A new challenge has arrived.
Starting this week, I have a new initiative for myself and for this blog: Weekly Words. Basically, every week I have a word-goal that I aim to meet, and at the end of that week – Saturdays, which will be my day off – I post up a summary and rant a bit about it.
From Sunday through to Friday, I write. I am giving myself a “sick day” every week, which is just a day where I don’t have to write towards my word-goal, which is flexible because stuff happens. The Saturday is fixed because it’s the end of the working week, so it’s a nice easy way to cap off my week’s efforts, and because structure is important when you’re trying to learn a new habit, which is exactly what I’m doing here. My word-goal every week is going to be 10k words, and I’m going to count all writing that I do, just to start with, to gauge my capacity to write in terms of volume, in a very general sense. I’ll keep doing that until probably March 12th, unless I stop before that, at which point I’ll narrow it down to only include writing done for projects that I have at least some intention of submitting for publishing.
There are a few reasons for me doing this, but the biggest one is that this year feels like my absolute last chance to make of myself the things that I want to, to put in motion the wheels I want turning. Last year was a year off for mental well-being. This year is a year on, for mental well-being.
This year is the last opportunity like this I’m likely to ever get, where I have a ton of free time and thus ample opportunity to try and see what I can do with myself when I’m not obligated to spend my time doing other things, like working, or studying, or whatever the future may bring. I said at the start of the year that I needed to finish a book this year, and this is how I’m going to do it. I need to finish a book this year because from this year on, I need to finish a book every year. I need to be working at my writing like a job.
I have said in the past that, since I’m not getting paid for the writing I’m doing, I may as well just write to my own schedule. That was fine until this year, when I was seized by a sense of urgency that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. I saw my life up until this point and weighed it against the goals I’ve set for myself, and I felt angry. In a good way, though. A motivating anger, and without bitterness or spite or regret. I just recognise now that I can’t sustain this kind of attitude, where I say I want to do X or Y and then don’t push myself at all to follow through. I’ve had to deal with anxiety and depression for years, and I am not going to say that I could have tried harder to push through and reach my goals, because honestly I’m amazed I’ve been as productive as I have in all the time these conditions have affected me.
Which is the other main reason for doing this. I am doing a weekly word-goal instead of daily, and the reason for this is because the other day, I realised that one of the reasons I feel so stuck in life so often is because I don’t allow myself to look back far enough, with a broad enough scope of all the things I’ve actually done. I tend to focus on the moment too much when I’m looking for a sense of purpose in my life, and evidence for it, which I now realise is why I have these feelings of being unproductive, hopeless, aimless, etc. I have to broaden my perspective, and looking back at a week’s worth of work instead of just what I did on X day is a good way to do that.
I’ll probably also do a Monthly Words on the first Saturday of each month, tallying up the past month’s word-count and progress made, to further facilitate this initiative of expanding my perspective. I feel that this is the kind of perspective that would have allowed me to more appreciate how much I accomplished by finishing my masters, or even my shitty YA werewolf novel. I need to feel it when I accomplish something, to believe it, and I think that by setting myself up to be judging my progress over a length of time longer than a day, I’ve got a better chance of getting to that point than I am doing what I’m doing right now.
This is all stuff I’ve thought of doing, and tried to do, in the past, but I’ve got to make it work this time. Life is finite. This hit me the other day, going back to campus to meet my bestie for lunch; I get one life, and it gets filled with the things it gets filled with, nothing more. So I need to fill it with things that I want to see in it. Basic generic wisdom nuggets, yes, but they only matter if you understand them, and only now am I beginning to.
She was the one who suggested to me that I treat writing like a job, something else I’ve thought about and half-heartedly tried to do. But I haven’t had this sense of finality before to fuel it. This year is it. I don’t get another opportunity like this, most likely. This kind of pressure would have made me despair in the past, but I think because it does feel so final, it’s actually invigorating me. I have to use this opportunity, yes, but I also feel that I can use it. And that’s something new for me.
And the reason I’m doing this on my blog is because, well, I have this blog, I may as well use it for something. Also, accountability works for me, specifically external accountability. I don’t hold myself accountable very well; that’s why I will always swear by the value of having a writing-buddy, whether you’re co-writing or just writing together, because it’s free accountability and support when you need it – and us writers definitely need it.
I don’t want to be a Writer anymore, but I do want to write, and it occurs to me that, however naive it may have been for me to make it my life’s purpose at age 13 to become an author for a living, that’s actually the thing I’ve set myself up to do more than anything else. So this is kind of my last golden opportunity to make it work.
After this year, if it hasn’t worked out – well, let me back up. I do not expect to end this year as a published and successful author. I expect to end this year with a manuscript that I am prepared to either submit to agents, or revise in preparation for submitting to agents. That’s it “working out” for me. After that, I’ll have to deal with either going back to uni and spending a lot of time on my PhD, tutoring and writing articles for publication in academic journals when I can, or venturing into the fabled Real World and getting a Job. Either way, my time will be spoken for in a way that it isn’t right now, and I can’t stand the thought of letting this opportunity go to waste. That’s new for me, too. I tend to take a lot of my opportunities and privileges for granted. This is a strange kind of privilege, not having to work, because it’s due to the fact that I’m sick and unable to. So perhaps it’s not really a privilege. But it is an opportunity, and I need to take it. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself if I don’t.
So, Weekly Words it is. 10k a week, one day off, one sick day. Monthly reports, and probably annual reports as well. Not sure if I’m going to post much outside of that anymore. I’ve had very few ideas for this blog lately, and I think I’m happy to just let that stand, and use this blog for what I need it for – which, at the moment, is a form of accountability, as much as if not more than a way to track my progress and keep my head in the game.
This needs to work. It may work in ways I can’t predict; it may work exactly as intended, but it needs to work. I need to make it work.
I guess it’s time to get writing.