Saturday, June 9, 2018

When an Overachiever Rebels - a brain dump

You ready for a brain dump?

Sometimes plans change.

Last week I gave you all an update on The Brightest Thread's editing progress, which was not nearly as far as I had planned. See, I seem to think I'm Wonder Woman, and I plan accordingly. A few months ago, while finishing up my second semester at business school, I sketched out big summer editing plans.

  1. Finish compiling feedback from my beta readers before exams
  2. Edit this entire novel before school starts again in September
  3. In fact, get as much of TBT edited as possible before Realm Makers in mid-July

Ha! It's only the beginning of June, but things are already off track. Step 1 was finished a month after exams. And steps 2-3 are well on their way to . . . not being completed, at least not under that timeline. I am, after all, still plunking away at chapter one. And there are thirty more chapters to go, some of them gnarlier than others. (Hey, if gnarly is a word, then why can't gnarlier be one too, hmm?)

"But what's the big deal?" you might be wondering. "Just adjust your goals."

The Big Deal is that my brain is a giant, whirring to-do list. Doing, achieving, and checking off boxes is hardwired into my thought process. My personality just likes progress! While some people need to work up the will to get moving, I have to consciously rein myself back so that I STOP now and then. (Neither temperament is good or bad--it's just how we operate.)

This all means that backing off from an unrealistic goal usually feels more like admitting defeat than, um, being smart.

Now, I am starting to get better at adjusting my goals. I'm slowly learning how to pace myself so that I don't burn out so often. In the past few weeks, as I've watched the Goal Train pull far, far ahead of me until all I could make out was a tiny caboose, I had to pause and re-evaluate. Want to hear how that conversation with myself went? (The correct answer is yes, of course you do, and no, you don't have anything better to do at the moment like eat peanut butter or clean your room or rule the world.)

* * *

Me: So. Those editing goals we made? Yeah, we're awfully behind.

Also Me: Shush. We're fine.

Me: No, I mean one-third of our summer vacation is OVER. That means we should be at least ten chapters into The Brightest Thread revisions.

Also Me: Right, and we're perfectly--


Also Me: *is stressed*

Also Me: Okay. So let's do something about that. Let's make plans to work really, really hard the rest of June and all of July and August, and we can still make this happen.

Me: Oh, great, so I guess all we'll do is eat, sleep, edit, and go to work. It's not like we have an actual family or friends or--good heavens--a social life. Or a blog, or books to read so that the creative well doesn't dry up, or movies we want to see, or places we want to go, or even a summer we want to live.

from my recent road trip adventures

Me: Let's trash the goals.

Also Me: . . .

Also Me: Did you just hear yourself?

Me: I should hope so, because you and I are the same person and we are carrying on a conversation. (Wonder which one of us is Sméagol?)

Also Me: We never scrap the goals. Never.

Me: I know. And that's why you're tired.

Also Me: But sometimes you have to push on even when you're tired so that you build stamina. What about learning how to write fast and write even when you don't feel like it? That's what real authors do under contract! You do want a publishing deal one day, right?

Me: Calm down. You are doing just fine. Look, you wrote Mirrors Never Lie with full college classes and part-time shifts going on at the same time. You expanded The Brightest Thread into a novel last summer. You've written under deadline for a bunch of contests, and for even more self-imposed deadlines. You did the 100-for-100 challenge two summers ago. You know how to put your butt in the chair and fingers on the keyboard and write, and you'll just keep getting better at it. Choosing to slow down doesn't mean you're failing.

Also Me: Yeah, yeah, okay. But does this mean we have to break up TBT edits into two chunks? Leave it for eight months while we go back to school, and then come back to it next summer to finish? This will create so much extra work.

Me: But missing out on people and life in favor of meeting a goal kind of sucks. So I propose that we trash the goals, take the pressure off, and just see what happens. Let's make time for the important people in life, live in the moment, and really give TBT the time and care it needs rather than rush through a slapdash round of revisions.

Also Me: That sounds . . . kind of relieving. But what about Realm Makers? You're pitching TBT there! They say "complete manuscripts only!"

Me: TBT is complete. We're just improving it.

Also Me: But--

Me: Besides, you know how slowly the publishing business moves. Don't borrow troubles that don't exist yet.

Also Me: *sigh* Fine. I surrender. And who knows? With this new non-plan of no pressure, we might end up being more productive.

Me: Maybe. But don't push it.

* * *

also from the road trip
So that's my roundabout way of saying that I kicked my goals to the side and decided to keep a more balanced pace this summer. After two years of almost non-stop movement, I need a break. It's tough to admit it. After finally coming to grips with the fact that I wouldn't get much writing done at all during college this past year, I clung to the hope that I had all summer to write/edit as I pleased. What I didn't anticipate was the leftover fatigue. But you know what? Time and freedom and careful pondering are what my novel needs right now.

And I think The Brightest Thread will turn out better for it.

I still find myself looking over at those crumpled goals lying in the corner, wondering if maybe I'm being weak or undisciplined for putting them aside. But deep down, I know I'm not. I know this is another lesson in living the best possible life, a life in which I can work and play and be without guilt.

What about you? I know this felt like a "me, me, me" kind of post, but hopefully it was encouraging--especially for those of you who might be in a similar spot right now. (The humor of this post being published kind of late is not lost on me.) So tell me, how do you know when it's time to ease up and relax?

P.S. You may be wondering what's happened to this year's Silmarillion Awards. Never fear, they are still on the schedule! But we have elected to bump them a little bit later in the year, for reasons that Jenelle Schmidt so wonderfully explains HERE.


  1. Ohhh. I think my brain and I need to have this conversation. >.>

    Anyway, it was highly amusing and also let me just say: GOOD FOR YOU! BTB definitely IS complete (and excellent at that) and I hope your slower pace will work out! You definitely need a break! <3 *huggles* Thanks for sharing and I think we could all use to slow down on our insane goals... I hope you have a wonderful summer! Can't wait to see you at RM!!

    1. *I obviously meant TBT, not BTB. Ai-ai-aiii. -_-

    2. Burning Thorns Thread? That would be. . . an interesting crossover. It would be fun if the writer-bloggers in these circles had an anthology someday, though. . .

    3. @Deborah: I think I agree. ;) Haha, glad you found it amusing! Currently that "slower pace" is like... going at zero miles per hour, but I'll get back in the editing chair soon. ^_^ Can't wait to see you at RM tooooo!!! <333

      (BTB... that could be "Burning the Bacon." Or "Back There, Bob," or "Break the Bank." XD)

      @Sophia: An anthology would be SO COOL. O.O I am officially intrigued by this idea...

  2. Oooooh, girl! This is THE most relatable post ever! I am so glad I'm not the only one who has conversations like that with myself. XDDD But seriously, I do that ALL the time! Going back and forth trying to decide how to tackle things. I declare we have the same brain, because this is so, so me!

    I absolutely have an ever constant Life To-Do List going on. Every task is another thing to mark off the to-do list. And I kinda drive myself crazy with it, but I guess it's a good thing sometimes??? Lol. It's so hard to rewire our brains and remember we DON'T have to kill ourselves in order to get things done. The world WON'T end if something on the ever-going to-do list doesn't get checked off when we hoped it would. I seriously have to remind myself of this daily!

    I was especially doing this last year--the year I had big plans to do a major rewrite for Burning Thorns and do ALL THE THINGS. But it just...wasn't working out. And finally, after weeks, MONTHS even, of beating myself up over it, I's okay. I had had a pretty awful year in 2016, especially the last few months, and 2017 just needed to be a year of healing. Of making changes and recharging and not burdening myself even MORE with all these big tasks. So I finally let go and just LIVED, and the result was that 2018 is proving to be an amazingly productive year with lots of motivation and inspiration. I think our bodies and brains just know what they need, even if we're too stubborn to acquiesce.

    You've been SO busy, girl. So, so busy. o.o You amaze me at how much you juggle! You deserve a break! You DO already have a finished, and absolutely BEAUTIFUL, manuscript you've worked so hard on it. If it takes a little longer to make these improvements, there's nothing wrong with that! Like you said, the industry moves slowly, and, well, you're still really, really young. You've got your whole life ahead of you! Taking a few months to take it slower and breathe some isn't going to hurt a thing. I think it'll help in the end!

    I'm so proud of you for deciding to let go and just enjoy the summer. Your "Also Me" will thank you in the end, even if she's being grumpy about it now. ;D

    1. Oh, girl, I have those conversations alllll the time. XD We really must be braintwins, separated at birth... (Wait, does that mean our brains were connected? This is weird. XD)

      That drive IS a good thing most of the time! It helps me get stuff done, because without that to-do list hovering, I'm not sure if I'd have the same motivation. But like anything else, there's a bad side to it, and so I must learn balance. You're absolutely right, the world is NOT ENDING just because I don't accomplish my list every day!

      Yes, that's right, you ended up taking a much-needed break! I hate the circumstances that caused the burnout, but I LOVE that you were able to recharge and heal and come back stronger than ever! <3 Now here's hoping that we both get better at recognizing burnout BEFORE it happens, and take preventative measures... ;)

      I guess I have been really busy. I just... don't realize it sometimes. :P And exactly, taking a few months, or even a year, at a slower pace isn't going to hurt. Thank you so much for affirming that!

      Heheh, "Also Me" will indeed be thankful in the end. You're the best! ;D

  3. Ah yes, talking to yourself. That never fails to be relatable :). The nagging "did I really do the right thing? I'll never know --- what if I don't have time next year? What if it is really laziness?" sticks around for a long time and is a nuisance to life with. Sometimes I can't remember I really did make the right choice. (I've had to give up cherished goals a lot during the semesters. . . I never seem to learn that they're always busier than they seem.) You did make the right decision, though. It's always better to take things slowly enough to get them right the first time(s) through editing, rather than rushing and not ending up with any improvements.

    1. So I'm not crazy! ;) But gahhh, the second-guessing really is a nuisance. That reminds me of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Aslan tells Lucy she can't know what might have been.

      You know, it's really comforting to know that another student has had to give up goals during the school year. I felt bad that I couldn't do it all, but if we're investing in education, it's best to get the most out of our studies! And those other goals deserve our best too... just not at the same time. ;) Thanks, Sophia!

  4. "Or rule the world." Um, are you SURE about that one? Sounds kinda' important. . .

    This made me laugh. And think.
    I said last January (we all said so many things last January, didn't we? ha.) that I wanted to finish my WIP's first draft this year. Then we decided I should take College Algebra this summer to help my ACT score, so my summer break feels really compromised. We're also moving this month. (#yay) I still don't know how far I'll get in my story, but finishing the draft looks doubtful. I'm trying to be okay with that. ;-)


    1. I mean, maybe I'm subtly trying to keep all of you guys from ruling the world, and that's why I blog. IT'S A DISTRACTION. XD

      Good to hear!!!

      (Haha, that we did. Good ol' resolutions.) Yikes, algebra and moving AND writing sounds like a lot! Do take care of yourself. Take breaks. Get in some "nothing time" when you can. Your first draft will still be there when things settle down. <3

  5. This made me laugh XD I have many conversations like this in my mind :P I'm really really amazed at how far TBT has gone along, a break is completely understandable!

    1. Haha, good to know I'm not the only crazy one around here! ;) Aww, thank you, Sarah!

  6. I completely relate to this. I've been trying to be more realistic about my goals too, for better or worse.

    1. *hugs* You've been hard at work on Falling Snow edits, so I can imagine how tricky it is to find the right balance! <3

  7. I’ve had mental self conversations like this many times before. XD I relate to this a lot. I had to have a conversation like this to myself in March when I wasn’t reaching my goals. Sometimes you just have to slow down. I ended up having to shift focus but I’m still progressing toward a goal just a little slower.

    1. Hahaha, these conversations happen on a daily basis, so I feel ya. XD Better to realize a need to slow down ahead of time, BEFORE you burn out! I'm glad you're still progressing, even if it's at a slower pace! <3

  8. This sounds suspiciously like my own inner dialog when I feel like, if I was a REALLY serious writer, I'd write instead of [insert other thing here] no matter what else is going on. Therefore, because I did the other thing I must beat myself up and make up for the lost writing time next time I write. (Which sometimes happens and sometimes doesn't.) It can be a fight, but I often have to remind myself that it's okay to take time to live life instead of being glued to the computer 24/7 and I do not and cannot in fact live up to my own perfectionism. So I just need to chillax and do the best I can do and also make time for fun and life.

    Very good and relatable post, Tracey. :) I hope you have a great summer!

    1. Maybe I was reading your mind! (*wiggles fingers* oooOOOOoooOOoo XD) I know what you mean! I fight myself with this often, but I'm ever so slowly chipping away at those false beliefs and trying to gain some more balance. Sometimes you just have to take a step back and realize what the really important things are. (Also, YEP, no one's living up to that perfectionism!)

      I hope you have a wonderful, relaxed, yet productive summer too, E! ;) <3