Everyone. I am here to inform you that I have no earthly idea what I should be doing right now. I, like many other creatives, am on a deadline. Revisions are due in a few weeks, and I have accomplished exactly 23 pages worth of revisions. On a novel. An entire novel. I don’t know, I guess it’s something.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely beyond chuffed to have a deadline, because that means I have sold some work that people will one day read (I still can’t believe it), but as I indiscriminately wave my hands in the direction of this dumpster fire of a world, I find myself stagnating on my editorial duties. Like everyone else my emotional well is barren, which mutates even the tiniest decisions into insurmountable tasks (Should I have used a semicolon here instead of an em dash? Do I care? Does the reader? Will I have a job tomorrow?). Despite the dramatics, deadlines wait for no man, so I am here to pass along the few things that have helped me focus while operating under extreme duress.
- Nibble, Don’t Feast: This is time-honored advice, and yet every writer I know struggles to accept it. It is okay to work in small bursts. It is more than acceptable to get a single sentence done at a time. It doesn’t seem like much, leaving many feeling as if they’d not accomplished anything at all, but they have. And so have you. It’s okay to go a little slower when marathons aren’t achievable. I promise, it’s okay. It’s perfect. You’re doing great.
- Find Your Reset: Just like parents distract their picky eater children with airplane spoons, we adults need to drag our brains out of their usual rut. My go to is sitting somewhere as isolated as possible (dogs and kids make that an adventure on its own) and putting on music that allows my mind to wander. Sometimes it’s a curated playlist for whichever manuscript I’m working on, sometimes it’s Toto’s Greatest Hits, but either way it acts like a reset to whatever bullshit I was previously obsessing over. Light exercise, dancing, singing, or listening to podcasts also do the trick.
- Read: Reading right before I write never fails to inspire. Usually it’s because whatever I am reading is just so damn brilliant it makes me desperate to create. It’s like tapping into the reservoir that made me want to write to begin with—I wanted to create something other people loved as much as I loved [insert fandom here]. Try to keep it a short read–some poetry, short fiction, or a chapter or two, lest you get yourself in too deep and forget to write all together.
- Get Off Twitter: For reals. Here’s some social media blocking apps, if you’re interested.
- Time Yourself: Be it five minutes or fifty, watching a clock tick down not only activates that competitive drive to complete something and win, but also give you an ending to look forward to. It’s less intimidating that opening the manuscript in its monstrous entirety and watching yourself sputter out after 10 pages of 300+.
- Forgive yourself: We are not machines, lab created with specific output algorithms. We are human, and we are collectively struggling in both life and art. In the immortal words of internet memes, “You’re doing great, sweetie.”
Now, as I venture back into depths of my own work, let’s see how much of my own advice I actually use.
For more reading about creating during the time of COVID, here’s a link- https://news.northeastern.edu/2020/06/24/heres-how-three-artists-are-creating-art-and-surviving-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/