False Starts & Other Delights

So this week technically, sort of, in a way begins the six-month stretch of Chekhoving (by my definition: writing a new short story every week for an extended period, minus editing/fixing, which Chekhov himself actually did, but I’m not that flashy.). I was supposed to start last week, but a work project came up and dashed that to the ground. But that’s okay! Because I’m trying something new: I’m trying a systems-focused approach to writing.

I was looking for a blog I’d read some years ago about setting reasonable writing goals (with a particular focus on what you can and can’t control, writing-wise, i.e., Write 500 words a day = controlled; Publish 3 stories this year = uncontrolled.), but couldn’t seem to find it. Instead, I stumbled upon this article about trying a systems-focused approach instead of a goal-centric approach. Generally speaking–and this is purely my own interpretation–it’s rather like deciding what would be a “sustainable” lifestyle. This is something my family has always been big on: don’t diet, because the whole idea of a diet is something you do temporarily to achieve X result. Instead, find ways that you _enjoy_ eating healthier foods, use moderation with sweets and other treats but don’t deprive yourself, and exercise gently (a.k.a walking briskly) because in the long run, you don’t want to wear out your joints if you’re hoping to be as active as my 80+ year old grandparents who still live independently 1,500 miles away from their closest relatives. The idea is to set a lifestyle you can enjoy and sustain, that will ultimately lead to health and well-being for as many years as one’s lucky enough to have.

This struck quite a cord with me, and it made me reconsider how I’ve approached writing and goal-setting for the past ten years. Everyone knows I’m big on setting goals. But I often miss them, and then feel guilty, and once I feel guilty about being behind on a goal (like reading one short fiction market a month–HA! Yeah…), I have a tendency to just give up on the goal as a whole. It gets too stressful, and it always feels like you have something hanging over your head.

So instead, I decided to think about what a sustainable and enjoyable writing life would look like. I went back to my List of Being Serious, since that’s my benchmark for who I want to be as a writer, at least at this point, and then broke it down into individual things I could do daily or monthly to try to bring those ideals closer to home. Example: Writing 500 words daily, excepting days that the hubby’s home. This is a goal, but it has no far-reaching goal other than to push me to write regularly. It’s no big deal if I don’t get a chance to write on a given day. I just pick up on the next day and start over. The ideal is to write regularly. If I can write regularly, I’ll produce a fair amount of work regularly, and with time, over the years, that’ll add up to a decent amount of work. Another example: Try to start reading some of your favorite markets on a semi-regular basis. It’s not a definite “complete X amount of reading OR ELSE” kind of goal. It’s a try it goal.

I’ve gotten a better picture of the kind of writing life I want to have by approaching things this way, and I’m hoping it’ll be sustainable in the long run. I’ve coupled this with my standard “encouraging stickers” protocol in my day-planner, which just makes me happy. And in the meantime, I’ll try to post a blog now and then to let you know how the Chekhov 6-Month is going.

Working Title: The Sorceress’s List
Description: Rodger is fairly certain his wife, Goldie, isn’t a sorceress, and certainly not the most powerful sorceress in the northern kingdoms, but when sentient magic finds her and possesses her, the only way to save her is to finish the task she started: gathering rare items for a powerful potion. Then things will go back to normal and all this nonsense about her being a sorceress will go away…or will it?
Words Added Today: ~1200 (woo! Sticker!)
Total Word Count (so far): ~8,500 (because who wants to write an actual short story during a Chekhov week?)

Notes: This story is so much fun to write. The narrator is a bastard and snarky as hell (which is a sweet-spot for me, I think). I started it on a whim, with just a snippet of dialogue that demanded to be jotted down, and it’s just grabbed me by the throat and I can’t wait to keep plunging forward in it. Not sure what I’m going to do after tomorrow when I’m supposed to move on to a NEW story over the weekend…maybe I’ll back-burner it and try to keep adding a bit every night after finishing the work for the next week’s story…could do!

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