Marginal Progress: An Update

(This is a follow up to the “Fear of Failure” post a little while back – I figured that inspirational posts are many, but results posts are few, so here we are!)

One of the major comments I hear from aspiring writers is that they don’t have the time to write. Luckily, this isn’t true. I wrote most of Shadow’s End in chunks of about 10-15 minutes on bus rides and lunch breaks. Fellow authors brace their notebooks on the steering wheel while they wait for their kids to come out of school, carry notebooks in purses and suit pockets, and tap out passages one handed with a baby in the other arm. (A lot of the writers I know aren’t full time writers. You’d be surprised how many of the people who have multiple books out still have a day job, in both self-publishing and traditional publishing!)

This is important. You look at a book, perhaps, and think: “Oh, my God, I could never write a book. I only get a few sentences done at a time.” Heck, even I’ve done that. I’ve made the mistake of looking at a book as a monolithic entity, and I implore you not to follow in my footsteps because, well…that’s terrifying. You can’t write a book. Books are huge! They take a lot of effort. Paragraphs, on the other hand, are only moderately difficult, and sentences are pretty manageable.

And here’s the results part of the post: since I gave up on my grand plans of 4-5 chapters per day because I was in a complete tailspin about my writing, I’ve managed a few sentences here and there each day, which has usually bled into a few more sentences, and I’ve gotten 300-500 words per day done since my last post. That’s a chapter every 3-6 days, chapters that simply would not exist otherwise because I was huddled in the corner waiting for grand inspiration. Even if I never manage to write faster than this for the rest of the project, I’ll be done with a first draft in a few months (I’m about 1/3 of the way through now). The book I started in February will be drafted by midsummer, as a side project.

Is this my top pace? No. Is it a completely reasonable pace? Oh, heavens, yes. Is it something you can do, too? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. So whether it’s bringing a sketch pad or tiny watercolor kit in your purse, whether it’s bringing your sneakers to work to get in a brief walk at lunch or taking a moment to read a few poems – please let today be the day you let yourself explore marginal progress. Not everything is done in grand gestures. In fact, most of the monumental things in this world happen in dribs and drabs. You know how they say only to put off today what you’re willing to die having left undone? Yeah, that’s kind of crap. Most awesome things can’t be finished in a day.

So just work on a sentence. A rough sketch. A few minutes of stretching. I promise, those little bits add up to something glorious.

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