on doing enough

Marcia's busy calendar

This morning, I received an email from friend and fellow author Dale Ivan Smith. He’s recently returned from a two-week writing workshop, and while he was technically inviting me to a writers’ lunch?where we catch each other up on current projects, new ideas, present obstacles, etc.?he also shared some very good advice right out of the gate:

Don’t push too hard.

Specifically, he referenced one of the workshop instructors who aims for 1,000 words per day on her main project, and 500 words per day on a secondary project, with a goal of one new novel per year?because both traditionally published and indie authors are under too much pressure to produce more.

Well, that’s certainly more reasonable that what I’ve been trying to do.

My original?lofty, ultimately unattainable?goal had been to release two novels this year, plus a collection of essays. And new short stories. And write two new first drafts. And start a podcast. And start a new column. And a bunch of other stuff I have written down someplace.

I’ve already blogged about revisiting my goals for the year, and about planning in both pen and pencil. As I look at my calendar, I can see that I’m a bit behind on the plot outline/graph for a major revision project, and that I’ve picked up an unexpected freelance assignment. There’s also the NIWA NSQ program that got added to my plate earlier this year. I’m pretty well booked right now, and yet there’s still a part of me thinking, “Sure, this would be a great time to throw another big project like Camp NaNoWriMo into the mix.”

(I’ve never participated in Camp NaNoWriMo before, but I’m a nine-year veteran of the original National Novel Writing Month that comes around every November.)

What can I say? New projects excite me.

But I know better. I need to keep a tight rein on myself right now, particularly as I’m mapping what works (and doesn’t) for me health-wise.

Even though I have a backlog of stories waiting to be rewritten?not to mention the multiple manuscripts awaiting revisions?I need to stay on target. Lowering the ante takes the pressure off and helps to preserve my health and sanity while also increasing the likelihood that I’ll do better work.

There can be a fine line between crazy overachievement and slacking off, and it’s a moving target with many factors coming into play. Instead of adding even more to my already full schedule, I’ll focus on doing enough. I’ll give my attention to what’s in front of me, and maybe slake the future project faeries by taking some time to make notes and perhaps even draft basic but workable outlines.

But if you decide to do Camp NaNoWriMo this year, let me know how it goes, eh?

Creative Commons photo: arcia’s busy calendar by sinewy polyp.

Posted in writing & publishing.


  1. Yes! I love this! Such sound advice. Sometimes, I have so many ideas and things I want to do that I get overwhelmed before I even get started. The end result = doing NOTHING.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Prove you're not a robot! * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.