Follow One Course Until Success.

I know. I know.

But let’s roll with it. I was listening to seanwes podcast 425: Put in Your 10 Years: The Long Game again, and thinking about this. I started drafting this novel right about at the beginning of 2019. I spent the couple months before that planning. So even though I’ve “wanted to be a writer” in some sense of the word for maybe twenty years, I’ve really only been focused on that goal for under a year.

Under one year. That doesn’t depress me, it emboldens me. Because imagine where I’ll be in two years, five, ten, if I let myself be pulled, pulled by my goal. I was thinking about something today that I wrote about earlier, why don’t I let myself be obsessed with my goal, to a totally unreasonable extent?

Look up images of my fantasy writer’s cabin and print them out and tape them to the wall.

Not stop fantasizing and start doing, but fantasize and do and keep the fantasies burning hot enough to pull me through the doing because I have to make them a reality.

Let’s have ten years of that, and then see where I am.

I turn thirty-seven in two days. In a decade I’ll be pushing fifty, still only halfway through this game.

Sean quoting John Maxwell in that podcast episode:

“I changed my question from ‘How long will it take?’ to ‘How far can I go?’”

I feel that way. So even when I get frustrated—where’s my writing habit gone?? Why haven’t I been posting on this blog??—I don’t feel defeated. Because I’m not stopping, and if I’m not stopping then I can’t fail, I can only run into setback after setback on the eventual road to success.

“But what if you never get to success?”

This question is a trap you’re setting for yourself, to talk yourself out of trying. To talk yourself into giving up.

If you don’t strive for some big dream, guaranteed you’ll die without achieving it. If you do strive, you may achieve it or you may not.

The trick you play is to convince yourself that you’ll feel worse if you try and fail than if you don’t try (guaranteeing you’ll fail).

I played this trick on myself all the time, especially in university, where I’d procrastinate on assignments, even legitimately interesting ones, until I didn’t have enough time to do them properly, and then, at least, the bad grades were because I “ran out of time” instead of because “I’m not good enough”. That argument doesn’t make any sense, but I think it’s what was driving my behaviour.

Sometimes it still does drive my behaviour. That, or something like it—why else do I still wait ’til the last minute? And when there’s no last minute, like with this novel, which has no real deadline, why I stop working on it time and again?

I keep tricking myself. Isn’t it frustrating, to trick yourself again and again even though you’re pretty sure you know all your tricks?

But it doesn’t matter, really. Because I’m not giving up.

So Can You or Can You Not Write 100,000 Words in a Day?

I know this gentleman by the name of Sean McCabe and, a few months before he offered me a job, he responded to this blog post in this way:

…but little did Dan know that he would accidentally inspire me.

Sorry, Dan. I love you, but I have to prove you wrong.

I will prove it’s possible to write 100,000 words in a day.

And then he did this: Writing 100,000 Words in a Day

And he failed spectacularly.

So… I was right, right? And it feels good to be right, so, victory lap for me. Right?

Not so fast.

I started drafting my novel, after a couple months of planning, right around New Year’s 2019. I’ve written 46,562 words! But now it’s July and I haven’t added a word to the draft in weeks. This isn’t the first time I’ve ground to a halt, as this blog demonstrates1.

I came across Sean years ago and started paying attention because his podcast is inspiring. His message, and the work that he’s done to back it up, says: you are capable of great things. And I want to do great things, so that’s a message I tuned into.

If you also want to do something great/nutty like write a whole goddamned book, I recommend you tune into such a message as well. It doesn’t have to be Sean, but if you’re at all like me you need something to keep your head in the right space, to not just give up when you hit the wall, when your habits break down, again and again and again.

The other day I walked into a local café for lunch and a friend I hadn’t seen in months just happened to be sitting there working. I sat down with her for a few minutes and chatted. She’s also a novelist, with one or two published books under her belt. And when I admitted I hadn’t touched my draft in six weeks, her response braced me up: “Six weeks? That’s nothing.”

She’s right, six weeks is nothing. Six weeks is a blink of the eye in the unfolding saga of your life,

But also, six weeks is more than enough time to write a book.

If Sean can write a book in a day, given enough practice and preparation, do you reckon I can spit out the twenty thousand or so words I probably need to finish the first draft of my novel in the next six weeks?

Sure I can.

Will I?

Well, that remains to be seen. But you see someone you respect and admire write 55,000 words in a day and you think… maybe writing 500 words today isn’t such a big deal. Maybe, even though I don’t really know where this phase of the book is going and there’s this weird amorphous boulder of fear, uncertainty, and doubt that, like a truant Sisyphus I am staunchly avoiding pushing uphill, maybe I can just keep writing a little. One sentence, one scene at a time.

See, this is what I’m learning, and I’ve mentioned it before: writing a tiny bit every day doesn’t feel satisfying, really, not when you have a whole novel in front of you, but the only way you fail to write a novel is to not write it.

The difference between 0 words today and any words at all today is everything.

Everything I write on here, every exhortation? Especially those emphasized by swear words? They’re for me. I need to hear them. God willing they’ll jam their way through my thick skull and I’ll get to work. The reason I put them here and not in my cryptographically-secure journal is, I labour in the hope that I’m not the only one who (a) wants to write novels and (b) is having a hard bloody time of it, and maybe what helps me… will help you, too.

If so, reach out. Let me know. It’s a we’re-in-this-together kind of thing, you dig?

Go in peace, and throw some words at that book.

  1. I’ve also ground to a halt on the blog, too, haven’t I, which is a related issue we’ll touch on soon ↩︎