When the Final Sprint Turns Into a Marathon: Lessons in Pacing and Managing Expectations
by Francine Puckly
This blog is late for a number of reasons, but the most notable cause is burnout. I began 2015 convinced that I had only a few short weeks of revision remaining for my current YA manuscript. I dashed off on a three-week sprint to finish the story.
Those three weeks came and went while I slogged through the quagmire of subplot placement and character development.
“That’s okay,” I told myself. “I know I can finish in another two weeks.”
I pounced on the manuscript with almost the same enthusiasm. Almost. But my commitment to this draft was soon smothered with life—fundraising for a non-profit I support, events planning for another, a family medical emergency, band concerts, budget meetings, and snowstorms.
“It’s okay,” I still told myself. “If I cut my sleep a little bit more, I know I’ll finish in two weeks!”
And it was okay.
Until it wasn’t.
A medical trip to my parents’ home for four days forced a reevaluation of my writing process. Despite missing my self-imposed deadlines repeatedly, I had become a workaholic. I didn’t reduce other commitments. Instead, I took from myself. I gave up the good things in life that could have, and should have, sustained me. It was only after stepping away from this destructive routine that I could see I had to stop the madness.
But old habits die hard, and I posted my April goals, telling myself (and the world!) I would complete my manuscript (again)! You’d think I’d learn.
I went in tonight and changed my goals. I don’t know if I can finish the manuscript this month without hurting all that’s good in my life. A more realistic goal is taking time for four two-hour sessions each week over and above my 20 minutes a day. Not word count. Not page numbers. Not completion.
What will I do instead? I’m taking steps to regain my physical fitness, treating my son to dinner after shoe shopping, and reading books outside in the first moderate temperatures we've had in months. And I just might go see "Cinderella."
And the manuscript? Oh, I suppose I’ll finish it.
After a good night’s sleep and a long walk.
4/13/2015 09:30:53 am
Francine, I love the honesty in your post. Many of us just continue to beat ourselves up. Good for you and all those that heed your advice and take a breath or two. And I'm sure, knowing how dedicated you are (based on knowing how dedicated your blog partners are) that you will definitely complete your manuscript and it will sing! Thank you for sharing your story.
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