I kept getting headaches, something I’m not used to getting. I shrugged them away as stress. I even had to leave work early one day because of them. Turns out, it wasn’t stress. My husband and I sleep in the same bed with the same dogs with the same ticks. See where I’m going with this? My test results came back negative, but I had to miss two days of work and spent the next three I had off in bed. Since the tests take five days to get results, the doc went ahead and started me on doxycycline, the treatment for RMSF. I got better. For the first time in two weeks, I was getting better, not worse. RMSF and Lyme have a lot of false negatives, so I think I had one of them. I never got the giant ring around a bite, so I’m leaning towards RMSF. But it really doesn’t matter. I finished my course of pills yesterday and still feel good, hopefully it will stay that way.
During this month of insanity, I also had, Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur, and most of my author event/story telling days. All rolled into one tidy “betcha can’t do this!” package. I did.
Needless to say, the writing took a back seat. And it should have. There is no reason whatsoever I should have made time for my writing during all of that. Working, holidays, events, putting in a new floor all at once? Let’s not topple the tower.
But now, I can get back into routine, almost sorta. My life is still a hot mess, just not as big. If I try to reach the same goals I set before, I will fail. So, instead of pushing myself too hard, instead of failing, I changed my goals.
See, I have to have goals, much like I have to have routine. If certain things get too out of wack, I get sick, physically sick. So I’ve learned how to manage those things. If I don’t have goals two things happen, and often at once, as if that were somehow possible. The first is that I stress over not getting anything done, like I don’t feel I’ve accomplished anything. The other is not knowing how far to go and therefore not pushing myself when I should. I know, two opposites which somehow exist simultaneously.
So, where am I going with this? If you’re like me, you don’t live in this dream world of stay-at-home writer. You work. A lot. Outside of the home. Your writing takes a backseat to something called responsibility, as it should, and you push yourself harder and harder until it’s way too much. So the way to get it done is not necessarily daily tasks, but weekly tasks. Reasonable weekly tasks.
Let’s say I work Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Saturday. That gives me Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday off. If I try to cram all my writing into the three days I’m off, I burn out and don’t have a life. Let’s set a daily goal of 1000 words. I rarely get 1000 words on the days I work, but I can usually get over 2000 on my days off. So, I set a weekly goal of 5000 words. This gives me Saturday for rest and Sunday for household chores. I may write 200-500 on my work days and 2000-2500 on my days off. Sometimes I write more, but I’d rather have reachable goals than feeling like a constant loser. Even if I only have two days off instead of three, I get those 5000 in. Not too much, not too little.
So there’s the key. Set goals. Set a routine (if that helps. I understand many of you probably flourish on chaos/spur of the moment randomness, but you might want to give routine a couple of weeks’ try. It might surprise you). Set goals you can accomplish. If you find you never reach your goals, lower them. That’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of reality. Of having the maturity to know what you can and can not do. Just because someone else is doing more, doesn’t mean you can or should. It’s OK not to be the best, and btw, stop comparing yourself to other writers!!! If you find the goals easy to reach every week, raise them. It’s OK if you don’t hit the mark every time. Remember all those times you went over the mark when that happens.
And most of all, keep writing!!