Deadlines? Writing Schedules? No, Thanks!

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First thing in the morning, I take a cup of tea to my laptop. I work dutifully for four hours before taking a break for lunch, abstain from surfing social media in between sentences, and write at least 1,500 hundred words a day.

…Yeah, right!

I hate admitting this about myself, but I’m terrible with putting structure around my writing. I like to consider myself an organized person, someone with self-discipline and adherence to schedules, but for some reason all of those qualities escape me when it comes to putting words onto the screen.

I’ve tried so many times to adopt more structured writing regimen. Years ago, it helped to sign up for eight-week workshops at Lighthouse Writers so that I had a deadline to complete chapters of Caged Eyes. For a period, I hired a writing coach who gave me goals for each week. Certainly, when I began working with my editor, I was required to meet certain obligations.

I can squeak by and make those deadlines, narrowly avoiding being found out (Just like I’ll be sure this blog posts before eight am EST…but just barely). But writing for a deadline typically isn’t my best work. Not by a long shot.

It isn’t procrastination exactly. It’s that I need to stew for periods of time – occasionally very loooong periods of time – before I find the messages or images I want to create. I have to find passion for the material before I can run with it.

About four years ago, when I returned to writing Caged Eyes after a several year hiatus, I was working full-time (and somehow training for my first ultra-marathon too!). I used to get up at three in the morning, write in a fit of mania, go to the gym, and show up at work by eight…already having drained both my mind and my body. Sometimes I’m not sure how I did it.  I had the luxury of being able to go to sleep by eight every night, but still, I’m exhausted just thinking about that routine. Then I remember: I was fueled by a consuming passion to finally get my story down on the page.

Today I know better than to try to set NaNoWriMo-like goals, or to even try to flat out bribe myself with sugar or anything else. I simply can’t write unless I find fervor for the topic. And you know what? I’ve stopped fighting this fact about myself. It’s okay not to be perfect, or to sometimes take longer to write than others.

So no, my next book is not done. And no, I won’t be participating in NaNoWriMo. And no, the next book might not even be done by the end of the year. And you know what? That’s okay with me. The passages for that book will come out of me when they were meant to.

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Lynn Hall is a memoirist, activist in the movement to end sexual violence, ultra-runner, and crazy cat lady. Her memoir, CAGED EYES: AN AIR FORCE CADET’S STORY OF RAPE AND RESILIENCE, was published by Beacon Press in February 2017. Her writing has previously appeared in the New York Times, The LA Times, Hippocampus Magazine, The Sexual Assault Report, The Manifest-Station, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and elsewhere. In the summers, Lynn copes with publication anxiety by spending too many days in the Colorado mountains, and in the winters, with pans of brownies. She lives in Boulder with her partner and their 23 cats. Just kidding…she only has five.

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