Plan B Success

Earlier this month I wrote about my plan to finish the first draft of my WIP by the end of this month. Plan B was to not beat myself up if I didn’t get there.

Well, here we are at the end of the month, and the first draft is still incomplete. But here’s what I learned:

1) I am rubbish at estimating. Making up a novel’s worth of story is time-consuming, and so is writing it all down by hand.

6 reams of paper stacked on the floor

I underestimated both the amount of story left and the amount of time necessary to tell it. One week in, I realized that short of some miracle on the time-space continuum, I wasn’t going to finish the novel in August. But:

2) Having a concrete goal ups productivity, whether the goal is reachable or not. Despite being fairly certain I couldn’t reach my goal, I had some record-breaking weeks in terms of how much I managed to create. Personal Best is still an achievement.

231000 - Swimming 400m freestyle S8 Priya Cooper celebrates gold - 3b - 2000 Sydney event photo

3) Doing a big push to the end is something you should plan ahead for – like NaNoWriMo. Picking a month which is already full of Things Happening (including major family events, visitors, and travel) is not a good choice. Full marks for enthusiasm, but Could Do Better on common sense.

4) I am actually capable of focussing on the positive (look how much I wrote!) and not solely on the negative (I failed to meet my goal). I feel healthier in head and heart as a consequence, and not afraid to set goals for myself in the future, because I know I’m not going to knock the stuffing out of myself if I don’t get to the finish line on time.

Plan B: success! and hopefully a success that will continue long after the WIP is finally finished.
So on I run…

US Navy 080809-N-5345W-372 A runner sloshes her way through the final mud pit as she approaches the finish line of the eighth annual Health Net Armed Services YMCA Mud Run at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek

What has life been teaching you lately? Pass it along!


They say that guilt is like pain: it’s there to tell you something’s wrong, so you can fix it. And this is true – or at least it can be. Sometimes, though, you feel guilty for something you really shouldn’t feel guilty for.

Eating, for example. Unless you’re eating in a self-destructive way, you shouldn’t feel guilty for eating. Eating food with more calories than celery is how you fuel your body, not a transgression that requires penitential exercise to exorcise. As it were.

Donut of DOOM

(Speaking of celery, I’ve heard that it takes more energy to consume than you actually receive from it; which suggests it’s only good for three things: carrying dip, making loud crunchy noises, or wearing on your lapel.)

Generally speaking, I avoid food that’s labelled “guilt-free!” because a) I don’t want to fund that kind of thinking, and b) they might as well label the food “taste was not our priority”.

I admit, eating is not something I tend to feel guilty about. But, as the Caped Gooseberry gently pointed out to me the other day, I do tend to set goals or targets for myself and then feel guilty if I don’t meet them.

As guilty, mark you, as I would feel if I had broken some more important rule, such as “Do Not Kick That Puppy”. Now there is nothing wrong with having a moral code (the puppies of the world thank you) but to put everything at the same level lacks perspective.

Weim Pups 001

On the other hand, setting goals can be good, and having targets is about the only way to reach them. The problem is when the goals become, as it were, a measuring stick to beat yourself with.

What to do?

I have set myself the goal of finishing the first full draft of my WIP by the end of the month. I’ve rearranged my daily round so I have two blocks of writing time each day: three hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon; and this has definitely helped kick the productivity into high gear. But there’s still no guarantee that I will reach the end of the story by the end of the month.

So I have to keep reminding myself that it’s ok; that I will have made a huge and pleasing amount of progress even if I don’t write “The End” on the day I desire, and I do not need to feel guilty if I don’t.

The End Book

This goes hand in hand with reminding myself that I haven’t “failed” for the day – or the month – if I start a little late or don’t manage as many pages as the day before. Guilt can be crippling, and that leads to further failure – the genuine failure of giving up altogether.

It’s worth asking yourself, the next time you’re feeling guilty: have I really kicked a puppy? Or is this guilt a false friend who should be shown the door?

Of Goals and the Nature of Infinity

They say everyone needs something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. I’d add a fourth, although it’s sort of a mixture of #1 and #3: something to aim for. Goals.

Not that sort – for someone with my athletic ability, a good game is one in which I don’t catch the ball with my face (I’m good at this, regardless of the sport and whether I’m actually playing it or just happened to be walking past).

I’m practically addicted to setting goals for myself, but they tend to be either unachievable or unachieved. Or both. See Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C. The prosecution rests, m’lud.

My official goal as a full-time writer is 13 manuscript pages a day (2,000 words) or 65 pages a week. My first week as a writer seemed to be spent largely at the vet, and this week I wrote even less (for personal reasons I won’t bore you with).

Let me set the scene for you.
Deborah looks at this week’s page count: six. Nearby is the Caped Gooseberry (M.Sc, Mathematics).

DM: Six pages is something. Six is infinitely times as many as zero. (thinks) Is that right?
CG: Um… (trying to be tactful) it’s difficult to be consistent when multiplying by infinity. (encouragingly) Six is six times as many as one.
DM: What makes you think I’m trying to be consistent? (thinks some more) One is infinitely more than zero.
CG: No, one is one more than zero.
DM: (defensive) One can be infinite, if it’s the right one.
CG: Umm…

Apparently my theoretical mathematics is what is known as “not even wrong”.

Still, something is better than nothing, and next week is a new week (just to get all my clichés in one basket). Today I counted up the pages left unwritten in my current exercise book (the one I bought before Christmas) and decided that my goal for the coming week would be to fill those 42 pages up. It’s less than my original target, but (ulp!) more than I actually wrote in the preceding two weeks combined.

Of course, this is a thinly disguised carrot: if I fill up this book I will then have to go and shop for another one. Mmm, stationery shopping! (It’s not just me, is it?)

A thinly disguised carrot.

Are you a goal-junkie too? Do you actually manage to have reasonable expectations or are you like me, careering wildly from aspiration-induced high to shortfall-induced low? Is there a cure? Your insights welcomed.