How I Completed the Third Draft! Part 3: The Timesheet
The summer after finishing my master's degree (last summer), I worked and worked and wrote and wrote. But then the summer ended and I was not even halfway done. I voiced my displeasure with this to someone who tried to console me by saying "the good part of being a teacher is that there's always next summer." Now pardon the language, but my mental reaction was a whiplashed, "*** that!" The master's degree was out of the way and I had no intention of stopping. Staring at next summer seemed like looking at the edge of a cliff: all I had to do was peer a little farther and I could see the abyss yawning before me. "In 16 years, the kids will be out of the house. You can write then!" No no no no no. I couldn't wait for my whole life to end before I finish the damn book. This isn't a bucket-list, end of life thing, I want this TO BE MY LIFE. This novel is step 1. I'm still on step 1. And I wasn't going to wait 10 months.
So the problem before me was familiar. The difference was one less obstacle and perhaps a little bit of impatience. I've always been determined and I don't think my resolve changed, so it had to have been impatience. You wouldn't think that would be a quality that could ever help you write a novel, quite the opposite in fact, and yet, I think it was my impatience with not being done, my impatience with being foiled and set-back, that lit the fire under my ass to write write write. Anyway, my solution was simple. I would keep writing, week nights and week ends. I created a chart in MS Word where I could log my start time, my stop time, what I accomplished, my daily hours, and my total hours for the week. I set a goal to write 15 hours a week. I didn't always accomplish this, but something about this visual, about the constant update of being able to say "I've only put in four hours this week, I need to stay up late on Friday" or the instant gratification (something in short supply with a project like novel writing) of being able to say "I wrote 18 hours last week!" that really spurned me on, kept me on task and drove me forward to success.
I got into mini-routines, all of which are documented in my little MS Word timesheet. There would be a span of weeks where I put in 2 hours a night on weeknights and didn't really do much on the weekends. There were times when I wrote nothing during the week but pulled late nights back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, downing a five-hour energy and typing until two. There was last October, which nearly did me in, four straight weeks of goose-eggs in the chart. Why? Life, why else? My brother got married (out of town) and the first quarter ended, necessitating marathon grading from the work I'd put off for all the writing I'd done in the prior month and a half. But I got back to it as I always do, and next time, I'll finish the tale of how I finished the draft.
Until then, I'm a giant nerd for not abandoning this sign-off YEARS ago (and I'm Eric, an unpublished writer).