I am a big fan of crazy, ambitious goals. I think it has a little something to do with being the kind of person who always starts projects the day before. Caffeine, cigarettes, and working well after midnight, fuelled four years of varsity. Not to mention years of being a journalist with a weekly deadline.
While I’ve given up the cigarettes, after ten years I haven’t been able to shake the thrill of doing something in a short amount of time. And yes, it is because I’m a little lazy … why spend two weeks doing something when you can pull it off in a day or two, and then reward yourself with reruns of Frasier?
Partly it is a bit of procrastination, and partly it’s not. I read happiness and habit expert, Gretchen Rubin’s brilliant new book on habits, called Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives (highly recommended), and in it she says that some people are marathoners – they do a little bit everyday, some are sprinters – they love quick bursts of energy followed by rest, and others are procrastinators – self-explanatory, really. While sprinters and procrastinators seem to be the same, as they both end up doing whatever they need to do at the last-minute, sprinters enjoy the process. After they are finished they feel great, proud of what they accomplished, while procrastinators wish they’d given themselves more time.
I’d always thought I was a procrastinator, but when I read that a light bulb went off … I’m a sprinter. Which is really funny considering my favourite activity involves lying in bed with a book.
But it’s true. The first time I committed to finishing a book – which turned out to be An Invincible Summer, I gave myself roughly a year … then found myself writing most of it within the last three months.
Then my friend challenged me to NanoWriMo last year (National Novel Writing month, takes place every November), and I wrote a novella of 36,000 words in three weeks, which I self-published two weeks later. (After I got a professional edit and cover design).
And while many people – and I used to be one of them – believe that good writing takes time, the truth is that really great writing happens when you are in the flow, when you’ve cut out all the doubts and demons and type as if your fingers are on fire. The story is more alive, there are fewer errors in plot etc because you don’t need to remind yourself about your story because you are eating, sleeping, and breathing it, and you cannot afford to let fear in because you have a deadline, dammit. I gave myself a rather public one on this very blog … and even though there was only one or two readers then, I was determined to keep my word. And while for some even more crazy, audacious people, 36,000 words isn’t a lot, for me, I knew a novella was realistic in the time frame if my goal was to get it edited etc while maintaining a full-time job.
Fast forward nearly a year with many lessons learnt on self-publishing, like why it’s so important to have not just one, but two editors (traditional publishers have a team of copyeditors at their disposal and you will still spot errors), The Postcard is still something I’m proud of, with over 26 four and five-star reviews on Amazon.com. Which is pretty amazing for something that took less than a month.
There is a part of me that just thinks it was a fluke, but then again there’s a much bigger part that is excited by big crazy goals like this. I think it’s because of the psychology of my sprinter nature … which goes: ‘What if I can write a whole book in a month?”
I’m not aiming for a repeat of The Postcard, with a new book up by the end of the year but I am aiming for a full novel this time. One I’m so excited to write … more women’s fiction, set in Cornwall … of course. And, maybe it will be up by end of Jan … maybe, grin.
Bring on NaNoWriMo and crazy, audacious, goals!