“Quietly strip away the unnecessary,” my yoga teacher texted me the other day, and again I was blown away by how much all the various aspects of my life reflect one another. Because isn’t that what I try to do in my writing? I try to eliminate what’s unnecessary. From my mind. From my sentences. From my plot.
April Camp NaNoWriMo was not as productive as I’d hoped it would be, but it was still a success in that I did generate new material. My goal was 60k new words and I hit 47,267. Which is not bad at all, but then I got in my own way, and towards the end I noticed that counting the words was beginning to hurt me. I was obsessing so much over the quantity that I was losing track of the important things. The language and the characters. The very heart of the story.
This happens occasionally when I focus too much on churning out volume. I get tunnel vision. It becomes counterproductive. A friend had to remind me that word count is not the only measure of productivity, and it’s also not the most reliable.
Even if I’m not writing new sentences, thinking and making notes about my story and characters is important. Tweaking a passage to get the atmosphere right — still productive. Outlining a bit to get out of a plot ditch — usually extremely helpful. I need to stop beating myself up just because the actual word count isn’t going up.
For possibly the first time in my life, (and I think I mentioned this in another blog post,) I am working in earnest on two separate projects simultaneously. My brain is struggling to juggle them but also the back and forth feels surprisingly necessary. When I get stuck on one, I bounce over to the other. Sometimes I wake up dying to play with a specific character, and the next morning all I can think about is the other book.
But there are days when I’m paralyzed by the stress of feeling like I “should” be working only on one specific project for X, Y, and Z reasons. And it’s also probably making me more anxious that being in the middle of two projects means progress feels twice as slow. I’d love to just barrel through to the end of something, but I think this is actually what my brain needs right now.
This morning my agent reminded me to focus on the art. To stop worrying about timing, about what type of book the next one is, all that crap. He said, “I want you to work on whatever it is that makes you most excited to get up and write in the morning.” Which sounds like a very duh sort of statement — but I really needed to hear that today. (Have I mentioned I love him and he’s the absolute best?)
I still hate first drafts.
However, the only way to get past this is to push through it. So here we go.