It’s Okay to Pace Yourself

There is something to be said about how everything must be achieved now.

I’ve talked before about taking your time when writing or creating. It’s something that I think needs to be said more – that it’s okay to not have achieved everything by a particular age or date or time.

Life doesn’t work like that.

And on the same thread, this month I want to talk about why it’s important to pace yourself with your creative projects. A related topic, even more important given the ongoing lockdowns around the world and the strain that the pandemic (along with everything else it has brought) is putting on our lives.

Running a Marathon, not a Sprint

I keep being reminded about the phrase “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” whenever it think about my creative projects and plans. I like to plan them over a quarter periods over a year, and in doing so I realise that even doing that is too short scale.

So I extend the plan to three years.

Then five.

Then ten.

After hours of trying to work out a path forward, I realised that I didn’t need a particular time on my end goal. It isn’t the speed that will get me to the end, but the steady pace of progress. It’s 100 words a day or even 100 words a month that keeps the progress moving, more so than trying to churn out 20,000 words in a month.

Taking a Back Seat

As a kid, I always saw achievements as the goal – you achieve your grades or your sports award and then you move onto the next achievement or award, repeating the cycle again and again until…

Well, until the end of your life.

One of the dawning realisations I’ve had as I move through my current decade of existence is that life is not all about achievements. It’s about making things that work for you, in the order that is best to allow you to achieve those things. And sometimes, those things clash with one another and you have to drop something.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay if your writing takes a back seat, I say to myself, because then you won’t get a migraine from having stared at the screen for the whole working day and evening. It’s okay if your writing feels a bit rubbish – you’ve had a long day at work and need to find things that chill you out. It’s okay if you can’t read because you’ve spent the day reading words and you want to just chill out on the sofa with a half decent TV show and ice cream.

You don’t always need an achievement

In February I talked about how writing was a lot like baking sourdough bread, my newest hobby in this lockdown world. A completely pointless activity, given that I don’t agree with gluten unless in bare minimum quantities, but it is so satisfying. There is no end goal, no dream to become a world baker, just having a stab at a new recipe, work out what went wrong and why, and try again.

Part of pacing yourself is recognising why you’re doing this creative activity in the first place. At it’s heart, writing for me is just something that I do, much like making sourdough. Even with the dreams and goals and plans to get published, at the end of the day I do this for the sheer joy of writing.

To get that joy, I don’t have to hit word counts or milestones, just engage with my story. That’s all I need from it. It’s why I do it.

Reminding yourself that you don’t always need achievements helps you take a step back from a punishing plan and recognise that, hey, it’s okay you’ve not written loads of words or finished lots of chapters. It’s enough to have enjoyed that moment of writing.

Pace yourself

Whatever project you’re doing, whatever plan you’re making, taken time out to pace yourself. Set your goals realistically and give yourself space to do other hobbies or activities too. Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint – you’ve just got to keep your pace consistent and solid not be the first one to the finish line.

Alex.J.Cobalt is a fantasy writer from the UK. When she’s not working away at her fantasy novel series, she posts free flash fictions on her website, along with regular blogs about writing.

Featured Image: Photo by Neal E. Johnson on Unsplash

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