If you work on deadlines, either from your employer, client, or self-imposed, you have probably figured out your “racing” style. You may be best writing under pressure, forced to open up the creative muse with mere minutes left to submit your work. You may have learned that kind of pressure puts you at a complete standstill. Writer SK Walker said on my Facebook page recently, “This is creativity, not boxing chocolates on a conveyor belt”. So instead of the pressuring procrastination, you keep a slow and steady pace, arriving at your deadline rested and on-time. I'm not here to say what is best, I'm here to remind you to discover what works best for you.
I recently finished up a “bootcamp” program at my local YMCA. It involved some running, in the almost brutal North Texas heat. The last day was the big hoo-rah, as we were scheduled to take a 4 mile run. I think about 100 people had signed up for the class 6 weeks prior; there were 10 of us for that final run.
Although I hadn't made it to every run, I felt pretty confident that I could make it through. Now, I didn't think I was going to set any records, but that wasn't my goal. I just wanted to say I made it. Throughout the run, I found myself smack dab in the middle, and giving me time to think about the writing journey:
Your only competition is yourself
- This can be a tough one. You may have a friend who is racking up jobs left and right, while you are still struggling to get your first acceptance. You may feel pretty confident about the sales of your new book, but there will always be someone else selling more. It's difficult not to place yourself on this competitive continuum, and react accordingly. Unfortunately, that can leave you in a manic state-- either ecstatic or depressed depending on how you feel you compare to others.
- When you are in a state of constant comparison, you are allowing others to determine how YOU are doing. This is not entirely fair or accurate. Just because someone else has succeeded does not mean that you have failed, just as someone losing out doesn't make you a winner.
You are not in a race against everyone else. You are only on a mission to create the best you that you can be. Compare your current writing against the work you did last year. Step back and analyze the steps you took to complete your last project-- the one you rushed to finish at the end to meet a deadline: did that give you a creative push, or did it cause the work to suffer?
Near the end of my recent 4-mile run, I could see the expert runners already stretched out and heading to their cars to drive home, and I could look back and see some others walking, still quite a ways from finishing. Everybody has their own journey. When I made it back to the finish line, I was proud of my accomplishment. I kept moving forward, even about a quarter of the way through when my feet, calves, and hamstrings were all fighting against me. It didn't matter that I didn't complete the run with the athletes up front-- maybe someday, if I decided to keep working on it. But that day, I ran (ok, jogged) the best I could, and for that, I am thankful.
Because I didn't just start, I finished!