There was something that came to me today that I thought would really relate to writing. And now that I think about it, it does.
Today I took my last two midterms for the semester (Yay!). For my psychology course, we had 100 minutes to answer 125 questions. The teachers always tell us to use our time wisely because we don’t want to run out in the middle of the test. But we also don’t want to go too fast and make silly mistakes. Do you see where I am going with this?
I finished my exam with 40 minutes to spare, 40 minutes to go back and check over things. But as soon as I realized how much time I had left, I kind of freaked out.
Think about it. That means I took a little more than thirty seconds on each question. I must have made a bunch of mistakes. Everyone else was still working. But I had those last minutes to go back and finish all of those mistakes.
This actually worked out very well for me. I went back over my answers, only found a few mistakes that I needed to change, and bubbled in all my answers. I think I got a pretty good grade (let’s hope I’m not jinxing it or something).
Here’s where it relates to writing. NaNoWriMo is amazing. It’s all about dedicating yourself to your writing for an entire month, setting up realistic goals, challenging yourself, and getting that story in your head down onto paper. It’s also moving really fast and you don’t have time to pause or check over things along the way. This is kind of like my first round of going through the questions, where I didn’t look back for anything. I just circled all the answers.
Then we get to those months after NaNoWriMo. The editing months. This is where we really need to start prioritizing our time. During our first drafts it was easy enough to get ourselves to work. It was all fresh and new. The problem with tests is when you get down to those last 40 minutes and you’re done, you really don’t feel like going back and looking over it. Doing the entire thing over again. This is the editing part of the novel writing process.
You just don’t feel like going back and writing the whole novel over again.
It’s really hard to realize that writing a novel doesn’t mean that you write a novel. It means that you write a novel at least five or six or twenty times.
So let’s focus on time. Today I was also in a waiting room. I know, my day was really exciting and you want to hear all about it. Sorry, but it relates.
So I was in a waiting room. And I thought to myself about how, if I had my laptop, I could be editing. I could be getting that one chapter that makes me cringe out of my novel so I can put something better there. It’s like changing a multiple choice answer on the test, but a lot more complicated. Because there are more options than a, b, c, d, or e.
Think about all of those little scraps of time you have throughout the day. I know you don’t think you have them, but they are there. And if they aren’t, it’s because you are already taking advantage of them, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be adjusted.
Waiting rooms. Lunch breaks. Waiting for your leftovers to heat up in the microwave (people like us don’t have time to make real food). Long car rides (if you aren’t the one driving). When you could be doing something other than twitter. When you are sleeping in on the weekends. When you stare at the wall so you don’t have to write (we all have those days). When you stare at the wall because you can’t write (we all have those days too).
When you are watching Netflix. Those marathons of Grey’s Anatomy aren’t the only thing you need to get done today (that’s all I’ve been doing for the last four hours).
There are so many ways to get time for this kind of thing. We always think that we are too busy. Sometimes we are. But a lot of the time you are just being lazy. You are just putting things that aren’t as important in front of your work. It took me two years to write my first book because I kept putting it off to the next day or the next week or the next month. Because I wanted to do other things.
And you know what can happen when you write a whole draft with huge gaps of time in between it? It can get off track. And more problems can arise. And you can get lazier. This is why I decided not to publish that book. I speak from experience.
At school, the test I took was timed. Writing can be timed if you have a deadline, if you have a goal set, or if you are struggling to meet the demands of NaNoWriMo. It can be timed, but a lot of the time it isn’t. And when it isn’t, you always think that you can put it off until later. Take off some time. Take a break. Some people can do that, but for me it never worked. Taking off time means I’m going to get off track.
There are so many places and times that you could write if you really wanted to. Don’t ever say that you don’t have time to write on your book this month or this year. You do. Even if it is only a thousand or a hundred or ten words a day, you can do it. One sentence a day, even. A paragraph. Wake up or go to bed twenty minutes earlier or later. Have a working lunch break. Cancel this month’s Netflix subscription. Get rid of the temptation.
And let’s all thank the fact that our writing isn’t in a timed midterm. Editing is one of those time things. You can’t rush it because the whole point is to find and fix silly mistakes, not make more of them. Don’t rush through the editing because it sucks. It does suck. Believe me, I know it does. But we have to keep checking our answers in case we did happen to make something go wrong the first twenty two times we rewrote it.
And then we devote another entire draft to fixing it. Don’t you love this process?
So what is today’s challenge for you? what am I saying with all of this? Here’s the scoop: I want you to take a step back and look at your writing process. Iron out the wrinkles and fix the way you use your time when writing.
Be aware of the amount of time you are giving yourself. Push yourself but don’t give yourself impossible goals. Make it so you need to write every day to keep up, and you’ll find yourself needing to keep going. Don’t give up, even for a week or two or three. Taking breaks is okay between drafts or novels, but don’t just stop in the middle. Start something with the intention to finish it, and then do just that.
And if you just can’t find the inspiration? Who cares. You’re writing a novel. A novel. You wouldn’t be writing this novel if you didn’t want to finish it. You wouldn’t be writing if you didn’t have a story to tell. Find inspiration in yourself and challenge yourself to keep going. Tell yourself to keep going. Try to be an inspiration to others.
Or you could go to one of my more… inspiration linked posts. But if you are at the point of giving up, you need to get out the big guns. Yeah, I’m talking that pep talk you wrote yourself.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!