The Principal of Business

Tuesday, 1 December, 2009

So I didn’t write fifty thousand words of fiction in November this year. I was (to understate things) out of sorts, not feeling a need to meet that goal again, not becoming excited about anything I was writing, and suffering the general resurgence of that good old no-follow-through, goal abandonment habit of mind.
No point frowning about it; I wrote over twenty thousand words of new stuff and tried some new things. A word count goal is no longer the only kind of goal I need. I didn’t get excited but not because the writing couldn’t have been exciting, rather I didn’t give myself the chance. I’ve learned and played and maybe there are germs of potential somewhere in that 20k, all’s good.
Not so good is the why.

I know I can write that fifty thousand words, I’ve done it before, what I haven’t done is produce a complete draft, stay committed to an idea and see it through to the end. Fear of not making it, fear of what happens if I do and it’s no good, fear of making something that could be good but letting the work down, fostering whisperings that me, my contribution and the world just aren’t worth the work. That’s not just writing stuff, that’s life stuff. Fear, insecurity, pointlessness. I decided a while back not to let that web of thinkings run my life. I’d make a decision and stay committed, I got good at doing it and reaped the rewards, but then, out of sight of the mess that fuelled the change, I got lazy, then paralysed.

November isn’t my problem, it’s the rest of the year. Writing isn’t my problem, it’s the way I’m living my life. So I do what’s worked before: little aims, little goals, little successes, little confidences, and they all add up. “Do something” was the slogan. Something, anything, just don’t stand still. I’m not saying anything new, it just helps to say it again, restate a purpose, draw a line and refocus on what I want and how to get there.


– Look through my stuff and identify interesting bits, bits I like, run with ideas
AND (not then)
– Keep up the general playing/experimenting in all scribblings
– Write at least 300 words a day on any project
– Commit to a long term draft once I’m excited again
– Fewer distracting, nervous-energy-sapping journallings

Right. Onward. Hello, December.


2 Responses to “The Principal of Business”

  1. Matt Says:

    Cool blog post. Even though I completed NaNo, I still have similar problem to you. I’d still want to complete a story and I think once I do that it’ll be so much easier. So here’s to December and beyond!


  2. Dan Says:

    Hi Anna,

    I was just flicking through my RSS feeds and I happened upon this post. I think everyone feels like this at some time. I know I do. I have so many half finished projects that I can’t even count them. Lots more than half finished even, some of them 80-90% or more. It’s difficult to focus and really finish things. You do worry about whether they’re any good, “what if everyone hates this thing I put a year of my life into? How will I cope?”. These things can eat at you if you let them. Keep sticking to little goals and it’ll add up to something positive. I have little lists of things to do each day, sometimes only one or two. I don’t even finish them all half the time, but still it feels good ticking something off. Just small things, stupid things like “Pay the car insurance” or “Email so an so”, and it all adds up towards a larger goal. Stick at it and keep your chin up, that’s what I wanted to say really.

    Also, an interesting fact for you (or possibly boring but I’ll say it anyway hehe). The Renaissance painter Titian used to do this. One of the greatest and most influential artists of all time, although not the most famous. He would start a painting and then leave it facing the wall because he didn’t even want to look at it. Often for many many years. He would occasionally look at them, scrape off half the paint because he thought it was rubbish and redo everything. For every painting he finished there were literally dozens he didn’t. I like this story because it shows that if someone as brilliant as that can have such doubts, nobody else should feel bad about having them. It happens to us all. Ok, art history class over. Keep writing at your own pace 😉


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