Don’t be too ambitious……

Learned a lesson again, yesterday. I’m in the midst of a first edit of an upcoming novel, tentatively titled Coup de Grace. Work stuff is closing in, so I realized I’ve got to floor it or the editing won’t get done for a while. So, instead of my normal 10 page a day goal, I thought I’d try for 100.

Here’s the problem with lofty goals like this one. Many times they turn around and kick me in the crotch, as my goal did yesterday. If I’d been half smart, I’d have realized that it was far too much for one day’s work.

After several hours of work, I’d only been able to finish 35 pages. Which is still pretty good. But my stupid goal made me feel like I’d been lounging around, eating bonbons. Even though I got a lot done, I felt like a jerk for failing to meet my target.

When I set a goal I know I can accomplish, and I meet it. I feel empowered, energized, like I can do it again. Like the whole task is manageable. When I set my goal too high, I feel like a failure, like the entire task is too much, in general. Not good. It makes going back to editing that much more difficult.

Plus, I ruined a perfectly good day. I spent much of the day close to anger, grumpy, and unwilling to take a decent coffee break or enjoy a conversation. My bad.

More importantly, I dented the editing process. My obsession with accomplishment meant I wanted to skip over issues, and skim as I read in order to “get things done.” Editing is a process that requires time and thought. A “need for speed” undermines the entire effort.

Today, I’m going back to my 10 page target. If I get 10 or 200 pages done, it’s still the target I need to use. It’s funny how much of the writing endeavour is a head game. A huge part of success, for me, means keeping expectations in line.

About Bill Bunn

Bill’s excited because his second YA novel, Kill Shot, is now available everywhere! Bill Bunn is the author of several books, essays, and articles. He is currently writing two pages a day to generate the rough draft of his next novel. Bill Bunn lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Bill teaches English at Mount Royal University.
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