The Bittersweetness of being on Book Deadline

I’ve often found starting something to be the hardest part. It’s like I have two settings: no focus and hyperfocus. As such, deadlines are both my best friend and worst enemy.

My husband, as a gamer, is often trying to find games that I can enjoy as much as he does. One I had a go at, on his recommendation, was Fable II.

Now, for those who aren’t familiar, this particular game includes a few in-game mini-games. (For those who have no interest in gaming and are waiting to see where I’m going with this, hold tight a second. I’m getting there.)

So, as well as the main Fable quests you can make money on the side by chopping wood, pouring pints, and forging weapons. These are tasks you have to really grind at (a concept I hadn’t heard of before, in terms of gaming). To get anywhere, you had to get into the flow of repetitively doing the same action again and again for actual hours at a time.

When Steve first told me this, I was not impressed. “That sounds like work,” I said, “Not entertainment.”

He said he enjoyed it, so my first go ’round, I got him to do it for me.

By the time I actually figured out what I was doing with the game in general, I decided to restart it all from the beginning so as to get right some parts I now knew a little about. On this occasion – mostly because Steve was asleep at the time, and I was low on coin – I began to do the wood cutting myself.

Lo and behold, five minutes into it, I found a rhythm. ‘Maybe this isn’t so bad,’ I thought, and I carried on. Once I got my first star, I was encouraged. I kept going. Kept grinding. And by the time I had my full five stars in woodcutting, I also had a real sense of achievement.

It was rare that I would have stuck to anything that long – my attention span really can be an issue at times, have I mentioned that? – but I went on to complete the two other grind tasks as well.

Recently, I have been reminded of those times playing Fable as I work on book two in my trilogy, tapping on keys to hit a specific word count each and every night in a row.

I have had to start thinking of this novel in terms of grinding and do you know what? It has helped. When I find myself not wanting to write, I remind myself how great it feels after I have written and I get on with it. In visualizing my task in this way, I have found a new way to enjoy it. (Whoever said playing games had no real-world applicability?)

It’s very important to state at this point that enjoyability and accomplishment do not necessarily make the task easy. What it does do is make it A. possible and B. worth it. For me, that’s more than enough.

This round of Camp NaNoWriMo is nearing an end and my deadline to get the draft I’m working on finished and sent off to the Arts Council, who funded the writing of it, is pulling very close. These facts are somewhat stress-inducing, but I’d actually rather have a higher level of stress for a short period of time rather than becoming increasingly frustrated with myself over a long stretch of drawing a project out.

I will curse deadlines for the pressure they put on me, but I will thank them with the same tongue, because – for me – they work.

As much as I have come to appreciate the grind of chipping away at a manuscript, I actually find doing so without a deadline to be almost impossible. The two parts need to come together and, for me (and maybe only me. I know this process wouldn’t work for a lot of other people) that’s what National Novel Writing Month and CampNaNo do.

Each April, July, and November when the writing events are on, I get more words down than the rest of the year put together. They are a grind, but that’s no bad thing.

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