A misstep is not a failure

So as a new year’s resolution I set myself the goal of writing a thousand words every day. I actually started a little before New Year and hit my goal every day right up until the 14th whereupon I just…didn’t.

 

It wasn’t even a particularly bad day.

I just reached a point in the evening where I needed to go to bed and I hadn’t written anything. This wasn’t even a near miss. If I followed the pattern of every other writing resolution I’ve ever made this would be where one day would turn into a week, and then a month. Self-loathing would have kicked in on missed day three and by the end of that month I’d be ready to drown my sorrows in ice cream and salted fries (goodbye weight loss resolution, I barely knew ye).

And yet this year I woke up on the 15th, churned out 1800 words and felt pretty good about that. It’s still early days of course but I haven’t missed a day since. In fact since the first of January I’ve written a little under 30,000 words. That’s something of a record for me in terms of output and it’s definitely a record in terms of not chucking in the towel when things go wrong.

I have no concrete reason why this year has been different. I wish I could say it was a profound realization that drove me to force myself to keep going, but the realization didn’t turn up until this morning when I suddenly realized that against all probability (and historical record) I hadn’t quit. I think the reason is this: just because I made a mistake doesn’t mean all is lost. I’m a little disappointed I can’t put another X on my Star Wars calendar but it’s hardly anything terrible.

The same reasoning spilled over into the other goal I set for 2017, which is getting 100 rejections by the time the year is up. I got a rejection that was the most formy (I maintain that’s a word despite what my spellchecker and the dictionary tells me) of form letters. I should have been okay with it, after all another notch on the goal post, but for some reason I took that one hard. Yet, despite using up more than my allotted 32 seconds of sulking, the idea that it was merely a misstep and not a failure came back to pull me out of my bad mood. If the manuscript I’m sending out never sells, again, it’s a misstep and not a failure (although it’s a misstep I’d better learn from).

Failure only kicks in properly when I stop trying.

I think this is a good attitude to have to writing, because the road to success is littered with deep pits, rabid bears and bitter opportunists and I’m yet to meet any author who hit it big after rattling off their first manuscript in six weeks (I’m sure they’re out there, I’ve just never met one). There’s a saying in jiu jitsu that a black belt is a white belt that didn’t quit, and I think that’s probably true of writing too.

Like jiu jitsu it comes with a caveat: A black belt is a white belt who didn’t quit, trained regularly, improved on their mistakes, was a bit lucky (not to get permanently injured) and worked really hard. So a professional author is someone who worked hard, learned from their mistakes, was a bit lucky (to find the right market/agent/editor at the right time), sought to get better with everything they wrote and still didn’t quit.

Now I just have to remember all that the next I feel like packing a sad.

Writer ice cream.

I’m not saying there won’t be ice cream though, because ic cream.

New Year, New Wordcount

Welcome to 2017.

Pictured: 2016.

It…uh it looks an awful lot like 2016. Especially in that when I look out at the world I can see that quite a few things are on fire, both literally and figuratively. And I can also say that I’m doing pretty well.

Don’t get me wrong, I am as scared for the future as a pasty faced, middle class straight guy can possibly be. But, with that said, stuff for me has been pretty good. I’m as healthy as I’ve been in the last eighteen months (not a high bar to clear but I’m taking my participation medal and limping home with it). I’m actually writing instead of whining about writing and my day job both pays me money I can use for food and shelter and I actually enjoy doing it.

Not that I don’t occasionally want to hurl my computer out a window but you get that with a lot of jobs.

I actually started on my resolutions a little bit early. Not out of some innate sense of virtue but because I ran out of excuses not to. So thus far the goals of write a thousand words of fiction every day and stop eating like you’re trying to grow another pair of legs’ are going well.

The thousand words is the important one*. Assuming I can keep it, I’ll end the year having written 365,000 words (my high school maths teach would be astounded that I could do that calculation without a calculator or computer). Now, let assume that some of those words are pure hot garbage and I have to delete 65,000 of them…even then I’ve still written enough to fill three decent sized novels and several short stories.

Even if half of them are terrible words I am ashamed to have assembled in spite of good taste and good reason, that’s still two novels worth of half decent, non-shame bearing words.

I’ve seen a lot of 1k per day type plans around, so this is not an original ideas, but my take on The Plan goes something like this (if anyone wants to follow along please be warned that I kind of drift back and forth between first and second person):

  1. Write 1000 words every damn day. Non-fiction blogging, writing for work and social media don’t count. 1000 words of fiction. Every day.
  2. If you miss a day, that day is gone. Your goal is still to write 1000 words per day for every day that remains. No playing catch up (if I allow myself that out I’ll just stop because I’m a terrible human being).
  3. You can write more than 1000 words, but even if you write 5000 words in one day, the next day you still have to write 1000 words of fiction.

That’s it. Three steps. No wriggle room.

I wish i could say I dealt well with subtlety and ambiguity well…and I mostly do in my day to day life, but not when it comes to goal setting/achieving.

Can I do it? Yes.

Will I manage to keep going ’til next year? I have no idea whatsoever. Let’s find out.

 

What are your New Year’s writing resolutions?

 

* OK my health is important too in that I have to be alive to write but that’s a different battle**.

** With a remarkably similar solution. In that I have to do some exercise every day. Doesn’t always have to be hard, can just be a stretch and a walk, but some.

 

 

So I Went To WorldCon

That was kind of amazing really. mid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had a finished book, and another one in the works, but I was still suffering post cancer and I wanted to restart my life as a whole. It was going to need something epic, so I decided it was high time I flew halfway round the world and met some agents, editors and writers.

After a strange conversation with my wife, where she was trying to figure out how to tell me she didn’t want to come with me and I was trying to figure out how to tell her that she might not have much fun at a writing conference the tickets were booked and I found myself at the Kansas City Convention Centre bewildered by the sheer number of people and about to be on the receiving end of some learning.

Lesson one was that it’s well worth being more social than I normally am. After I’d walked around the con for a bit I decided I needed a drink and a moment to sort myself out. There were a whole lot of tables where several hundred people were eating, sleeping, writing and playing Pokemon Go but there were also three small standing tables.

The only people who use standing tables are New Zealanders, Australians and British people.

Seconds after I plonked my bag down by the table and got myself a drink I noticed another man standing at one of the other tables. It was someone I recognized, in fact he was someone I’d spoken to on Twitter quite a bit, but my first instinct was not to bother him…but I’d promised myself I was going to be more social at this thing so I went over and said hi. Ten minutes later I’d met his fiancee and we were all on our way to a panel. They then introduced me to other people, and those people introduced me to still more people.

I made more friends in five days that I have in the last ten years.

I did end up meeting both agents and editors at WorldCon (MidAmericon 2 to be precise), but that’s another post. Far more important than that were the friends I met there, who made me feel like I was part of the wide SFF community for the first time, and who proved to be the best kind of people.

This post doesn’t have all that much of a point, I just wanted to say that I’m happy. I’m writing, and that I’m very, very glad I went. My brain is still pudding from all the travel, but I’m smiling about writing, life, the universe and everything.