Pacing Yourself

Wednesday, September 5, 2018 1 comment

One of the biggest things I've learned from my writing career is to learn how to pace myself.

Everyone works at different speeds and has different circumstances, and even those things change over time. For some they are working at a comfortable and manageable pace, but for others it can be stressful and even overwhelming.

If you fall into the latter category, it might be a good time to step back and consider why this is happening. Has it been happening for years or months? Was it happening when you started your career or did it change over time?

Try to pinpoint the moment or maybe the month it began. Did you decide to take on more work? Double your daily word count? Accept more responsibility like beta reading? Or did you have a real life change like marriage or divorce or having a baby?

It doesn't have to be anything big necessarily, even small changes to our routine can throw off our pace. Usually we can find a way to adapt, but maybe we were unable to go back to the way things used to be. It's not uncommon for people to expect things to fall into place. However, that's not always how life works.

Take for example the daily word count. When I was writing after publishing my debut novel under my real name, I set easy to reach goals for myself. If I wanted to publish by a certain time, I had to determine how many words I could reasonably handle to write daily or every other day to reach that goal. For my last two full-length books, I had a personal aim of 500-1000 words per writing session with the ultimate goal of at least 15,000 words per month. It worked out well for me back then. It doesn't now.

What changed?

My life did. I went from a single go-getter author to a girlfriend, then fiancee, and now wife. Of course I don't regret falling in love, but it did interrupt the pace I had prior.

I fell out of my routine because of my new life with my now husband. Attempts were made to write off and on, but the time I had available was more and more limited. Eventually I was so out of practice that when I did have time to sit and write, my skills were beginning to slip into old habits of poor structure and stilted dialogue. It became extremely frustrating and caused me to dread sitting down to write because even if I could somehow manage to write 500 words, they would likely be deleted the following day. Since I wasn't able to keep a steady flow of words going, I couldn't have a steady release rate of actual books either, which added to my initial frustration.

In recent months I've had to step back and evaluate what I want and how I can achieve it. And the most necessary thing for me was to learn how to pace myself. Can I write 500 words a day? Maybe, but I don't force it if it's not happening. I give myself a pat on the back for getting 100 new words because those are 100 more than yesterday and I'm extremely proud of that fact. I've also taken a look at other aspects to my writing career: social media, author bio, ebook content, etc. There have been things I've put off for weeks/months/years that I can set aside a block of time to accomplish. They may not be words for a book, but they are still necessary parts of the whole picture as an author.

The same can be done for you. Can't write 1000 words a day like you used to? Aim a bit lower for a week with 500 per day, or do 800 a day on weekdays and take weekends off to regroup. Figure out the pace you can handle right now and work your way up to more at a later date. Have you been slacking on your social media accounts? Take half an hour once a week to schedule posts for the following week.

It's all about learning what you can and can't do at this moment, and also how to adjust your routine and free time to accomplish your goals easier. It may take some time to figure it all out, but it's worth it to prevent burnout or even possibly quitting entirely. Take a moment to consider where you're at and what you can manage right now.

Today may be a 100 word day, tomorrow could be 500, but no matter what, take care of you. Being stressed and overwhelmed isn't a good combination and can inhibit productivity.

Pace yourself. Take your time. Learning to adapt to changes can help your career be the success you want it to be.