Celebrating Accomplishments

Somebody commented recently — Jackie, I think — that she was going to finish her book if it took writing one hundred words at a time. Sounds pretty daunting when you have 20 or 40 or 60,000 words to go, but sometimes that’s how you’ve got to do it: baby steps.

If you’re accustomed to much higher output, say, 3000 words a day, 100 sounds so paltry. It’s just a couple paragraphs. A few wordy sentences. It sounds so paltry that it’s hardly worth doing. Skip today, you tell yourself, and you can write — ooh, gasp! — 200 words tomorrow. Or take the whole week off, then catch up with 700 words on Sunday.

But if your life or muse or situation requires baby steps right now, skipping them isn’t going to work. If you’re having trouble getting one hundred words written, then it stands to reason that you’re going to have more trouble writing two hundred words, right? You need that regular commitment, dedication, diligence to build your output. If you get in the habit of writing 100 words a day, before long, you’ll find you’re writing 150 a day, then 200. You may not build up to 3000, but you will build up to the right, reasonable, workable level for you.

Most of you know that I had a total knee replacement three weeks ago. My walking goal right now is one-quarter mile, and I’ve been doing it every day for a week (with one 3/8 mile day thrown in just for fun). The first time I completed the one-quarter, I was excited . . . until I glanced at the timer I’d set when I started. Normally, I walk one-quarter mile in less than five minutes. That first time post-op took me 50 minutes and 20 seconds.

That pretty much put the fizzle on my sense of accomplishment until my husband pointed out that how long it took me is irrelevant. There was nothing in my doctor’s instructions about walking a quarter mile in a set period of time. All Baby Doc said was “Walk one-quarter mile.” Speed might matter when the swelling’s gone, when the dressings are off and the incisions are healed, when the stiffness is worked out and the range-of-motion comes naturally instead of me gritting my teeth through it.

But right now all I can manage is baby steps: good posture in the walker, good gait, heel-to-toe. Be careful on the turns and don’t cut the corners too sharp.

It isn’t fast, but over time, the effort adds up. Just like those 100 words a day.

18 thoughts on “Celebrating Accomplishments

  1. I used to have the problem where I couldn’t make myself write very much in one day. National Novel Writing Month cured me of that. The time limit of 30 days gave me the freedom to write utter crap, or so I thought. After I reread what I’d written, I discovered it wasn’t so horrible and could actually be edited into something pretty good.

  2. Sandee’s a big lover of NaNoWriMo. Freedom counts for so much when it comes to writing. Being free to write crap just lets loose the good stuff, too, doesn’t it? And as someone else said, you can fix crap; you can’t fix a blank page.

    When I’m coming back to a project after time off, I set pretty low goals: for day one, it’ll be read and edit what’s already there; day two, write 2 pages; day three, write four pages. It really is like a muscle that you have to exercise — and for most of us, turn off that internal editor and let it run wild. Our muses need care and tending, and we seem to forget that from time to time (or try to force our work into someone else’s habits — but that’s a whole other blog!).

  3. That’s why I’m starting with 100 words a day. It’s baby steps, but I know once I’m into it, I’ll work up to more a day. What counts is that I WILL finish the damn book!

  4. Marilyn,

    Congratulations on making that quarter mile! You’re getting there. And once you get rid of the walker, then the cane, you’ll be outrunning all of us. {BG}

    I agree. We all have to do things at our own pace. Sometimes we need “gentle” nudges to keep us on track, but we each have our own unique styles and rhythms. The main thing is to keep going…keep plugging away every day.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  5. I’m so proud of you for doing your exercises Marilyn! Congrats on the mileage, you’ll really be high-stepping in no time!

    The hundred words is working for me, too. It’s making me work on writing and not relying on the muse to fuel one of my three day writing binges.

    I like the idea of celebrating success, no matter how small or insignificant the accomplishment to someone else. One person’s perfect attendence award is another person’s academy award. 😀

    • What’s that proverb? Every journey starts with one step? We’re so impatient that we want to see huge leaps and gains, but slow and steady wins the race. (Am I mixing proverbs here? LOL.) We should run when we can, but there’s nothing wrong with walking when we need to and crawling when we have to. As long as we keep moving, we’ll get there.

  6. One of the few things I’ve ALWAYS done on a book is watch my word count. It’s so rewarding to see it go up and up and watch the words left to go come down and down. (Of course, then there’s the point when I realize that my story and my word count aren’t going to match, so I’m cutting cutting CUTTING, but that’s a different matter.)

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