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Author's selfie The earth rotates and nothing that I do changes that one bit. It doesn’t matter if I’m busy or not (though I’m usually busy). People talk about ‘falling behind’ and ‘catching up’ as if a race is taking place. There is no race.

I enjoy streaks, accomplishing something day after day. I started doing that when I was a kid. It turned out that my brain liked routine. When I started writing my first novel when I was a teen, I set my sights on six pages per day. Each day I faced the pages in my typewriter (no computer at that point, though it was what they called a word processor at the time and had a tiny one-line screen and could store a few pages of text). That Brother word processor was a big improvement in my mind at the time. It made it easier to catch typos before I told it to type out the page. I enjoyed watching it clatter away, typing up the page. Day after day, I sat down and wrote. I also carried notebooks and wrote stories by hand when I was on breaks at work. I developed that skill early on, making it possible for me to take advantage of a 10-15 minute break, or a 30-60 minute lunch break. I’d sit and scribble quickly across the page.

When you set your goal at something like six pages per day it can be tempting to average that out. “If I do eight pages today, I’ll only have to do four tomorrow.”

The danger lies in the sense that you need to catch up. If you missed a day, suddenly you have twelve pages to write. If your schedule barely covers the six pages, twelve is unlikely to happen. Even if you managed, say eight pages, that leaves you with ten the next day. Eventually, by knocking out a couple extra pages you might ‘catch up’. At the same time, your stress has accumulated over those days of trying to write extra. It’s not sustainable.

Other Examples

This doesn’t happen only with writing. I think it happens with any job. You’re working at capacity and then something happens. Someone is sick or quits. Demand is greater than expected. Expenses higher than expected. Whatever the source, something happens that leaves you ‘behind.’ Bills pile up and so on it goes. If you continue at the same capacity you won’t fall further behind until the next thing happens.

In some of those cases, you don’t have direct control. Your supplier raises prices. If you can’t find another supplier that is willing to sell for less you’ll need to make cuts somewhere.

Don’t do this to yourself!

Why treat yourself that way? Don’t be the bill collector demanding payment. “Well, you know, you’re behind on the words Mr. Williams. And my boss, well, let’s say that she doesn’t take with that sort of thing.”

“I’m good for the words! Really, I am. Give me a chance. The end of the week. I can do it by the end of the week.”

“I’m not unreasonable. It’ll only cost you an extra five hundred. You do that and maybe I can convince her that breaking a finger isn’t necessary this time.”

Be Kind.

I’d like to spend time writing each day, but I don’t have to teach myself a lesson if I don’t make it on a particular day. I can start each day with new eyes, bright, and ready to play. If I’m looking forward to it with enthusiasm and excitement I’m more likely to get writing done.


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This blog post by Ryan M. Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.