There are a lot of creatives who talk about pushing themselves really hard to get their projects done. It’s things like waking up early, doing the day job, and then spending the whole night writing with very little time left for sleeping. It’s hard work, it’s impressive, and it’s not an option for everyone, including me.
What works for someone else doesn’t have to work for you.
It’s a simple statement but one that I find myself often forgetting. Someone’s work ethic doesn’t have to be yours as well. It’s one of those things where you need to consider your own situation, your own capabilities and limits. Can you handle having less sleep? Can you manage churning out a couple thousand words tonight? If you can’t, do you beat yourself up about it? If you try anyway, is it really worth it or are you just hurting yourself?
The first draft of WTB took me a month, but it wasn’t just any month. It was the end of a semester when I had very few exams left that I’d been studying for the last few weeks. It was a quiet month for me, for the most part, with time to write between classes because I had my laptop with me all the time and no job demanding my time outside of school. Because I had no classes, I was able to read books in the morning and write in the evenings until midnight. With my day job and having to commute back and forth, I don’t have time for that kind of schedule anymore. My mental health won’t allow me to work like that anymore because I’m often exhausted after work or waking up to go to the gym instead of writing. If I do, I’m overworking myself and putting my mental and physical health at risk.
These days, I’ve been drowning in guilt that I haven’t worked hard enough, that I’m falling behind, that I’m failing myself in not writing every day. And that’s just not fair to do to myself. I should ont exhaust myself trying to get the words out. I should not force myself to write when all I want to do is lie down.
Some days, it’s easier to just relax. Some days, it’s better to just rest your mind and body so that you’ll have the energy to put your full effort into something you care about. It’s ableist to consider that the best method is the hustle of squeezing in time every day and night, even when work wears you down to aching muscles and bare bones. It isn’t kind. It may even be cruel to inflict such harm on yourself to force that work.
Recently, I’ve started accountability threads for the new first drafts I’ve been working on: #RivalAssassinsWIP and #BakingFigureSkaterBook. Both of them show my word counts and will eventually include my novel aesthetics. These threads aren’t to brag about how much I’m writing. In fact, you won’t see me writing consistently. I go back and forth these days, working on whatever I’m motivated to work on. I will not be writing every single day and, if I am, it won’t always be high word counts.
My accountability threads are definitely not to keep myself on track to write all the time. They’re really about seeing my progress, checking my consistency, and sharing that progress with others to excite myself and maybe them as well. It bruises my ego and dulls my competitive edge to see that others are further in their drafs than I am, that they’re writing and sprinting every day and I’m just opening my laptop, swiching around words, then going to bed.
Listen, I don’t work a lot but my job is exhausting for me. I have social anxiety and I am constantly on interacting with others for several hours at a time and trying not to be affected by other people’s negativity or even their rudeness. It’s exhausting. I barely want to speak to anyone after work and so my interactions are limited. And to write after wearing down my brain? Nearly impossible.
Do you know what it would be like if I was having a bad day? Nothing gets done. No one will get to talk to me. I’m trying not to hate myself for it or even beat myself up about it because – guess what – it’s not healthy to for yourself into those kinds of routines.
I treat my writing like a job some days. Other days, I treat it like a volunteering experience. It depends on my mood and my energy. I push myself and sometimes I push too hard. It’s important to learn your limits and stay within them. Work hard, but don’t overexert yourself.
Your book doesn’t need to be written in a month, or written every day. Play around with aesthetics or playlists or anything. Keep up your interest and excitement for your projects. Sometimes I just scroll through my Pinterest boards if I don’t have enough energy to write because it makes me feel like there’s something happening or, in the very least, something to look forward to work on eventually. I think that counts as working on your projects. That’s what I tell myself at least.
Take it easy. Don’t rush yourself because others talk about how they get words in every day.
Be kind to yourself. Don’t push yourself so hard that you’re physically and mentally and emotionally exhausted. Don’t make yourself resent your capabilities or even your project.
Do what you can do. Keep your eyes on your own paper.
You’re going to get there at your own pace. However you get there and however long it takes doesn’t discredit what you accomplish. And if you’re not yet where you want to be or done what you want to do, having those ideas and dreams and goals is good too. It counts. It matters.
So, work hard but don’t overwork yourself.