567, but what comes after?

The academic life – well, my academic life – resumes when the fall semester starts next Monday. The summer will be officially gone, and I will shift to the combined endeavors of studying for exams and writing my dissertation proposal. I have already contacted my professors to set things in place so that I can stay on track with the writing and studying, but I’ll have to do more than just meet with people. I’ll need to set aside time to study and review and write, but that time will have to come from somewhere. That’s the nature of managing time and priorities; it’s impossible to do everything, and it’s necessary to figure out what can be done, and what can be done later.

As of this blog post, I will have written for the Magic Spreadsheet for 567 days. That’s far more than I ever would have thought possible, and there are some nights when I do wonder if wordcount hasn’t crippled me in some way with respect to projects. I’ve done some work with Pomodoros on the spreadsheet with my planning and worldbuilding to start again on Hollow. Since the Magic Spreadsheet is intended for writing endeavors, it would make sense to keep using it for the non-fiction writing associated with the proposal… but not at a quota of 800 words a day. Given the amount of time that I will need to devote to studying coursework, maintaining that kind of writing streak may not be possible. Does that bother me? Of course it does. A streak of 567 days isn’t anything to sneeeze at, and I don’t want to stop. At the same time…

It sounds terrible, but there will be a few months where I may not be able to make writing a priority every night. Even admitting that makes me feel awful, but the reality of the situation is that I need to take my exams and do well. That reality requires focus and concentration on a key set of tasks that feed into specific goals… and for a while, those goals aren’t going to involve writing. And I will admit that knowing that truth makes me uncomfortable. I worry that not writing everyday will lead to degradation in my writing, that any of the good ideas on the edge of my mind will shrivel and dry up, the characters dessicated husks on the edge of my consciousness and their voices faint whispers between dreaming and waking. Of course, I know that none of those things can happen; a few months will not ruin my ability to tell a story. Given the opportunity, I can dash off a few handwritten pages of character work or a bit of a scene that belongs in a larger story. But, it won’t necessarily be a priority, and the words may falter.

The chain might break. I can’t give myself permission to break the chain, not after this long. For all I know, my daily words may consist of blog posts for weeks on end. The wider world will learn about what I’m studying and proposing for research, but it will keep me writing. It might not be 800 words, but it will still qualify as words. If anything, it can keep me accountable to more people to keep studying and reviewing to prepare for exams. Of course, that’s one of the strategies that I tell my students to consider when they’re setting their own goals. Having someone who can help to hold you accountable to goals both small and large can be beneficial when starting out. Heck, look at the Magic Spreadsheet. It’s public accountability without being overly public. This blog, even though it is public, is not read by everyone… I’m pretty sure that my supervising professors don’t read it. Sometimes, though, it’s the act of making information public that provides the positive effect, not the public recognition to provide the positive effect.

I gave a presentation today on campus about time management, and how it’s not so much managing time but managing priorities. It’s difficult to lecture about these things and have students ask for more information, and then realize just how much I struggle with priorities and projects some days. Admitting that I’m going to have to step back and re-evaluate how I do things in order to earn the degree that I want (and that I hope will provide me with more academic opportunities) takes a bit of courage and a willingness to be uncomfortable with the truth. Truly, school is going to have to come first before writing. I’ll record and finish out this year’s recording contracts, but the writing itself will have to take a backseat while I review notes and rewrite article outlines. Let’s face it… there will be time after the exams to get writing done.

But I can’t help writing some days. A creative brain’s got to breathe, right?

This entry was posted on Friday, August 15th, 2014 at 9:19 pm and is filed under writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

7 Responses to “567, but what comes after?”

  1. Sue Says:

    Might I suggest that you drop your minimum word count down to 250?

  2. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin Says:

    I’m afraid it sounds like graduate school. Sometimes the only way to get thru a stage there is to make it your top priority. At least that’s what I found when I was getting my Masters, and what Dad found when he was getting his Masters and Doctorate. So it isn’t just you. {Sympathetic Smile, take hand, squeeze}

    Nor is having to drop writing for a while. I had to do that, too. I just didn’t have the energy to create much. It took longer than I hoped to get it back, but eventually I did. In my case, it involved easing back into it with “prompt games,” as my friends called them. They’re basically one type of writing exercise which provides just enough inspiration to fill out a vignette or short story. I’m sure other writing exercises and games could help, too. So you don’t need to worry; getting back on this particular horse doesn’t have to hard. I can even tell you more about the prompt games if you think you need them. {SMILE}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  3. Veronica Says:

    I’m considering it. It seems like a good way to keep myself in practice without having to worry about filling a screen. Who knows… that might be just enough words to bang out while I’m waiting for Bear in the carpool line.

  4. Veronica Says:

    I do enjoy the smaller writing exercises, and I’ve got a notebook where I do that for characters in one particular world of mine. Taking a bit of dialogue and wrapping a scene around it is a particular favorite, or using one starting line and then writing it from different characters’ points of view is another good one. My challenge is telling myself that it’s okay to step back for a while. ^_^

  5. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin Says:

    I understand. Still, I find stepping back easier if I have a plan to get back in later. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  6. P.C. Haring Says:

    To a degree, I feel your pain about the possibility of the chain breaking. 576 is incredible in it’s impressiveness and one that not many can, or will ever reach.

    As you know, I chose to break the chain back in November. It was a tough decision, one I thought over for weeks, but in the end I told myself “You did it once, you can do it again.” I don’t regret the choice I made. Stepping away from fiction allowed me to focus on the more immediate needs and, to a degree it gave me a shot in the arm when I came back to it;

    If your chain breaks for whatever reason, well…. you hit 576+ once. You can definitely do it again.

    For what it’s worth, I endorse the idea of dropping your minimum word count. Whether it’s 250, 500, or something else entirely, if it helps to take the pressure off you, why not use that option? you can always ramp up the count later after things clear up. Personally I should be at the 700 mark, but right now I’m lucky to punch out 500 on most days, and I frequently fail at that more often that not.

    And finally, remember that Words are Words. Genre fiction writing is a different animal than academic dissertation proposals. But that proposal needs to be written… and words are words.

    I have no doubt that you’ll find a solution that works for you

  7. Doc Coleman Says:

    As long as you can write 250 words, your writing chain won’t break. You won’t make quota and your points will go down, but your chain won’t break.