The Tortoise and the Hare:

I’m one of those people who has a core of yin energy wrapped up in a whirlwind of yang. I’m both a dreamer and a type-A personality. Those who are close to me are no doubt all-too familiar with my ability to simultaneously attract chaos while remaining annoyingly optimistic.

I’ve only recently discovered how much this informs my approach to writing, in which I am both the tortoise and the hare. If I have a writing day where, whether for lack of time or because I’m rewriting, adding/deleting, or revising, I only write a few hundred words, I still add it into the total marked on the white-board in my office. Because, in my view, every little thing, every word written or deleted; every revelation about my character, my world, or my story; and every footfall on the path of my writing career is progress. Slow, steady progress is still progress. And so, onward I go.

And, of course, what writer isn’t the hare? Many of us can crank out a few-thous words come crunch time, but isn’t far more pleasant to say, “Oh, I have [insert amount of time here]. Maybe I’ll write in my blog. Maybe I’ll go on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or MySpace. Or maybe I’ll pick up a few writing books on Amazon. Oh! My e-mail…”

So, inevitably, as the fable goes, the tortoise reaches the end: score one for slow, steady approaches to larger goals. Word by word, scene by scene, moment by moment, and day by day, a story is written.

But whether I’m in tortoise or hare mode, I still have to live with those goals in mind. Finish this story, read this book, write x number of words. Having my goals keeps me grounded. And a bit of hectic hare energy is good every once in a while. When utilized properly, those swift days allow you to crawl into bed exhausted but full of a sense of accomplishment. And accomplishment can serve as a motivation, getting you excited for whatever the next day or chapter brings.

For me, I have my white board, on which I list my current WIPs, with word-count goals and a space for a current tally. Of course, I also have stickies on my computer desktop and yellow notepads full of lists and notes to myself. But the white board helps me stay on track, focusing on the work at hand, but with an end-goal in mind. It prevents me from getting sidetracked by those other projects that line my path, screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!”

So I’m curious about everyone else. How do you keep yourself on track toward your writing goals? What tools or strategies do you use to help meet your daily writing goals and work toward larger ones?


4 thoughts on “The Tortoise and the Hare:

    • Indeed! Keeping the faith is such a huge part of writing. Perhaps we must just believe that whatever mysterious force is bringing the words of our stories to us will help us ensure that, with a good dose of blood, sweat, and tears, our stories will become what they were meant to be.

  1. It’s so true that you can get to the end of a writing session and be disheartened to realise you’ve only produced a few hundred new words, when actually, the work you’ve done revising, slashing and burning and fiddling, and of course Thinking (with a capital ‘T’!) is just as valuable, and certainly a really necessary part.
    I have to remind myself of this on the days when I’m at my salary-paying job, and am too tired to write, but usually manage to get some thinking done instead. It all feeds the fire …

    • Exactly! One of my fave writing quotes is something to the effect of, “What the writer’s wife does not realize is that when the writer is staring out the window, he’s working.” So true. Thinking and fiddling and figuring things out are all parts of the overall process. Writing is so much more than putting words on a page.

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