Shifting priorities: sacrificing television, sex, and self-esteem to pursue your writing dreamsI've been enjoying all the smart, tough talk here about goals and late starts and being resolute. It's all so inspiring, and I need all the inspiration I can get. I'm a black hole for inspiration--I suck it all in, and nothing escapes the crushing blackness. Nothing.
Like many of you, I've got targets I'm aiming at. Unlike many of you, I don't spend time making lists. Why waste all that paper and ink listing goals when I can conserve energy and wallow in guilt ahead of schedule? You may think I have a bad attitude. Not true--I've simply made peace with my shortcomings and moved on to new, more interesting bad choices. At least I'm making progress.
Years ago, I told myself that if I had time to watch television at night, I had time to write. I rose from my comfy sofa, marched into my office space, and got to work. As a result of that decision, I haven't watched television for years--and I've carved out a big chunk of time for surfing the Internet. But I'm sure there are those who may decide to use former television viewing time to work on their manuscripts.
A wise writer once told me a page a day is a book a year. Repeating that mantra as I crawled into bed, night after night--without having produced so much as a paragraph--was making me gain weight, so I stopped. Now I share it with everyone else. (Just because I don't pay attention doesn't mean it's not good advice.) A page a day is a book a year. Go ahead--take it. It's yours.
Now that you've freed up some former television viewing time and adopted a guilt-inducing mantra, you're ready to start on your book. I find that opening a new document and typing Chapter One works well. So does taking a break and heading out for a drive-thru blended mocha with one shot of vanilla, which is usually my next move.
And then comes the hard part: the daily quota. I figured out years ago that I can comfortably produce about five pages a day. So when I'm slogging my way through the rough draft stage, I tell myself I can't go to bed until I've written five pages. They don't have to be good pages; they just have to be done.
It's embarrassing to admit how many times I've still been sitting here, long after midnight, squirming in this uncomfortable chair and feeling sorry for myself as I struggled to get those five pages finished. (My husband can probably tell you how many nights I've sat here long after he's gone to bed.) But the dread of having to produce ten pages to meet a deadline is worse than the self pity, so I stick it out. And then I treat myself to a drive-thru mocha and a croissant for breakfast.
Funny thing about producing a certain quota of pages each day--no matter how much squirming is involved--they start to add up. Suddenly, I've got 100 pages. And then 200. Woo-hoo! And what's even better: I've got a story here! Now that The End is in sight, I can relax and head in that general direction. Those last pages never seem as tough as the first ones.
Once again I've successfully suckered, bribed, and browbeaten myself into getting started. It's time to head out to celebrate at the drive-thru mocha place. Ahhh. Romance novels aren't the only things that have happy endings.
Terry McLaughlin used these same simple, easy-to-follow techniques to create her current release, A Perfect Stranger.