I read somewhere this week (I'm sorry I can't remember where - if anybody knows, please leave a comment and I'll add a credit) that writers have to be able to hold two contradictory ideas in their heads at all times. These are, to the best of my remembering:
1. I am a good writer, good enough that it's worth me working hard to write and to submit my writing for publication.
2. I am a bad writer, I need to be working hard to improve my writing and my submissions for publication.
Notice the phrase that's the same in both ideas? Yep - it's "working hard."
This resonated with me. I need to believe I'm good at writing to give me the confidence to keep writing and sending out story and book submissions in the teeth of regular rejections. I also need to believe I'm bad at writing, so I don't think my first drafts consist of deathless prose and therefore develop hideous arrogance which would mean I NEVER get an agent - and so that I keep working to improve my skills and abilities. Maintaining both beliefs feels a bit like walking a tightrope: I wobble between one and the other.
Working hard at writing involves further balancing acts. It's not as much of a struggle for me to prioritise writing as it is for many people. I don't have children, or adult dependents; I work for myself, so I can take time to write during office hours if I'm not too busy with jobs for clients; I don't have to work full time, so sometimes I can award myself whole writing days or weeks. I'm good at time management, organisation, motivation. Yet still, sometimes, it's difficult.
I think this is partly because I'm impatient. Eight thousand words into my first draft (in ten days! Lookee lookee at the word counter!!) and I can't wait to be finished. Yet I know it's no good rushing (and if I ever forget this, Debi's voice kindly appears in my head to remind me). But I had such a lovely plan. I was going to write 1000 words per day, up to and including today, which would give me 10,000 words. Then this weekend, when I have no work or social commitments, I was going to write 2500 words each day, to make up for next week when I won't have time to write anything. That would give me 15,000 words to leave alone for a week and then review.
So why is the word counter still at 8000 words? Because yesterday I had an email outage which required several hours of extra work to deal with, and there was no slack in the system. And I was completely knackered. And today has been very full-on, so I haven't written any words today either. Instead, I revised my plan to 1000 words a day over the weekend, and ending up a week behind schedule on the WIP, with only 10,000 words to review after a week.
It really doesn't matter. Looked at objectively, the world would lose nothing if I stopped writing altogether. In fact, it might gain: I'd have more time for my family and friends (although I'd be so crabby that they probably wouldn't be very appreciative), for myself, for my paid work and for my voluntary work. If being a week behind my (self-imposed) schedule leaves me less knackered and better able to face the Week From Hell next week, that will be a good thing. After this weekend, I won't be back to my WIP until Monday 3rd May at the earliest, as I have to work straight through next weekend. And I worked straight through last weekend. So this weekend I think I need a break more than I need the satisfaction of an enormous word count.
This again necessitates holding two more completely contradictory ideas in my head:
1. I must work hard to finish my WIP in a timely manner.
2. It doesn't matter how long I take to write my WIP.
I often find it hard to get the balance right between these two ideas. I'm sure impatience is partly to blame here, too. I spent so many years writing my last book, I can't bear to think it'll be that many again for this one - even though I know it might. Judging from the experiences of friends, if I ever get published, I'll need to write a book a year, so it would be useful to get the hang of writing more quickly. But here's another writerly paradox:
1. I must set myself deadlines and stick to them
2. I must be flexible about my deadlines when the need arises
Aarrgghh!!!!! All of these are doing my head in!
How do you walk the writer's tightrope?