In June of this year, I had a crazy deadline I had to meet—a book from start-to-finish in a month, with a hard deadline in the form of an Amazon pre-order (let us not discuss the foolishness of setting up that pre-order, as I am currently repeating said foolishness).
Long story short: I made the deadline. And the book was more like 65-70k than my targeted 50k (SIGH), but sometimes there’s just hella lot of story to tell. But the important part was this: I did it without massive amounts of stress.
Now normally, I can write a Penname 50k novel in less time (2.5 weeks start to finish), but this was an SKQ Challenge Level novel, so for me, this was a pretty impressive feat. So impressive, in fact, that it changed my entire outlook on stress, writing, and the kind of life I wanted to lead (plus sparked the idea for a book, The 45 Minute Writer, which is still a work-in-progress).
Here’s how it went down:
**3 days of outlining (this was Bk2 in a series)
**23 days of writing (avg wordcount 2956)
THINGS I DIDN’T DO:
*stay up late
*binge eat Oreos
*work all day
*get majorly stressed out
THINGS I DID DO:
*take breaks every day, all day long
*inspirational reading (DARING GREATLY)
Yes, I did work a lot, but I’m keenly aware that consistent creative output can’t be jammed through like working overtime on spreadsheets or engineering problems. I have to double down on my self-care if I want high productivity in my creative work, otherwise my mind hits a wall, my body rebels, and my stress goes through the roof. One of the key tricks here was to make a list of 15 minute “break things” that I could alternate with my 45 min writing sprints. The list included things like weeding, cleaning the kitchen, chilling in the backyard with my feet in the grass, meditation. Something physical was best. Something that would give my brain a rest and refresh my body. It’s amazing the creative stamina you can have when you alternate it with these kinds of breaks (notably not social media breaks). And a heck of a lot of weeding got done!
If your takeaway from this is why can’t I write a novel in a month?? you’re not getting the message I want to send.
So here it is: self-care and focus trumps stressing out and browbeating yourself to meet deadlines. Dramatically so. Enough that you should give it try.