Out of Holiday Mode

I love the holidays, but this year I did find that something happened to my brain during holiday season: work (or at least any meaningful work-type progress) became optional.

Actually, almost everything became optional. Cleaning: optional. Exercise: optional. Finishing a chapter: optional. It’s a much nicer feeling than not doing things because you don’t have the energy, but it ends up in a similar place: it takes a larger-than-usual mental effort to get any of these things done. Because after all, it’s not mandatory, so I might as well relax.

Relaxing is good, of course–in general, I could stand to be a lot less stressed about things. But there has to be some kind of medium between holiday laziness and feverish anxiety.

So that’s something for me to look for this January, as I step out of holiday mode: a way to get things done without being excessively stressed. Some of that, I suspect, has to do with focus. January is a time when a lot of us focus on goals, hopes, and resolutions. And that’s great–not to mention probably necessary, at times. But one thing I’ve found that’s helpful for my mental state is to take note of the things I do accomplish, not just the things I still want to do, or the things I didn’t get to. Otherwise, it’s too easy to feel like I never get anything done. And that makes it kind of hard to relax. (Not to mention hard to get anything done in the future. In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!”)

In the meantime, plans for the blog this year… I don’t know. I didn’t think up anything, because coming up with a 2016 blogging schedule was optional. My only vague thought was that I would keep blogging on Mondays, so I’ll probably try to stick with that. Maybe add a post on Fridays, if I feel like talking about writing. The idea of blogging about certain things on certain days still appeals to me, but considering that the last time I tried to hold myself to that, I freaked out, I’m not making any promises. For now, I’m willing to just see what happens, and enjoy a little of that residual holiday blitheness.

To anyone reading this: I hope 2016 is off to a good start for you! And that you all make some progress toward being healthier, both this month and afterwards.

Just Finish Something

I haven’t done NaNoWriMo since I was in high school, when I wrote a novel that I have never since felt compelled to revisit. (What was it even about? Blah, blah, something about ships.) I like the idea of NaNoWriMo, and I’ve definitely written novels in a month (or less) since then. That month just doesn’t seem to be November, most times. I think it’s something about being told “you must start writing on November 1st, and only on November 1st.” It pretty much guarantees I’m going to start writing before then.

But the spirit of NaNoWriMo isn’t a bad thing. NaNoWriMo forces you to hunker down and focus, to push past the nitpicking inner editor’s voice and get words on the page. It forces you to finish something. All of that is good and useful.

So that’s my NaNoWriMo goal: not to write 50,000 words, but to finish something. It could be the research for my big WIP. It could be the first draft of my other WIP. It could be the short story I’ve been promising myself I would write for ages and ages. I don’t care, as long as something gets done.

… this blog post counts, right?

Seriously, now, back to work. And good luck to everyone tackling the NaNoWriMo challenge!

Unrealistic Goals

I set a lot of them. If you want to see my take on unrealistic vs. realistic goals and staying sane, skip to the end of the post. ThereĀ is a point to this. I know because I tripped over it as I was finishing up.

As for why I’m thinking of unrealistic goals today: no, it’s not because of my plan to post here twice a week, thank you very much. That would normally be doable (I think). But this week my words have been going into story, with good reason. I’m trying to finish a novel.

“Didn’t you just finish a novel draft?” you might very reasonably ask. And yes, I did. But it’s usually good to take some time off between drafts, and I’m using that time to work on something else.

It started off innocently enough. The draft was partially done, since it had been a fun “work on it whenever I feel like it” project for a while. All I had to do was tidy it up and add some stuff. (*Cough.* Tens of thousands of words.) I wanted to do this in a week, which was a bit of a stretch, but manageable.

I procrastinated. A lot. Suddenly I was facing the weekend, with my draft maybe slightly over halfway done. “More of a stretch, but still manageable,” I figured. When things are going really well, I can write over 10,000 words a day, so I can finish a novel in a week. But before you hate me, I don’t mean I can blithely knock out 15,000 words a day, sitting at my computer with a glass of wine held lazily in one hand. I mean if I do nothing but type, giggle maniacally, and type some more–if I barricade myself in the house, barely stop to eat, and essentially live in the world of my story, I can write quite a lot.

There is absolutely a degree of burnout from writing that much that quickly, and it’s not as if it produces first drafts perfect enough to make unicorns cry. But I still love those crazy weeks, when I can get them. Every writer is different, and I’m extremely grateful to be the kind of writer I am. Most of the time.

This was not a crazy writing week. Which was fine. I figured I could finish the draft next week instead. There was no rush.

Then something came up, and now all of a sudden my brain is saying, “No. This weekend.”

So here’s my unrealistic goal list for Saturday and Sunday.

  1. Finish novel draft. Never mind that I just drew up a new outline last night/early this morning, and I’m only about 10,000 words into the current version. Some of the stuff from the old draft is still usable. I can totally do this.
  2. Write blog post. (Ha! Take that, goal list.)
  3. Tumblr post. Which probably means drawing something. Or finding something in the sketchbook that I don’t mind posting.
  4. Actually leave the house.

There’s a part of my brain that’sĀ  done some math and determined that there are not enough hours for me to accomplish all these goals. But the odd thing is that even though I can see those calculations, the rest of my brain remains optimistic about my chances. I’m not even worried enough to rush. In fact, I may take a nap.

Now would be the time to say something about the importance of setting realistic goals, I guess. And it is important. Constant failure is extremely depressing. A lot of times, I consciously pare down my goals to a realistic level. But that can be depressing, too–seeing a giant goal turn into something “realistic.” There’s no adrenaline connected to it, no ambition. Maybe because to me, “realistic” means “something I know I can accomplish,” and how much triumph can I really squeeze out of that?

So here’s to the importance of unrealistic goals. I think part of the key to setting unrealistic goals and being happy with the results is just that: knowing they’re unrealistic, and celebrating whatever progress you make toward achieving them. Not fake celebrating, either. Genuinely celebrating that you did something awesome.

And if you reach the goal, so much the better.

With that, I’m off to finish the novel.