Finding Peace with Process

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For the past several years, I’ve written in bursts of intense productivity interspersed with long, fallow periods. Usually I need this time to recover and to gain perspective through distance.

This summer, that changed. I mapped out my novel revision plans in May and planned to blast through a second draft. But I couldn’t. Every day I set goals for the number of chapters I’d revise. I’d fail and add them to the next day’s list and fail again.

After a few weeks of this, I gave up. I knew what I wanted to write. Why couldn’t I get through it like I used to?

I didn’t look at my novel. Instead, I read until my novel started to call again. This time when I picked it up, I didn’t set goals. I tinkered, made notes, and then tweaked again. And I made progress. So the next day, I did the same: sat down, opened Scrivener, and revised.

As I did a small amount of work every day, I discovered a new pattern. I could write one new chapter or rewrite a chapter in a day, or I could lightly revise 2-3 chapters. On a really good day, I might get through four.

This felt frustratingly slow compared to my former massive, daily word counts, but I made a new schedule and realized that even with non-writing days, I could get through the entire novel in about 6 weeks. Realistically, it’d take longer — there would be false starts and bad days — but even two or three months for a new draft isn’t terribly long.

Somehow, I’ve become a slow and steady writer, and after fighting it for weeks, I’m accepting my new process. One of the biggest challenges in writing is change. Every story is different and requires that we develop new techniques and skills, but the writer also changes. Sometimes the change is external, like meeting the commitments of a new job, but our internal rhythms aren’t fixed, either. While listening for and following the threads of our characters and stories, we’re also understanding and developing our personal practices.

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