Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Last Stretch

It's 5:07 am here. My guy has already left for work (it's Black Friday and he works in retail; I might see him again sometime after midnight.) The dogs have been walked, the coffee made, the laundry sorted. Mom will be up in about an hour; the kids in about three. I'm planning pancakes for breakfast. We have a bunch of things scheduled for today for which I will be driver, organizer, or damage control supervisor.

I do not want to be here, awake, out of bed, up, working. It's freezing outside so I'm still trying to warm up after walking the dogs. My eyes are burning, my knee is throbbing, my right shoulder is not cooperating at all and my back is trying to decide how much grief it's going to give me. The sofa and the cuddle quilt I keep there look so good I can't go near them.

I'm tired. Thanksgiving was two days of nonstop cooking, partying and quality family time that left me in a partial coma, and I'd like nothing better than to climb back in my nice warm bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep 'til noon (and worse, my family would let me.)

I'm not going back to bed, I'm up and I have at least one entire hour of silence and solitude for myself. No, I'm going to write, and keep writing until someone needs me to do something else. Then I'll do that, make them happy, and then slip away and write a little more. Repeat that about a dozen times, throw in more laundry, more dogs walks, cooking, tidying, laughing, family time, holiday stuff and that will be my day until sometime around midnight, when my guy finally gets home, I feed him and we collapse together in an exhausted heap.

It's a juggling act on any day, having a full time job and a family and a home, and taking care of all of them. The holidays add extra work along with the joy, most of which can be handled with a decent attitude and thoughtful time management. I do think attitude is everything, and if you can start each day with a good one you won't mind getting swamped, derailed, sidetracked or otherwise frustrated.

The body is a bit tougher. No one is getting any younger, especially me, and then in my case there's my constant companion arthritis. But I've had days when I've literally had to crawl out of bed, my hands like cartoon balloon gloves filled with broken glass, my knee swollen and locked up, my shoulder completely immobile and my back trying to form different letters of the alphabet. On those days, which are becoming more frequent, I spend my first hour icing and soaking and medicating and wishing I was the Bionic Woman, so any day I can walk is a very good day.

You NaNoWriMo'ers are in your last week now, and some of you may be fed up with this whole novel-writing idea. You're tired, you have the holidays swamping you and it's so much easier not to try to do this thing right now. I think we all wish we could dash into some beautiful Better Homes & Gardens office with fresh flowers on the desk, a smiling personal assistant manning the phones, and enjoy effortlessly knocking out two or three chapters in an hour and then spend the rest of the day doing as we please.

Even if you're making millions and have all that cool stuff, the reality of writing is that it's hard work that takes a lot of time, thought and effort. The work doesn't always pay you back for your devotion. You might get something good on the page, you might not. You might finish it, you might not. You might sell it, you might not. This might have been a complete waste of your time . . .

It's not. It's never a waste of time to write. Unless you believe your doubt, which always thinks it's a waste of time. Doubt only has one week left to convince you of this, to defeat you, to stop you, to win. It's probably going to work overtime doing just that. And you may tired enough to listen this time.

I can't tell you how well you've done so far. Your novel may be so magnificent that you sell it to the first editor you sub it to. Or it may be so unmagnificent that you feed it to your office shredder on December 1st. But I can guess that it's probably somewhere in between those two extremes. What you've written is probably okay, has potential, but needs some work. Until you've written your way to consistently producing professional-level work, most first draft manuscripts are like that.

And that's the key, the thing your doubt doesn't want you to know. The only way you get better at this is to keep writing. In most cases, the more you write, the more you figure out, the better you refine your process, and the better you improve your chances of getting published. Give up, walk away, and you never get better, you never refine your process, and you never get published -- also something doubt doesn't tell you (doubt likes to hit you with stuff disguised as encouragement, like Take it easy; no one expects you to do this during the holidays or You can write a book sometime next year, when you're not so busy.)

The truth is you're always going to busy, tired, frustrated, distracted, what have you, and sometimes it is a huge emotional drain. You may not love this writing stuff enough to stick with it. God knows there are easier things to do. You may find something else that is more profitable and gives you more immediate satisfaction. It is okay to quit; I won't come to your house and harass you. I don't know where you live -- but doubt does. Oh, doubt knows everything about you, and absolutely will use it to stop you from writing. Doubt lives for nothing else.

If you love it, if you want it, if it has been your dream and you are willing to work for it, keep going. Keep writing. And show doubt what you're really made of.


  1. This almost made me cry. I AM so tired (partial consequence of M.E/C.F.S though!) and doubt IS creeping in, even though I'm less than 10K from the target of NaNoWriMo!

    I have NEVER written this much, over such a short period, so frequently. I am amazed by my progress, and if I can hold out just a little bit longer then I will have achieved something magnificent in one month (that's not say what I haven't already acheived isn't magnificent though!)

    Thank you so much for this Lynn. I really needed it. Now, I'm off to 'keep writing'.


  2. bluebamboo9:22 AM

    I needed this too. Selections of this post are now hand-copied (with attribution :-) ) into certain notebooks I keep all over the house. Plus I've printed the whole thing, highlighted parts and stuck it up on the wall behind my monitor.

    Though it sounds trite, I truly can't thank you enough for this post. So I'll leave that part of my thanks at that, and pay forward the rest.

    Many hugs, much love, and many blessings to you and yours. ♥

  3. I'm about 12K from my NaNo goal. I decided I'd just write and if it's nonsense, so be it, but write every day with a word count in mind and when I forced myself to not read through and try to edit what I'd written, it got oh, so much easier! And that's where my doubt lies. When I go back through and edit what I've just written. So doubt? Go away! I'm going to make the goal this year and whether it's readable or not, I'll at least have defeated doubt this time.

    And most of that is thanks to your encouraging posts. I don't know if I'd have continued on if not for your example. :o)

  4. Your inspiration always seems to come when I need it most. Thank you.

  5. Agony losing 3 days of writing time for the holiday deal. Managed to squeak in less than 1K words the whole time. Frustrated me, even though I enjoyed the family, food and all that goes with Thanksgiving.

    Today everyone leaves. I have 9K to go and five days to do it. Doubt is an evil creature whispering in my ear: you're too tired, you can't write that many words in just a few days, you have all those leaves piling up in the yard that need to be dealt with, you deserve to rest after such a busy week of cleaning, cooking, entertaining, shopping. I was listening, I really was.

    Until reading your post this morning.

    So. Dogs need to be walked, kisses and hugs given as I send everyone off on their merry way, then it's back to NaNo and the Finish Line.

    Thanks for the reminder that yes, I love it, I want it, I AM willing to work for it.

  6. Thanks for reminding me that it's all a game, and how I chose to play it, full out or half-a$$, that I can choose that path with determination and grace.

    BTW -- I choose Full Out, Baby! What's a few 13k words in 5 days with a family and obligations?

  7. "If you love it, if you want it, if it has been your dream and you are willing to work for it, keep going."