Setting Myself Up for Failure (ie. My Inability to Finish Things)

Remember the last few posts, about how I was so excited and pumped for NaNoWriMo this year and how this was the year that I was going to win?

Yeah, about that…

I didn’t win, but I’m not counting this as a failure. As of right now I have close to 36,000 words written. I have the beginning, end and most of the middle written. And the remaining bits I have notes and concepts of what I’m going to write. So I have most of a first draft.

What got in my way, was ultimately myself. Here’s what happened:

The end of the third week I was slowing down. I’d reached that part of the novel where I’d written the beginning, end and a big chunk of the middle and was sitting there thinking “now what?” So I lagged behind on my word counts; but I figured it would be alright, I had 4 days off around Thanksgiving and no major plans so I could use all that time to write. (hindsight: I should have tried to keep up with the daily word count.)

Then I saw that a video game I’d been wanting to get was on sale (significant sale) and figured that I’d get it. My intentions were to play a little, get back to writing and use the game as a reward. With three full days and Thanksgiving to do what I pleased, I figured there would be plenty of time to both write and play. But I forgot how quickly time disappears while playing the game and soon realized an entire day had gone by and I’d only typed maybe 200 words.

In addition, every time I tried to sit down and write more, I just stared at the cursor blinking away and wondered where to go, what to write. Everything I did write seemed like crap. I did keep writing a bit to get the ideas down, knowing that editing will allow me to clean it all up.

So, ultimately, I set myself up to fail. What I should have done was buy the game but not download it until I had finished the novel. Or, kept up with the daily word count. I do this to myself often. I have far to many WIP in my knitting collection. There’s a sweater I’ve almost finished, initially what was holding me back was not having the right tool, now that I have that tool I still keep putting finishing it off.

I’ve always been a procrastinator, but with external deadlines I almost always finish on time. It’s when I’m doing something just for me that I watch the deadline go sailing by while the project sits unfinished on a shelf. Finishing, while satisfying, also means letting something go and move on to the next thing. It’s nice sometimes to know that I can go back and finish up a game, or a sweater; knowing something I enjoyed is still unfinished, leaving more chance for enjoyment. Honestly, I can only think of a handful of games I’ve played all the way through to the end. Most are 80-90 percent complete, sitting on my shelf at home.

It’s something I want to work on. For a few days I was beating myself up about not writing, which was counterproductive because it just put me in a mood where I didn’t want to write because I wasn’t feeling great about myself. I’m moving out of that place today with the reminder that I need to be kind to myself. Forgive and move on.

So even though it’s unlikely I’ll write 14,000 words before midnight tonight, I’m not counting this as a loss. It’s just not an official win. I’ll keep chugging along on my novel. (Although probably not seriously until January to give myself a mental break and deal with holiday madness.) Once it’s done, well see. I might set it aside for a bit or I might push ahead and look into publishing or self-publishing. Who knows. But no matter what, I am going to finish this novel.

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