When Writers Stumble

Today’s question: what happens if you can’t meet your writing goals? When good intentions just aren’t enough? When you falter and fail?

My goal was to write every day for six weeks and average 1900 words a day. I’ve been falling slightly short of that average, but it didn’t bother me cause I was still writing every day. I still plowed on and made progress for almost three weeks.

Friday I got smacked with an ear infection. I wrote zero words on Friday and Saturday. Sunday I wrote about a thousand… which is better than nothing, but not enough to make up for the two days prior. At this point, I’m at least a chapter behind where I should be.

Discouraging? Yes. Annoying? Yes. A sign of inevitable doom for this novel? Of course not.

Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, duh, obviously you can keep writing. Who cares if you took two days off?” To which I reply, “I really envy people like you.” Cause it’s hard being a perfectionist, believe me. When I’m on an OCD streak, I’d rather run myself into the ground than give it up (which is probably why I got the ear infection in the first place).

I like my schedules, and I like to maintain them. I had to stab my pride a few times before it would let me take a nap instead of write. If you don’t have problems like this, consider yourself lucky. You’ll probably live a longer, healthier, happier life.

Other people have different types of problems. Maybe after two days of not writing, they think, “Oh, I already messed up my goal. I might as well give up all together. This novel was doomed to begin with.” I don’t think like this, but I can see the appeal. We’re all pretty good at making excuses and taking the easy road, but the stubborn perfectionists don’t have to worry about this quite as much.

So what can any of us do when real life interferes with our plans? We can reevaluate and make new goals.

I looked at my calendar and thought, “Okay, this first draft has to be done by April 2nd cause I’m going out of town on the 3rd.” Then I counted how many days I had left, and I estimated how much book I had left to write. I threw out the 1900 words/day goal and adopted a new goal: one chapter every two days. The chapters will be shorter than I’d planned, and the draft will be rougher… but the book as a whole will get done. Then I’ll fill in the holes during the second draft.

I’m not guilty or regretful… I’m happy. I still love this book—one way or another, I’ll finish it. In the long run, it won’t matter at all that I didn’t make my original goal. Writers stumble all the time; but the ones who succeed are the ones who straighten up and keep going.

Well, that’s all the mushy inspiration I can stomach for one day. But I’m curious to know if anyone else has input to share. What do you do when you fall short of your goals? How do you motivate yourself to keep going til The End?

Have a great week, everyone. I hope it’s free of stumbling blocks.


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