One of my biggest problems in recent years (prior to 2012) was a lack of focus on whichever writing project I was working on. Writing a rough draft was the easy part, the hard part was finishing any of them. I wrote five novels in a six year period. I finished none of them.
There were several reasons for this. One was the psychological problem of being afraid of success. I felt that if I actually finished any of these novels I would have to take on the responsibility of being a published author, which was very daunting to my young mind.
Then there was my severe perfectionism; I thought I would fail to make any of these books perfect so I could not begin to try.
Another problem I faced was that I could not maintain my attention on any one project; I would spend three months on a novel, finish the rough draft, take a break that should have lasted only a week or two but would turn into months where I slowly but surely drifted away into other uncompleted work.
In October of 2011 I decided that, once and for all, I would change my ways. I made finishing more important than being perfect, and I made it a point to come back to my novel over and over, day after day.
What I managed to gain was consistency, and though I cannot say I wasn't distracted now and again by laziness, procrastination, or other stories, I stayed the course until my novel was published in the Spring of 2012.
Novels written: 6
Novels published: 1
I was getting somewhere!
In the Summer and Fall of 2012 I hit the same roadblock I had always hit before. On my way to writing the second novel of my series, I got heavily sidetracked in another project and then quit writing for a couple of months. Now I am writing again and have been since late last year and I'm using the power of consistency to pull me along.
Consistency is forming a solid habit of doing one thing regularly.
In Part I, I talked about how consistency moves in cycles, and I've found that using this process with a purpose has been to my advantage. Instead of writing day in and day out for weeks at a time as I had done when I was younger, which always resulted in writer's block after a month or two, I now consciously take time off from writing. I avoid writing on weekends and every month or two I may take off a longer period of time.
Creativity can seem infinite but it can be depleted in the short-term. Consistency is a regularity, not necessarily a constant. Taking mandatory rest days off from writing has helped me come back the next day or the next week with a blazing excitement to continue writing. This is what rest does for the mind, and why even though I can miss a few days here and there, overall I keep moving forward.
A major change I've made has been in my perspective. I've broken down writing novels into a yearly venture. A year can be both a very long and a very short amount of time, but for writing and publishing a single novel, a year offers almost everything I may need. A year is long enough that I can take breaks from writing every couple of months for a couple of weeks and still stay on track. It is long enough that I can write three or four drafts within its time-frame.
Writing just 1,000 words a day I can write 70,000-90,000 words in three months. I can then rewrite that over the next three months, and edit it in the third three-month period. This leaves me, with appropriate planning along the way, three additional months to do nothing—using this time to recharge, or to work on another project.
One novel a year for ten years will give me a considerable body of work. Some writers are overnight successes with one or two books, but most of us must get down in the trenches and don't find success until we hit double-digits in published works. It can be a long road, but this is what I mean by consistency. Spending those ten years writing stories, getting to know other writers and readers, studying the craft, learning the marketing and business side of the writing industry—in other words simply by doing what writers do—success becomes realistic.
Success for me would be supplementing my income or, if I'm lucky, making a thousand or two thousand dollars a month which would afford the lifestyle I hope to live. With consistency, I could have this when I'm older, when I will value the time the most.
I cannot afford to grow discouraged and quit now that I've started, and I cannot afford to get sidetracked by something else. Writing this way does not require a great time commitment, but it does require that I write five days a week for an hour or two a day.
It'll be easier if I enjoy this, if I can make it play instead of looking at it as work.
It'll be easier if I don't care to be perfect. It'll help that I embrace success.
But the most important thing is to do it.