Out of Order

Howdy, howdy! It’s the first Wednesday of a new year. How is everyone doing so far? Is 2022 going to be your year? I basically just want to survive it without getting sick, same as the last two years. But I also want to start being productive again. I failed hard in 2021 with everything except reading and blogging. It’s officially time to suck it up and get back on track. I started writing again this week. I’m not diving back into my old standards, but I’m going to work my way up to them. Same schedule, just starting out with a lower word count. But as I was writing words this week, it got me thinking about my writing system.

I started working on one of the stories I began last year and gave up on. I always knew the beginning and I know the ending, my problem is connecting the two. But what I really noticed when I opened the file is that I never wrote the ending out. I couldn’t. I can’t. The idea of writing a story out of order makes my eye twitch. I don’t mean a story has to be linear. I have no problem jumping around timelines. But I have to start at the beginning and work my way to the end. Writing random scenes and pasting them together makes me feel icky. It’s kind of ridiculous.

One of the stories I gave up on last year flips back and forth between the present and the past. In my head, I had every present scene plotted out, but I didn’t write them down because I couldn’t work out the past bits that alternated with them. I don’t know why I’m like this. It’s not like it’s difficult to skip around and insert scenes wherever I want. I use Word. All I have to do is move the cursor. It’s not like I’m writing this stuff out by hand or even using a typewriter. I should be capable of doing this.

So many other writers I know actually enjoy writing scenes and putting them together like a puzzle. It sounds so freeing. Don’t know what to write? Skip ahead! Or go back to something else you skipped. Easy peasy. But no. I have to make my life difficult. Am I worried I’ll forget to include something? Nah. I’d be one of those people who put a giant boldly colored note to “insert scene here” or something. I’m probably just super anal. Definitely. I like control and order when I write, maybe some organized chaos. But not sheer mayhem.

What about you? Do you have to write a story in a certain order or do you jump all around? Were you one, then you became the other? Or do you mix it up and write both ways? Do you have any advice for becoming someone who can work out of order? As usual, feel free to leave your thoughts or comments or questions here or on my social media pages!

End of Year Stuff

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? Can you believe it’s already December? The year just slipped right on by. I’m still stuck somewhere back in March. But seriously, it wasn’t a very good year productivity-wise, as you very well know if you’ve been stalking me. I don’t really know what happened. I just got lazy and everything spiraled out of control. But I really need to get back on track for next year, so I’m just going to ramble a bit about my goals for this month. They aren’t much, but hopefully enough to get me back on track for being productive in 2022.

1. Read two books. This is pretty much the only thing I’ve kept up with this year. My goal was to read 35 books and I just started my 34th of the year. As long as I can finish that one and pick/finish a book to review by the end of the month, I’ll at least have my reading goal done. It shouldn’t be a problem.

2. Research publishing companies and how to query them. I’ve given up on finding an agent for the current book I was sending out, but I do want to try some publishers before I decide to put it away for a while. I just don’t know how different the querying process is for publishers vs. agents. So, I’ll have to do some Googling and/or pester people for advice.

3. Read through the current novel-in-progress. It’s already fully outlined and ready to be written (I believe it’s about halfway done, maybe a little less), so I need to at least finish the first draft. It’s the sequel to the novel I was querying, so I think I just got a bit discouraged and disgusted with the whole thing. But I still love these books and want to work on them, so hopefully I can drop back into that world and finish the draft. We’ll see how I feel after I re-read what I have.

4. Write words. It doesn’t have to be good words or even a lot of words, but I do need to get back in the habit of sitting here, opening a document, and writing something at least four days a week (five if you count blogging). I’m not even going to worry if it’s all part of the same story. Just practice for getting back into the novel-in-progress. When I start that, I’ll decide whether to focus on a specific word count or just time staring at the screen. And whether I want to establish a daily goal or weekly one.

That’s my plan for December. Nothing too demanding or exhausting. Just something to hopefully set me up for a better writing year in 2022. Forcing myself has failed miserably this year, so maybe easing myself into it will work better. But I really need to start trying again. Being lazy is only an excuse for so long before people start accusing you of being depressed. What about you? What are your plans for the last month of 2021? Are you wrapping up current goals or starting to plan for next year? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or questions here or on my social media pages!

Progress, Not Perfection

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this week? Things are pretty much the same here. Got my flu shot last week. Should be eligible for a Pfizer booster soon. Other than that, I don’t have any reason to leave the house for the foreseeable future. I’m mostly okay with this. I should really buckle down and start writing steadily again. My slushing duties are basically done until the next submission period, so I have zero excuses to avoid writing. I just have to get back in the rhythm. NaNoWriMo is fast approaching. I’m not participating (I write far too slowly for that), but it’s always encouraging to see others’ progress. And progress is what I’m going to ramble about today.

I was watching NCIS the other night and Gibbs said something that I keep thinking about even though I’ve heard it before. “It’s about progress, not perfection.” I guess when Leroy Jethro Gibbs quotes a motivational poster, it just hits different. But actually, it’s not originally from all the self-help crap (like motivational posters) floating around. According to Google, the quote’s origins are from the AA book (something to do with focusing on spiritual progress rather than trying to achieve spiritual perfection), but it’s shortened version has spilled over into common use pretty much everywhere (exercise, writing, art, etc.).

As a perfectionist, it’s difficult for me to appreciate the idea of progress. That affects my writing. It took me years to accept that nothing I write will ever be perfect, to just say it’s the best I can currently do and toss it out into the world as is. And I still struggle to see progress from piece to piece, since everything is different. It also takes me forever to write because I’m one of those weirdos who edit as they go, especially on short pieces, so I don’t always get to see the progress of a story through multiple drafts. It’s part of the reason I’ve been avoiding writing lately. I’m mostly just annoyed that I don’t seem to be moving forward. I can handle rejection. It’s the feeling of being stuck that I’m having trouble with.

But I need to suck it up and get over it. In my head, I know this. Actually doing the sucking up and getting over is proving much harder in practice than in theory. However, if I have no words on the page, I’ll never see any progress. I won’t have anything to mold into something resembling perfection. I have to write. Creativity is hard. Ugh.

Even Chuck thinks so.

Okay, I’m done whining and rambling. I will strive to see my own progress instead of aiming for perfection. I’ll try not to let myself feel mired in mediocrity. A forward motion. That’s what I’ll try to achieve. Self pep talks (read that as pep talks in general) are not my forte, so I’m going to stop now.

Anyway, what are some words of wisdom that help motivate you? What doesn’t help? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments or questions here or on my social media pages! I’ll try to think of something better to ramble about next week.

A Villanelle

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this fine day? Things here are about the same as always. I did write some words last week! They weren’t very good and there weren’t nearly enough of them, but it’s something. I’ll keep trying to write something this week as well. The story is there, I just have to pry the words from my brain and splatter them on the page. It’s just fighting me still. This blog post is also being a pain in the ass. I’ve gone through twenty lists of prompts, but nothing is sticking out and begging me to write it. Nothing is even producing an inkling of an idea. So, I decided to trudge through some of my old poetry that would otherwise never see the light of day and pick something to post here. This is a villanelle that I wrote for my Intro to Poetry Writing class back at SMU. In case it’s not obvious, I didn’t know what to write about back then either. Please excuse its suckiness. Poetry is fun, but not my first language. I get a lot of it wrong, especially back then. As always, feel free to share your comments or critiques or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Me while trying to decide what to post here.

Writer’s Block

I don’t know what to write.
The words just won’t come
And fill that void with the contrasting black and white.

Should it be about wrong versus right?
No, that idea fills my head with a monotonous hum.
I don’t know what to write.

How about the darkness and the light?
No, I just want the parts to equal the sum
That fills that void with the contrasting black and white.


Maybe I should just go grab a bite
To eat, maybe have some rum
Because I don’t know what to write.

Maybe music can lend me some insight.
Maybe the pounding of Yuki’s drums
Can help fill that void with the contrasting black and white.

That’s enough; this is it for the night.
I’m done trying because the words won’t come.
I just don’t know what to write
To fill that void with the contrasting black and white.

Wasting Time

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this week? Things are good here. Dad got a new toy (the big Kamado Joe, an egg-shaped smoker), so I got brisket and pulled pork. Yum! Other than that, everything is about the same as it has been. I’m lazy. All I’ve really done is review edits for a story coming out early next year (I’ll post about it after the official announcement, which is supposed to happen later this week), annoy people with shameless self-promotion (keep an eye on my social media for more of that next week for Love Letters to Poe), read, and slush (I’m an associate editor for PseudoPod, which is a fancy title for first reader). Otherwise, I’ve just been wasting time. I had no idea what to blog about, so I searched for ideas for September. One of the lists of ideas that I usually find helpful posed a question to answer in a post, so I decided to use that for today.

Agree or Disagree: “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

I both agree and disagree with this statement. Most of the time, I don’t really feel like I’ve wasted my time if I enjoy something, unless it eats away more time than it really should. Reading doesn’t count, because it’s actually work. At least that’s what I keep telling myself as I binge read webtoons/manga/manhwa. Okay, that’s not technically work, but it gives me stuff to think about when I can’t sleep, instead of having my brain home in on every stupid mistake I’ve ever made. Crocheting or drawing never really feels like wastes, because there’s actual proof that my time has been productive. Even just staring into space and thinking doesn’t feel like a waste of time, because that’s what writers do. It’s weird. But as long as it feels productive (even if it isn’t), I don’t feel like I’ve wasted time.

That said, watching more TV/movies than usual feels like wasted time. Playing mindless games for five minutes and realizing it’s an hour later feels like wasted time. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop doing these things, but there will always be the feeling that I should’ve been doing something else. I enjoy wasting time. I understand that taking time to do stupid things is important, especially when you’re feeling burnt out or whatever. That doesn’t mean it’s not a waste of time, it just means you needed or wanted a break. And that’s okay.

Oops.

So, do I agree that wasted time you enjoy isn’t wasted? Eh. Not entirely. But I do recognize that it’s an important part of self-care. I know that people are going to scoff and call me a capitalist and argue that not everything has to be productive. I’m not saying it does. I’m just saying that unproductive wasted time feels like an actual waste of time to me. That’s not a bad thing. Embrace the waste! (Please don’t hug your garbage). I accept it for what it is: a much needed rest.

I guess hugging human trash is okay, but why would you want to?

I just wasted time writing this. Apparently, it’s my 350th post. I’ve wasted your time with 350 posts. Anyway, what’re your thoughts on wasting time? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

5 Things I Should Be Doing

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? Can you believe it’s August already? That means Christmas is some time next week, right? Time just won’t stop. But I did find out the world still exists. Had a doctor’s appointment, so I had to leave the house. I have to do it again later this month. There were people without masks. It was annoying. But I expected it. Anyway, I should be doing things besides worrying about the state of the world. And since I have nothing else to ramble about, I figured now was as good a time as any to try talking myself into being productive again.

1. Start writing again. I haven’t written much of anything aside from blog posts since mid-June. I know. Shame on me. I just have to decide whether I want to jump back into my last novel attempt or finish up some short stories. Probably the latter, so I have new stuff to submit. Just have to make myself do it.

2. Catch up on submissions. I’m three weeks behind, so I need to submit to six places on top of the two for this week. No idea why I started slacking on this. Yes, it’s getting more difficult to find paying markets to send these stories to, but not impossible. Also, writing a few new short stories or flash fiction pieces will help make submitting easier. I know this, yet I’m still lazy. Motivation is hard.

I haven’t had this happen yet, but I check at least ten times before I send anything and a couple of times after I send it. Just in case.

3. Query some more agents. I think I’ve waited long enough for the “only responds when interested” agents, so I can send out the last ten or so agent queries for DS1, then wait a while for replies before trying publishers. Or maybe I should just go right for the publishers? I don’t know. I’ll figure it out.

4. Get excited about reading again. I read every day, but it’s felt like a slog for the last month. It doesn’t seem to matter what I read. Nothing holds my attention for more than a few minutes. It’s weird. Maybe I’m just burned out. No idea. Hopefully something will grab my attention soon.

WIPs = works in progress.

5. Finish something. Anything. A story, the shawl, whatever. Sometimes, I think if I could just feel the accomplishment of finishing something, my creativity would start flowing again. I know that’s not how it actually works, but it’s how I feel. The biggest problem is forcing myself to do the thing.

There you go. Sorry I didn’t come up with anything better to ramble about. Blogging is even harder than writing stories. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts or comments or questions or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Tricking Myself into Writing

Hello, hello! How is everyone doing today? It’s a gloomy Monday as I’m writing this and I don’t really feel like doing much of anything. So, I decided it’s as good a day as any to write my post for the week. The problem? I have nothing to ramble about. I should probably be working on an actual story or writing my May book review post or something, but I don’t want to. I can do that stuff tomorrow. But I am slowly starting to write again, thanks to the new computer. I guess I can ramble about that. It’s one of those weird cripple things, so be prepared to give me your best “huh?” look.

Yeah, that look.

When I first started using a laptop (actually, any computer), my typing options were to either figure out how to make the keyboard work for me or use Dragon Naturally Speaking (a dictation program). I tried the latter and it was horrible. No matter how much I trained it, at least every other word was wrong. It was more trouble editing stuff than it was worth. So, I decided to use a backscratcher in my right hand and my left index finger to make the hunt-and-peck method of typing work for me. And I was good at it too. Fast enough to keep up with multiple Yahoo chat conversations in a timely manner at least. And accurate enough that I rarely had to fix any typos. It was less hunting/pecking and more just my own form of two “finger” typing. But all good things must end.

After I went through a few different wheelchairs and just as many computers, I eventually reached a point where typing became more difficult than it was worth. Basically, each new chair changed the positions of my hands, the ease with which I could reposition my arms, etc. and each new computer positioned its keyboard and touchpad slightly differently until it all combined to screw with my typing (slowed it down and made the position I had to maintain uncomfortable) enough that I looked for alternatives. By that time, Microsoft had started getting into accessibility features and had added an on-screen keyboard. I’m certainly not as fast with it as I was at typing, but it works well enough. It got me through Stonecoast and has helped me write the majority of the stuff I’ve written since then, so I can’t complain.

Don’t feel bad. Losing stuff like the ability to type is a normal cripple thing.

When this computer arrived, I decided to try typing again. The keyboard is just too pretty not to touch. So, a couple of weeks ago, I started trying to type for 30 minutes at a time. The range of motion in my left arm is absolute shit, which is to be expected. I can’t even reach the E, R, and G keys enough to press them anymore. The number keys (I used to be able to press 1-4 with my left hand) are completely out of reach. And I have to nudge my hand with my backscratcher in order to reach the Q and W. But for some reason, I have a better reach with my backscratcher than I used to, so it compensates a bit for the lack of use in my left hand. Hopefully, with practice, I’ll at least get back enough range of motion for E, R, and G.

Don’t get too excited. I’ve only done this 5 times so far. It’s annoying getting my hands into position, but that should get easier over time. My muscles tire out well before the 30 minutes are up, but I push through and it’s already getting better. I started at 75 words in 30 minutes and have increased each time (reached 245 words when I did it today). I can do 350ish words in a half hour with the on-screen keyboard, so if I can break that, I’ll definitely keep it up. Hopefully, my arms and hands will keep cooperating with me. I don’t fully trust them yet.

Idle Hands. They have a mind of their own. Am I the only one who remembers this stupid movie?

Anyway, in order to practice typing, I needed something to write, so I started a short story. It’s already 1,500 words long because it starts out as typing practice, then I’m in a groove, so I write a little more with the on-screen keyboard. But yeah. All this post is meant to say is that I found a way to trick myself into writing even though I have no motivation. Wootwoot!

What about you? Do you have any weird ways you trick yourself into being productive? As always, feel free to share your thoughts and comments and questions here or on my social media pages!

The Things I Do For Procrastination

Hello, hello! Welcome to June. Can you believe it’s already this far into the year? I’m still stuck back in March somewhere. I’ll be honest: motivation for productive things is hard right now. I know I should be writing something, but I’m also nervous because the only thing I’m drawn to is DS2. I’m currently searching for an agent for DS1 and I don’t want what happened with G&G and its sequel to happen this time. I don’t want to get deep into DS2 only to end up with a bunch of rejections for DS1, get disgusted with everything, and trunk them both. That’s too depressing. But I’m also not excited about any of my other ideas at the moment, so I’ll probably cave and start DS2 tomorrow. I’m just procrastinating and I know it. Just like I procrastinated before writing this post. And since I have nothing else to talk about, I thought I would explain what a day of procrastination looks like for me.

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When I get up, it’s a long drawn out process during which I usually have time to play my three mindless games on Facebook for a bit. During that time Dad makes breakfast. We watch an hour of TV while we eat, then we go out back and feed the fish (we have a pond). Afterwards, Dad usually goes out to work in his shop. That’s when the procrastination truly begins.

Today (as in the day I’m writing this, not the day you’re reading it), I came inside and did the crossword puzzle. I checked my email. Got something from Panera Bread about contactless delivery, which they’ve emailed me about before but never delivered to our address, so I checked again figuring it would be the same as usual. To my surprise, they now deliver to us! So, I spent twenty minutes perusing their grocery menu and normal menu even though I know what they have. I was that bored and desperate to avoid working. Sue me. Then, I decided to read a chapter of the book I’m currently reading to review on the 24th.

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It’s something so far.

I followed that up with slowly wandering around the living room and kitchen, then staring out the back door for a few minutes. I usually tell myself it’s because I need to give my eyes a break from the computer screen, but really it’s because I don’t know what to write and hope a change of scenery will help. It never does. And before I returned to my room, I went into the dining room to stare at the crochet stuff I haven’t touched in almost a month. It was a mess. The shawl was all scrunched up and the hook was dangling from the last stitch I made. Instead of waiting for Dad to come inside and help me straighten everything out (which would have taken all of five seconds), I spent fifteen minutes getting the hook into position and shoving everything around as best I could with my back scratcher so that it’s ready for me when I want to work on it again, but won’t fall off the table in the mean time.

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When I noticed it was almost six, I decided to get serious and write this post. This isn’t an unusual day for me. Granted, when I’m in the middle of writing a book or short story, I force myself to get serious closer to 4:30, maybe 5:00. But that’s only because I write more words and sprinkle in random breaks to stare out the back door or check my email or scroll through social media for five minutes.

What about you? What’s a normal day of procrastination like for you? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

The Agent Hunt Begins

Hello, hello! How is everyone’s May going? Are you still staying at home? Is your area opening back up? North Texas is opening new stuff every week or so, but Dallas county alone is still gaining around 250 new cases every day. Needless to say, Dad and I are staying home for the foreseeable future. What does that mean for my productivity? Nothing. I’ve been pretty lazy the last couple of weeks. I know what I should be doing, but I can’t find the motivation. At least I couldn’t find it until I got an email on Monday informing my that the next PitDark is on the 21st. That means I have about a week to get my shit together and get ready to start my agent hunt. What does that entail? Panic. And some other stuff I’ll ramble about right now.

PitDark-May-October
Borrowed the image from the site listed on it. Click here for the link.

First, if you’re not familiar with Twitter pitch sessions (and you haven’t clicked the link under the picture), you’re probably wondering what PitDark is. It’s a chance for writers of horror/dark fantasy/murder mysteries/anything on the darker side to pitch completed manuscripts to participating agents and publishers. Anything from middle grade to adult is welcome. Basically, you post a Tweet-length pitch with all of the appropriate hashtags (see the website above for that info) up to once an hour per manuscript from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Eastern time) on May 21st and if an agent or publisher hits the little heart button, it’s an invitation to query them if you want to.

Luckily, I’ve finished my revisions of DS1 and also completed a round of edits for consistency and grammar and typos. I’ve just been trying to convince myself to prepare everything I’ll need in order to query agents. What does that include? Most importantly, a query letter that contains a blurb about the book to hook the agent (basically like what you find on the back of books to let you know what they’re about), a brief summary of my publication history, anything unique about me that informs my writing of this particular book, and a brief introduction reminding them if we’ve met or why we might work well together just to show I’ve done my research. Sometimes, that letter and the first few pages (or chapters) of the book are all you need. But some agents also require a synopsis. There’s the standard 1-2 page synopsis that introduces everything, but doesn’t necessarily spoil the ending. Most of the time, that’s enough. However, there’s also the 3-5 page synopsis that gives away everything. Some agents ask for that or both types of synopses. In other words, I have to write all of these things PLUS a Tweet-length pitch if I want to participate in PitDark and be ready to submit to someone if they like my pitch.

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And that’s not all. I also need to research agents. This I can do as I go along or after PitDark is over in the event that I don’t get a bite. The list of participating agents on the PitDark website is a good place for me to start. I can look at their preferences and see if we might be a good fit, then query them if they’re accepting unsolicited queries. I can also look at other agents within the bigger agencies to see if I can find a better fit. Some agencies have the policy that a no from one agent is a no from them all. Other agencies allow you to query multiple agents (one at a time of course). So, it’s good to find agents who are looking for work similar to your own instead of randomly querying everyone. I have a list of 101 agents from when I queried for G&G, but most of them wouldn’t be interested in DS1. However, I can use my list as another starting point because I listed the agencies they were with as well, so I can look at other agents in each agency. Otherwise, there’s always Google and checking to see who reps authors of similar works and a million other sources it would take too long to list.

SoulfulAmusingGalapagoshawk-size_restricted

Anyway, my next few days will consist of writing a query letter and two synopses. If you notice my Twitter feed spammed with hourly pitches on the 21st, now you’ll know why. I’m not crazy, I’m just searching for an agent. As always, feel free to post your thoughts or comments or advice or good vibes or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Self-Imposed Deadlines: Do They Work?

Hello, hello!  How did your first week of 2020 go?  Were you as productive as you wanted to be?  My week has been pretty good.  I made a revision schedule for DS1 and came up with two deadlines (the ideal one versus the actual one).  I’ll share them with you along with my thoughts on self-imposed deadlines in a moment, but first I wanted to say that I’m ahead of schedule and (so far) sticking to the goals necessary to complete the revisions ahead of my ideal schedule.  I’m not crocheting as much as I want, but I’ll eventually find a balance.  Anyway, the year has been good and productive thus far!  Huzzah!

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Go me! I’m not above celebrating myself.

So, like I said, I made a revision schedule for DS1. If I revise a 1,000-word chunk four days a week, I will be able to finish the second draft of this novel (draft one was 66,100ish words) by April 30th. That’s my actual goal.  It’s realistic and easily doable even if I fall a little behind.  Why only four days a week?  Because Sunday is shower day, which is an all day thing; Tuesday (or sometimes Monday) is blog writing day, which I usually don’t feel like do anything productive afterwards; and one day a week for doctor’s appointments, errands, crocheting, or just me time.  I think that’s a reasonable schedule at this point.  However, if I continue with the same basic schedule, just with revising 1,500-word chunks, my finish date becomes March 20th (my ideal deadline).  So far, I’m keeping up with the latter date, plus I already had about 2,000 words revised that held up well under scrutiny, so I’m ahead of the March 20th deadline by about a day.

I realize that these are self-imposed deadlines, which a lot of people think are useless.  There aren’t any real consequences if I miss them, so are they really that helpful?  For me, the answer is yes and no.  Let’s tackle the no first.  The efficacy of self-imposed deadlines really depends on my mood.  If I’m feeling depressed and unmotivated and all of that, a self-imposed deadline means absolutely nothing to me.  All it does is make me feel worse because I let myself down.  You give me a deadline for a paying job or if I’m taking a class or something and I’ll get everything done a day early come Hell or high water.  But a self-imposed deadline doesn’t offer me the same kind of motivation.

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Accurate.

If that’s the case, then how are self-imposed deadlines helpful to me?  Because they remind me that I have my own pace.  That I know my own abilities.  In a couple of weeks, when I’m looking at my revisions and upset that I’m not closer to the end, I will be able to look at my deadlines and remind myself that I’m on track according to my own abilities.  I’m not capable of writing 5,000 words in one sitting.  I can’t fully revise 6,500 words in one day.  Other people can.  I’m not them.  And having those self-imposed deadlines reminds me that I have a plan, that I made this plan for a reason and it’s catered to my own abilities.  It helps me from getting too discouraged.

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I think.

What are your thoughts on self-imposed deadlines?  Are they helpful to you?  Do you stick with them?  As usual, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!