Pressure: Temporal and Mental

Writing is a balancing act between the need to produce material and the crunch of a 24-hour day.  There’s nothing anyone can do about the length of the day.  I just want to get that out right now.

The second thing I want to get out, in case I haven’t been clear enough already, is how my alien invasion novel works: it’s a series of vignettes focusing on eight main characters.

And now to reconcile Point A and Point B.  I’d prefer to get a vignette written each day on the novel.  It’s a nice and convenient way to keep track of my progress.  There are a hundred and one vignettes, so at this pace, it should take me a little over three months to finish the first draft.  The sad reality is that every now and then some vignettes come around that are longer than others, or there are days when things pile up on the side and I can’t get to the end of a scene.

When I start a vignette, I like to have a to-do list with me, a sequence of events that tell me what these five or six pages are about.  I usually have five or six events per vignette, but today I started one that had ten, nearly double the amount I usually go for, and I only got through about a third of them.  However, I still reached my day’s quota of a thousand words.

Was this a good day or a bad day?  It was both – good because I reached the quota, and bad because the vignette wasn’t finished – but to me I think I came out on top because a thousand words is a lot to get down on paper.  Part of me is a little bummed that I didn’t get as much as I wanted to today, but I can at least sleep easy that I got a minimal standard.  If I had kept going until I got to the end of the vignette, I’d probably be awake until six in the morning, and then I wouldn’t wake up early enough to get the next day’s work done.

So yes, there is a time crunch on a writer, but there’s a mental one as well.  Overworking the brain can cause it to shutdown when we really need it.  That’s why it’s never good to constantly pull all-nighters when you’re in college.  In my opinion, setting a daily goal like a word quota is a great way to make sure you’re getting things done without overextending yourself.

And on that note, I’m going to sleep.

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