Unless you’re under contract to deliver manuscripts before a deadline, you shouldn’t feel time pressured to get to the end of your novel.
Writing should be your escape from the real world. You should be free to comfortably dictate how and when you spend your time.
And you should decide how and when you move on to each stage of the process.
This is the joy of self-publishing.
If writing becomes a chore or starts weighing on your mind, then it could become a burden. And forcing yourself to write, or kicking yourself for not reaching self-imposed targets is something that could threaten your mental health.
Now, that may sound dramatic, but when a hobby becomes a project that nags at your thoughts, and evolves into a chore, you risk losing your love for it.
Worse still, it could lead to stress.
You must protect that wonderful mind of yours.
Below are some points that could help you on your journey. With a plan and a bit of self-reflection, the path will be easier.
Realising you end goal
Most new writers are eager to get their story out there.
They begin by opening a word document (or a pad of paper) and start their story. But in their haste, they don’t really think about what they want to achieve.
The best way to avoid creating a stressful experience is to identify your main goal.
I began writing to manage stress. My goal was to distract myself in a healthy way. But when my stress levels were under control, my main goal shifted.
My wife loves to read thrillers so, I continued with my manuscript with the intension of giving her a novel.
It’s fine to adjust your goals. But if you switch targets too often, you will struggle to hit any of them.
Your goal will be what drives you to go from whatever step you are at now, to holding your completed novel. Maybe even selling it.
You might be writing a novel for someone as a gift. Or maybe it’s just something you feel compelled to do.
But this is an end goal that you use as true north.
The trick to getting to your end goal is by applying some restraint and setting easy and manageable objectives.
Place them at achievable stages along the road.
These little wins will give you a sense of achievement that will fuel you to reach your end goal.
Writing a full-length novel can take months. It can seem like climbing a mountain with an unreachable summit. But a mountain isn’t climbed from bottom to top in one go. Climbers plan rest points at different stages. And so should writers.
Personally, I set my rest points every five chapters.
This keeps me aiming for micro-goals that spur me on to the next. This approach can also be used in the self-editing phase and should help with keeping you upbeat.
What stops you reaching your goals?
Aside from facing a seemingly impossible task of writing a novel, you also face becoming distracted or running out of steam.
Every time I sit to write, something inside my head tells me that I also need to do the ironing, or wash the dishes, or any number of tasks that I don’t really need to do at that particular time.
If you have a mirror to hand, take a quick look to see the very thing that slows you down and holds you back. This is also the same person that is adding all the pressure.
Procrastination, family, job, house work – everything will become a higher priority when you begin writing.
But if you commit to a time slot each day or week and remain focused during that time, you will do well.
Recognising self-induced pressure
We all have different thresholds when coping with pressure, and a certain amount is good for us. However, when that pressure builds up too much, we risk succumbing to stress.
And recognising the difference is important.
If you worry or kick yourself because you didn’t finish a scene or chapter, then you need to reflect on why you are being so hard on yourself.
Writing shouldn’t cause this. You should celebrate what you accomplish and look forward to coming back to the story.
But if dread or guilt are playing are part in your writing, then you risk becoming stressed.
Some things to be mindful of
We writers add pressure in several ways, and we do it without realising.
Writers like to tell people about their work. Sometimes, the need to tell someone is overwhelming.
But this invites questions about your manuscript and how far from completion it is. And it’s always painfully obvious when the person loses interest because our book hasn’t hit the book shelves.
You don’t need to invite this kind of pressure.
Comparing yourself with other writers is also a great way to pile on the pressure. The #writingcommunity is full of authors who want to surround themselves with like minded people.
However, there is a danger of measuring yourself against those with more experience, more knowledge, and more success.
It is very easy to stand there and be left wanting. Don’t do it to yourself.
I encourage you to join the #writingcommunity and follow those who are #amwriting and #amediting. You will meet some great people.
But don’t feel like a failure when you see them reach the next stage of their journey. And definitely don’t take it to heart when one of your acquaintances gets a manuscript request or finds representation.
Celebrate with them and cheer them on. Then, go back to your work and write with a smile.
You must take time for yourself. This cannot be overstated enough.
Knowing the difference between procrastinating and taking time for yourself is key to staying on track.
If you find that you’re kicking yourself for not writing, or feel a pang of guilt for not putting in the time, you are placing too much pressure on yourself. And this will evolve into stress.
If this happens, make a conscious choice to walk away from your novel for a few days. Every time your thoughts wander back to your MS, tell yourself that it’s fine to take a break.
Another way to pull yourself back from the stresses of writing is to reassess your goals and smaller objectives.
If you think you are “behind” in your self-imposed schedule, look at your achievements thus far.
Doing this will remind you of how far you have come.
Protecting your mind is important and will help keep your passion alive.
Without it, writing becomes just another thing that you “have” to do. And no one wants to live like that.
You already have a mountain to climb, but climbing it will be much easier with suitable rest points. Identify these points and recognise the magnitude of each win.
It will keep you smiling on your journey.
Whilst walking this path, be mindful of adding to your plate.
Joining writing communities and rubbing shoulders with people with the same goals as you is a great thing to do. But don’t compare yourself with them.
It makes for a jealous and miserable existence. And the same can be said for telling people about your writing.
Of course, talk about your writing. Be proud of what you are achieving. But those people will want to read it one day.
Be patient. Be humble. And above all, be kind to yourself.