Start Small

Even when you’ve been doing something for years, sometimes you have to start over at the beginning.

Baby steps.

As a published author with a full-time day job, I’ve been struggling to keep up this year.  Between extensive edits (I took several days off from work so I could complete The Bloodgate Warrior edits) and two releases on the writing side — and massive projects (e.g. a five-year project finally reaching closure) on the Evil Day Job side — I’ve been fighting mental exhaustion.  No, worse, spiritual exhaustion.

The endless blog hops.  Trying to come up with something new and exciting to say for every single guest post.  Diligently replying to every comment without just saying “thanks.”  Searching for reviews, which means I have to read them, good and bad.  And yes, even lukewarm reviews suck at the creativity, draining it dry.  Worrying about numbers.  Self publishing.  More worrying.  More planning.

Mental.  Exhaustion.

Not conducive for the number one thing a writer must do.  You know, produce WORDS.

The only brand new material I’ve managed to turn out this year is Her Grace’s Stable.  Now that’s sad sad sad.  Yes, I’ve been busy.  I went to my first ever conference.  I had a work trip (haven’t been to the home office in five years).  Three releases counting the zombie one.  It’s been a busy, full, crazy year.

But my pipelines are empty.  Worse, my creative well is absymally dry.

It’s so tempting to jump on a new shiny and fill my well with whatever energy that flits by, but I want to be a WORKING writer.  Someday, I’d like to have a contract before I finish the book.  The only way I’m going to be able to do that is if I stick to things I’ve promised, even if not yet contractually obligated.

So Lord Regret’s Price is on the docket.  Note: he’s been on my list all year.

How to start.  How to get over the hump when there’s nothing in the tank.  How to convince Sig to open up and give me something, anything, other than plot.  Because I need the emotion, whether it’s jealousy or rage, hatred or love, I have to get to the heart of what’s bothering him.

So I started small.  Using Scrivener’s goal tracking stats, I set my daily count to 250 words.  *wince*  Yes, I know that’s ridiculously small.  I gave myself permission to get those words on anything, no matter how bad and ugly they were, as long as it fit in Sig’s folder.  That was the catch.  I could brainstorm plot.  I could write up background.  I even wrote a first-person piece in Gil’s POV and decided he needed a POV in this story (I couldn’t give him a POV in Lady Doctor Wyre because he had too many secrets).  ANYTHING was okay, no matter how bad it was…. As long as it was for Sig’s book.

It felt good to see that bar go green.  And then I could stop, satisfied that I’d finally started.  250 words.  Done.  Goal reached.

Then the next day I got another 250 words.

And the next.

And suddenly I was writing again.  Really writing.  Not editing, not marketing, not tracking stats, not angsting over sales.  WRITING.  I bumped the daily goal to 500.  A pittance of what I can get when the muse is singing and the words are flying in the air, crystal clear and just waiting for me to reach out and grab them.

I’m not there yet, but I can do 500 words in one sitting again.

It’s like a muscle that’s stiff and sore and reluctant, but it is moving.  The muse is warming up.  Since I had Monday and Tuesday off from the EDJ this week, I reset that daily goal a couple of times.  I didn’t get anywhere near the wordage I wanted with errands etc. (Mom has a day off and I magically transform into a personal taxi) but it was a start.

I even set up a spreadsheet just for Oct with several “Sprint” columns across the top with daily and monthly totals.  Even if I can only get 250 words at a time, if I do that a few times each day, the words will start to add up.

I even managed to get up Dark and Early this morning — probably the first time all year.  I only had about 45 minutes, but I managed over 700 words.  Sprint 1 down for the day.

Even better, Lord Regret’s Price has somehow managed to break 5K.

Momentum is everything.  Start small.  Be consistent.  Build momentum.

Who knows.  Maybe Sig will be finished by NaNoWriMo as I originally hoped, and I’ll be in shape to start something new in November.

3 thoughts on “Start Small

  1. You have more discipline than anyone I’ve ever known, Sis. When the well runs dry, you don’t panic. You don’t sit down and cry. You don’t turn up your nose and say, “I didn’t want that stupid well water, anyway. It’s all minerally and gross. I’ll buy bottled, thank you.”

    No, you just spit on your hands, grab a shovel, and climb down into the hole to dig that puppy deeper. You know there’s an aquifer down there somewhere just waiting to be tapped. You know that if you take a shovelful here and a shovelful there, picking your spots, you’ll eventually break through that stubborn bedrock and the sweet, pure crystalline waters will bubble up in a torrent, filling that well until you could stand at the top, bend down, and just drink your fill.

    Amazing. As always, Sis, you so impress me.

  2. You’ll get it back, Joely. I know you will. You have so much inside to share, such a wealth of worlds and stories. If writing is like opening a vein, you’ve been gushing blood these past few years. No wonder you’re feeling a little creatively anemic!

    Starting with 250-500 words a day is great. I’ve fallen down on this journey more times than I can count (I wish I had the amount of drive and tenacity you probably have in your pinkie finger!), and for me the secret to getting back up when even the thought of writing is overwhelming and a little depressing is to start small. That, plus some TLC for your artist (Remember how much she loved those shoes you bought her? Maybe she needs another treat!), and I’m sure you’ll be up to your eyeballs in a story before you know it.

  3. I’m impressed at the level of what you do, the consistency with which you do it, and the ‘never give up, never surrender’ spirit (so I had a thing for Galaxy Quest years ago – the phrase still works).

    More impressed still that you continue to go to the well!

    Lisa

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