Husband and I often share a giggle over this Harry Enfield sketch when we talk about my limitations:
Yes, well, thank goodness its not so much like that anymore!
Women are especially bad at knowing their limits because we are brought up to be martyrs, to sacrifice our own well-being before that of others. I’m no exception. I’m useless at boundaries, and having ME has made me even worse for committing to something that I have no earthly hope of carrying through because of my fluctuating energy and pain levels. I continue to have expectations of myself that fall way beyond my capacities.
Anyway, a little while back I had this brainwave: “I know,” I thought, with all the enthusiasm of a labrador puppy. ‘I’ll do NaNoWriMo in November, and I’ll use the month to get the basis of my Viking novel done, and then I’ll have a book I can edit up and sell in the new year via Kindle.”
Great wheeze, No?
Hmm. The thing is, November is always a really busy month for me. Its the run-up to Christmas, which means getting the present shopping in early because I have to pace myself with all that trudging around the shops. It usually involves an extended visit to elderly parents, taking a week out during which there is no spare time, and no internet access. It is also the real onset of the bad weather, which always has a deleterious effect on my health. And if there is one thing I can always be sure of, its that I can never be sure when I am going to capable of getting out of bed in the morning!
I’d really like to do NaNoWriMo. Its not that I am not capable of writing 1700 words a day. I’m lucky in that, unlike many writers, I can crack through 3-5000 words a day when I’m well. But writing 50,000 in under 3 weeks is probably beyond even me.
So with a sigh of realism, I have relinquished my claim on that November novel. Another year will go by without me being a NaNoWriMo winner.
Instead, I have come up with another, more achievable goal, an ebook that I hope to bring you in the run-up to Christmas, so I hope that you’ll stay tuned to this blog to find out more about that. I know you’ll love it!
In the meantime, here are a few ideas on how to judge whether you are over-reaching yourself on a creative project:
1. Be realistic about how much time it will take. If you can, divide the task into measureable units, the way NaNoWriMo does with the word count. How long does a unit take? If you need three hours a day to write 1700 words or make a preparatory sketch, can you afford to carve out that time daily, or are you only likely to manage 3 hours once or twice a week?
2. Schedule your units of time into your diary or planner and keep a date with yourself. This might mean working other activities around them, bartering childcare with friends who are also mums, asking husband/partner or housemate to help out with basic chores. But making an appointment with yourself to create, however much subtle manoevring it takes, will help you finish your project more easily in the long run.
3. Expect the unexpected. Be prepared for life to throw a spanner in the works (or, if you are like me, an entire socket set!). Remember Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. So have a back-up plan. Either that, or don’t get too wedded to a deadline, or you may find yourself disappointed, which could put you off for good.
If you are tackling NaNoWriMo this year, I wish you the best of luck! If you have chosen to do something else, like me, then good luck with that too, The point is to know how much, realistically, you can take on, and be at peace with that.