As the year draws to a close, it's natural to think about what you've accomplished in the past 12 months. If you've been plugging away every day, this can be a reassuring exercise. At the beginning of 2012, a computer virus ate everything on my computer. That was a pretty major hump I had to get over, but it got me on the right course because I needed to overhaul what I was writing anyway. Which I did, and now I have a first draft to fix. And that makes me really happy.
I got to thinking about where that draft came from. It's not pretty. Fifteen minutes here; twenty minutes there. Frustration all over the place. Self-doubt creeping in. And my pace: slow, slow, slow. I've learned to chuckle when I read about writers who set goals of 1,000 words per day. I'm lucky if I get 100. I'm lucky if I open my file for five minutes to see where I'm at in the story before my day kicks in.
If you've read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, you'll know that he has this whole theory of 10,000 hours. Jane Friedman mentions it in her excellent blog post titled How Long Should You Keep Trying to Get Published. You need to try long and hard at stuff before good things happen. If I'm being really generous, I'll give myself 365 hours for this year. Again, that's generous. Not very much when thinking about needing 10,000 hours. But then I think about the past few years, and, okay, that will bump me up to 1,000 or so. And then I think about those handful of years when I was really productive, creating things that not a lot of people saw or read, and I can get to 5,000, no problem. Then sprinkle in college and high school writing assignments. That all adds up. Oh, and the dozens of angst-ridden teenage diaries scrawled with passion underneath the covers late at night. God, please, let me never, ever read those again. But that was a lot of hours.
Zoom out. See what's really happening. And then keep going. Happy New Year!