In May of this year, I decided to attempt to write a novel in a month. I knew it was a long way before November, but my story was demanding to be written—immediately. So I went for it, and I failed.
I know people who have won NaNoWriMo three times, four times; heck, some of them five times! Surely I could do it once. So on May 1st, I sat down to begin my one month noveling adventure, only for it to come screeching to a halt roughly around the 25k mark. However, despite not reaching the illustrious goal of 50,000 words, I don’t consider my NaNo experience a complete failure for two reasons.
We’ve all heard it proclaimed from Facebook to Instagram to Pinterest: “Hustle, hustle, hustle!” Pithy quotes from overly-ambitious bloggers tell you that “Good things come to those who hustle!” They warn you against “nibbling on mediocrity” because it’s better to choke on greatness.
Now before you write this off as an excuse to laze around in the comfort of mediocrity, let the record show: I believe in hard work. I’m all about dedication and achieving excellence. But this idea of hustle—of constant motion—has to go if we are to achieve anything beyond absolute burnout.
Writing is hard.
Staring at a blank page waiting for words to come is one of the most grueling and disheartening experiences. It’s maddening.
Of course, you already know that. You’re a writer. This is your job. The real question is—how do you overcome this mind-numbing roadblock and get productive?
If you were here with me last week, I told you about my NaNo adventure—writing a novel in a month—and why I decided to undertake such a task. Today, I want to talk a little about what I learned during the first week of my noveling endeavor.
As creatives, we sometimes struggle with maintaining a work-life balance—particularly when we impose deadlines upon ourselves and our work. Don’t get me wrong, deadlines can be helpful, magical even, when it comes to kickstarting your creativity, but we can’t let ourselves forget the value of margin.
We all have those days, right? The days when we feel anything but creative, and instead end up exhausted, burnt out, and unmotivated. I’ve had quite a few of those days recently, and they’re tough. It’s hard to get past the dead-zone and get to work.
Feeling unmotivated is one of the most frustrating and discouraging things we face as creatives. I mean, we want to do our best work, after all, don’t we? So what’s the problem? What’s causing this void in the creative well?
We of the 21st century live incredibly cluttered lives. We’re busy, scattered, and often exhausted, trying to keep up with the commitments in our lives, whether it’s work, school, or social engagements. Even when we do have free time, it’s often spent distracted.
We’re conditioned to live at a fast pace; constantly hustling, impatient, and strained. Free time, while important, feels indulgent. With various things competing for our attention each day, it becomes difficult to focus—and sometimes focus is exactly what we need.
If you’re like many creatives, you probably find yourself struggling with productivity. I know I do. Some days, it’s painfully difficult to get “into the zone” and start creating. And quite often, it’s not for lack of inspiration, but focus.
Maintaining focus is key to achieving the kind of productivity you strive for—and it’s something that’s become increasingly difficult in our distraction-plagued first world. I’ve already had to spend most of my morning fighting off Facebook and Instagram. If you’re anything like me, this is a daily struggle, and so I want to share a few tips I’ve been using to help enhance my focus.