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One Word at a Time

So confession time: this has been my worst writing year of the past four. Since New Year’s, I’ve had more days than ever without any words written at all, and the days I have managed to write have, for the most part, been pretty dismal, with several days hitting only a whopping 60 words for the day. Considering last year I averaged about 500 a day minimum, this is definitely a sharp decrease, and one I’m not particularly happy with.

Looking back at my year, my lack of words makes a surprisingly amount of sense, even if it’s not the kind of sense I’d like my life to be making LOL.

I know I worked my ass off back during Pitch Wars, and was super focused on querying in the first few months after the contest ended. I should have simply sent the queries out into the world and then made myself look away and breathe, preferably by diving into my WIP. Is that why I did? Of course not. I fell hard into the “click refresh and obsess over whether an agent is reading my work RIGHT NOW” trap. Letting myself stress over other people’s opinion of my PW book definitely crippled myself for working on the new book. I got caught up in the mental spiral of “well if someone doesn’t like this book, how will they ever like the new one?” which left me spinning my wheels and cringing a little every time I opened a Word doc.

We writers are in a bit of a rough spot professionally: like all other creative “jobs,” we’re one of the few where negative evaluations of our work feels like a negative evaluation of ourselves. We pour so much of who we are onto the pages of our stories, even with the concept may be as far from our real life as it’s possible to be, that sometimes we take it more personal than maybe we should. Not to say that I don’t take my work seriously or want to do the absolute best I can, but I have to learn how to separate Cait-the-writer from Cait-the-person sometimes. “Writer” is how I identify, but it’s not the whole of who I am, even if some times it may feel that way.

I’m getting over that feeling though, little by little. I’m close to accepting that my Pitch Wars book might not be “the one” to get me an agent or a book deal. There are still a few open avenues, but it’s possible I may be letting it go in the next few months. And I got to be honest, that’s surprisingly freeing to think about. I don’t HAVE to succeed with that book, as much as I’d like to. I just have to make it the best I can and do the best I can to query the agents/editors I think will be the best fit for it. Beyond that – it’s out of my hands.

So, since it’s out of my hands, time to focus on the book that is. My new book, my baby, the work in progress that has been lingering in the background while I’ve worked myself into a tizzy subbing the PW book.

I’m trying to remember why I like to write, if that makes sense – to just have fun with a first draft at that phase where the possibilities are endless.

It’s taking some work. I set my daily word count goal much, much lower than I would have this time last year, but that’s OK. Any words on the page today will be more than I had yesterday and will be worth celebrating. If I hit my daily goal – fantastic. If I write even more, even better.

If I don’t write anything? That’s OK, too. Not ideal, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it like I was earlier in the year. Writing is what I love to do, period end of story. I’m going to try to remind myself of that when it starts to feel like a chore or something I can’t possibly succeed at. I’m doing this because I love it. No other reason.

All I need to do is write one word, and then write another after that. It may be slow. It may be a crappy first draft. It doesn’t matter. I just have to let myself love each word on the page as I write it.

Anyone else struggling with momentum and motivation this year? Hit me up on Twitter @C_L_McCollum. I am always willing to cheer you on, even if it’s only for writing a single word!

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