I set a goal at the beginning of April to complete 50,000 words of a rewrite of the novel I started last year. I had been stuck in revision, and decided that the best way forward was to start over completely. Whether or not this was a good idea is another story, but it’s coming along well, plot-wise.
That goal of 50,000? Didn’t make it, and I’m okay with that. And that last part, the being okay with it? That’s new. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m all blasé about it. I am a little disappointed, but I am letting myself be okay with 30,000 words. I am forgiving myself.
In the past, I would have beaten myself up by not being done and told myself I’m a loser and not a real writer, and that I would fail at everything in life. In fact, I would have noticed after a week that I was not on pace and I would’ve tried harder to go faster, and when I inevitably failed after a few days, I would have gone into a depressive funk and stopped writing altogether. But I didn’t do that this time. I knew I was behind early in the month (see chart below), but I just kept writing. And I will just keep writing. So I make 50,000 in mid-May (or late May) instead of later April. Oh well.
You will see from this chart that I spent a little bit of time writing most days in April. To complete 50,000 words I would have needed to write 1666 words per day, and, indeed, my initial daily goal was 2000 words, which I hit 3 times in the first 8 days of April. Unfortunately, there were three days during that same stretch when I didn’t write at all. For the rest of the month, I did okay, missing a day here or there, and taking an entire weekend off. I have no excuses but the usual: busy time of semester, grading, travel, etc. Not great excuses, but there they are. I am hoping (nay, planning) to be more productive in May, and to finish the novel, get into revision, get it out to readers and move on to the next thing.
I’m not saying that one shouldn’t take one’s goals seriously. I do think it’s important to make goals and to try hard to keep them. Self-imposed deadlines like this work best when taken seriously, but they can also serve as opportunities for self-flagellation and counterproductive behavior. I used to do that all the time, especially when writing my dissertation, but I am slowly learning that if you just keep moving forward, you’ll get wherever you’re going. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to be kind to yourself.