I have three boys, two tomboys, and have been raised in a family of Texas (American) football fanatics, so let me throw this one at you in sports terms.
It’s fourth and goal, 10 seconds on the clock, and twenty yards to the end zone. A field goal would tie the game and knock it into overtime while a touchdown would end it right there…so what do you do? Both are respectable choices and come with their own risks. You can take the field goal and run the risk of losing the advantage in overtime OR you can go for the touchdown and run the risk of the game ending with your team 3 points short if you fail to bring it home.
Writing is no different.
When I’m reaching the end of a writing challenge I feel this panic in my chest and gut like I’m racing against the clock…and losing. I haven’t met my goals, I didn’t complete my book, I didn’t create the world or edit the pages I’d said I would. I’m a failure…
Any of this sound familiar?
The field goal is what you can safely finish by the end of this challenge. You have a *few weeks* left. You can’t look at the game (the writing challenge) with how many points (words, pages, etc) you’d MEANT to complete. You have to take a good hard look at what you can accomplish. By now you’ve seen all the possible things that could wipe out your motivation, time, etc. So you have a better handle on what you can get done. So now, make a goal, based on your previous weeks’ tallies. Check your average and set that up as your new goal. Then, when the challenge ends, you’ve got some time to finish your current work in progress by going into a little overtime.
But what about those who will accept nothing less than a win?? I want that touchdown! What about you guys? If it’s in your heart to do it, go for it! You’ve got a *few weeks* left so get it done and take that hard break between challenges. When the next round starts, however, you’ve got to consider taking all the work you’ve finished and polishing it, getting it ready for submission, etc. That kind of drive is fantastic, but remember, we’re developing our writing skill as well. Get the words on the page, get your work done, but schedule time for editing.
So what do we do when the challenge is over? When we’re in the off season, so to speak.
I, for one, will be breathing a great sigh of relief for another challenge under my belt. Just like athletes in the off season, however, we have to prepare for the next one. Does that mean read a ton of books on writing, lose myself in all the recent political intrigue involving my chosen genre, etc.?
Staring at my playbook on plotting and character description is not going to make me a better writer after such a tough challenge. What I will do in my off season is pick up a book in my favorite genre and/or an author I love to read and just enjoy. Remind myself why I do what I do. I love books, how they send me to far off places with amazing adventures. How the hero and heroine in a romance find that key moment where they each realize they’ve fallen in love. I will give myself permission to enjoy it and not feel pressured by deadlines or looming challenges. Give my mind a break.
I’ve seen so many different challenges in this round from writing poetry, creating a new novel, novella, or short story to editing, creating a new world, or completing research papers. I hope you’ve met your goals, but if not, I’m still proud of how hard every one of you have worked to get this far.