One of the hardest things about an endless task like writing and promoting a book is that there is always more you can do.
You can always edit some more. You can always try to find more Twitter followers. Or write another blog post. Or reach out to another writer. Or give another interview. Or answer another e-mail. Or go back and edit. Or try to write two novels a year instead of one.
When you’re a hard worker with a big dream it’s hard to know where and when to stop. How do you decide when enough is enough?
I’m not sure I have the answer. When presented with an insurmountable task I just start digging in and try to tunnel through. By the time I look up I’m usually exhausted.
But there’s still that nagging voice that says I should be working more and dreaming of the things I might be able to accomplish if I started digging harder.
At some point you have to quiet that voice and be content with your efforts, and try to find balance. There’s only so much you can do. But drawing that line can be difficult.
What about you? How do you handle an infinite task?
K. C. Blake says
This is the horrible feeling that used to keep me up at night. I can do more! No matter how much I did during the day, I always felt like there was so much more I could have done. I finally decided to make a short list of things to do for marketing each day and be content with that. Then I can spend more time writing and less time worrying about what I didn't do.
John Stanton says
How much more can you do?
There are two dimensions to this question, the business aspect and the artistic aspect.
The business aspect is easy. You never stop promoting, building your platform, seeking new markets, etc. It has been said that writers don't retire, they expire at their keyboard.
The artistic aspect of the question is much more interesting and challenging. When is your manuscript really finished? Rules for being a good writer tell us that we keep writing, rewriting and editing until the manuscript is the absolute best it can be, which sets us upon the infinite task. One can imagine a painter who is never satisfied with the painting he's working on and continues to tweak and dab at it for years and years, never finishing it. I think it helps to have a clear vision of the end product when you start.
Now, in the world of print-on-demand and e-books, that process can be strung along even after publication. At some point, you have to let it go out into the world and have its own life.
I don't see the infinite as infinite. I set goals for myself, say weekly, and if I accomplish them I'm more than happy.
As Lena said, set yourself small goals. Make lists of the little things you want to achieve; write 500 words today, for example, and you will soon find that the bigger things happen.
As I work in software, my response would be that writing a novel is an iterative process, but it helps see each iteration clearly. I knew, a while back, that I had to remove an entire subplot. So I concentrated on that, and accomplished it. The next iteration, I deepened the remaining content and filled in the holes. And then another iteration for polishing and character development. I think if I just sat down and tried to work on it all at once, I'd go nuts. I like to think of each revision as resolving a set of bugs.
Meredith Towbin says
So, so true. I've taken a four-month break from my WIP. I've already edited it like crazy but I'm now at a point where I don't know if I'm ready to start submitting to agents or should completely rewrite the darn thing. I'm driving myself looney.
bettye griffin says
I handle my writing the same way I handle my weight loss efforts and my housekeeping…I try to stay on top of it. Regular efforts will always net results. If I meet my daily writing goal, I'm happy. If I surpass it, I'm ecstatic. If I don't meet it, it's okay. Just as that ice cream bowl in the sink won't keep me awake at night, neither will not having produced my self-imposed minimum. That dish will still be in the sink in the morning…and there will be new words to put down on paper in the morning as well.
LK Watts says
This is me – oh yes, absolutely. Last year I did nothing but write my second book. Unknowingly I also gave myself a severe panic disorder and freaked out every time I left the house. This year I am taking things a little more slowly. When you're a writer you need to have a life as well. Writing is one of the few jobs that never ends and we need to remember this. There's no such thing as 9-5 in this job.