The Final Stretch

I can always tell when I need to wrap up a project as quickly as possible… that is, when I’m about to reach my limit for sustained focus. I know this because I find myself fascinated by things I usually have little interest in.  Examples:

1.  I don’t watch TV, and I rarely watch movies. Yet last week, I kept thinking of all the movies I suddenly wanted to see.

2.  I love writing YA, and I know I should specialize in this genre until I’m an established author. But this past weekend, I plotted a MG novel in my head. I even had an idea for a children’s picture book! I felt like someone had hijacked my brain.

3.  I’m not finished with THE RIVER’S EDGE, but I’m already getting ideas for a possible sequel. A couple days ago, I jotted down a partial playlist for the sequel.  *head meet palm*

4.  I’ve actually been tempted to spring clean. That pretty much says it all.

Any possible distraction is likely to sidetrack me right now. I still love THE RIVER’S EDGE, and I’m excited about finishing it. But the longer it takes, the harder it gets.

To put this into perspective, imagine you’re a student. The teacher assigns you homework, but it’s not something you can finish in one night. You have to work on the same homework every night—two or three hours a night—for 42 days straight. The worst part:  at the end of the 42 days, the project still won’t be done. You’ll have to go back over every word and make it better. Repeat entire process as many times as necessary, until the teacher gives you an A+. But even with the good grade on the project, you still might not pass the class.

Writing. Gotta love it.

This is the kind of thing I do for fun, with no paycheck to motivate me. The only obligation I feel is to myself. I thrive on annoying stubbornness and a hardheaded desire to not give up.

I also love the sense of accomplishment I get when I finish a draft. Right now, it’s the only thing that keeps me going. Once I finish and take a break from it, I’ll come back to start the second draft, feeling refreshed and excited again.

I know some authors write Monday through Friday and take weekends off; or if they have another full-time job, maybe they only write on weekends. I’m curious to know if the days off keep them from burning out in the long run. In other words: instead of writing every day for six weeks, would it be easier to write M-F for eight weeks?

Or maybe writing every day isn’t the problem at all—maybe it’s the high word count. I read about a lady who wrote three hundred words every day. If I wrote at that pace for an 80,000-word novel, it would take me 266 days (almost nine months, the length of a pregnancy!) to finish the first draft. Which sounds horrendous… but maybe you wouldn’t get burnt out that way. And if  you only have time for three hundred words a day, you do what you can, right? Anything is better than nothing!

I’d like to think that under ideal circumstances, I would be done by now. If I hadn’t struggled with sickness, a sleep-deprived child, and a husband whose deadline is much more important than my own, maybe I could’ve averaged more words a day. But I can’t know for sure, and it’s no use speculating what might have been. All I can do now is keep my eyes on the goal and stumble onward. By the time I collapse in the end zone, I probably won’t want to clean, watch movies, or write anything at all. I’ll just want to sleep.

So here are my questions for you:  how do you know when you’ve reached your brain capacity? What tricks do you use to go beyond your limit? And how do you keep from getting burnt out during long writing projects?

Have a great week, everyone!


2 thoughts on “The Final Stretch

  1. I’ve never written a long project, as you know, but I’ve maintained 500 words a day for the last few days…I’m going to start posting on that blog again soon.

    I’m sure your focus will be fine. Don’t you think it’s interesting that you say “my husband’s project is more important”? Perhaps it’s more important for the immediate financial future, but what about the long term happiness of our families?

  2. Hey, congrats on the 500 words/day habit! That’s great! Nonfiction, fiction, or the next bestselling travel book? 🙂 And let me know when you start blogging again so I can stop by and read!

    At this point, I think my husband’s project is more important… since he has to defend his thesis (checks calendar) in twelve days. And if he doesn’t complete it to the satisfaction of his committee, he won’t graduate in May. On the other hand, if I don’t complete my novel in twelve days… absolutely nothing bad happens to anyone. 🙂 But if I could never complete it, that would certainly affect my long term happiness. Right now it’s just a matter of deadlines; mine is self-imposed, whereas his is real. Once he graduates and finds a permanent job, that should create more writing time for me, hopefully. But thanks for watching out for me, lady! *hugs*

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