Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Goal Oriented

Since February of this year I have started every month with the exact same goal:

"This month I will finally finish my rough draft. I will. I will. I will."

And yet, despite my best efforts the month breezes by and at the end I still have an incomplete draft.

So given that today is the first day of a new month and, thanks to some unexpected (and rather unpleasant circumstances) I haven't touched my rough draft for the last four days, I'm finding myself contemplating the realistic nature of this goal. Am I setting myself up for failure by putting impossible deadlines on myself? Or am I doing something wrong with my approach to writing and dragging out the 'rough draft' process?

Honestly, I think it's a little of both.

Considering how time consuming writing is (and how much I have left to go) it probably is unrealistic to expect myself to finish the draft in thirty or thirty one days. It would most likely be much more realistic to say, "before my birthday" or, "by the end of the year." But I want so badly to be done that I fool myself into thinking I can do it faster than that. And so I set unrealistic goals and live in constant disappointment.

But I am also guilty of breaking several of the cardinal rules of writing, and I am sure that's what is really slowing me down. For one thing, I'm not working from an outline. I know where my story begins and I know where it ends and I know most of the major plot points along the way, but I never took the time to map it out scene by scene. This wasn't a lazy decision. Back when I took writing classes I found that when I worked from an outline it sucked the life out of the story, because everything was so preplanned and organized. Still, working without an outline means I often write scenes only to find I won't need them as soon as they're done. I've also changed several minor plot lines along the way which probably would have been corrected in the outline process. But I still think my draft will be better if I stick to this method (my scripts always were) so I'm going to hold to it. And I don't think this is my real problem anyway.

Really, the bigger sin I'm committing is editing. Every writing textbook/article/blog commands, "DO NOT EDIT UNTIL YOU WRITE THE ENTIRE DRAFT!" But I just can't help myself. I'm a perfectionist by nature, and I just can't leave a scene knowing I haven't gotten it quite right (because, let's face it, you never get it right on the first try). So I go back and edit. And then I edit some more. And then I let it sit for a few days and edit it again--all the while telling myself, "Stop it!" But I can't stop. I think I might have a sickness.

So in light of this, the big question is: am I going to change my goal for the month of September? And the answer is yes. I officially have a new goal.

Wait for it...

Okay: "I will only write new scenes. I will not edit. I won't! I won't! I won't!"

I'm hoping that by putting this in writing and launching it into the blogosphere I'll have a stronger motivation to stick to it. In fact, as an added incentive, I intend to blog about my progress at the end of the month, and you can all yell at me if I've broken my resolution. So there.

And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, if I stick to this goal this will turn out to be the month that I finish my rough draft. That would certainly be amazing...and more than a little ironic. But if not, I have a strong feeling I'll still have made more progress than I would have if I let myself edit. We'll have to wait and see.

Let the experiment begin...


  1. So far so good. (Though I must admit...it's killing me. This is going to be a long month!)


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