Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Pushing Yourself As A Writer

Photo Courtesy Catherine Scott and Wikipedia Commons

Back when I was in graduate school, my advisor approached me about giving a presentation at one of national chemical society meetings that were held each fall. I was reluctant at first. I was still in the early stages of my research project, which meant I didn’t have much data to present, and the meeting was only six months away. Basically, my advisor was asking me to commit to standing up in front of a whole bunch of people I didn’t know and talk about data that didn’t exist yet, with no guarantee that the data would exist in six months either.

In the end, I decided to go for it, thinking that the pressure to generate data would be a good thing for me. And needless to say, it worked. The fear that I wouldn’t have enough data to keep from embarrassing myself got me into the lab early every day (well…almost) and kept me there late in the evening. Fortunately, the Fates were kind to me, so by the time the summer was over, I had enough data for a pretty nice talk. Although this experience taught me how much I could accomplish if I put my mind to it, I promised myself I’d never put myself in that kind of situation again.

So here we are, many years later, and I’m about to break that promise. I didn’t meet my writing goals last year, and at my present pace, I’m not going to meet them this year either. Why? Because there’s not enough pressure on me to write faster. I do belong to two critique groups, which you’d think would help keep me motivated, but it’s too easy for me to tell them I won’t have anything ready until the next meeting.

No more. Not only have I joined another couple of writing groups, I’m now promising them (and myself) that I will have something for them to read every time we meet. Heck, a few days ago I agreed to submit the beginnings of my next chapter at tomorrow night’s crit group, and those pages didn’t even exist yet. Am I spending every spare second this week working on those pages? You bet. Nothing like a little peer pressure to get one’s creative juices flowing.

I just hope the Fates are as kind to me as they were the last time.



  1. Some people work well under pressure. If it helps you, go for it. I bet that chapter will be written by tomorrow night.
    And that's why it took NaNo to write two of my books. Of course, I'm also a lazy writer, which doesn't help.

  2. I usually work well under pressure (which is probably why I procrastinate on everything). I just have a hard time taking my own goals seriously, I guess. I'll bet having the added pressure of a critique group helps out with that!

  3. Best of luck working under pressure! I hope you don't freak out and panic like I do. :D

  4. I work better under pressure, too. If I don't have some sort of solid deadline that people know about, I will put it on the back burners or won't even touch it at all. As of now, I don't have a critique or anything group and I really need to find one because I haven't written anything big in weeks *sigh*

  5. I hear you. I'm the same, which is why I contract with my editor before I finish a manuscript. It puts the pressure on, and that works for me.

  6. And isn't that one of the great characteristics of critique groups: They force us to do what we love. I haven't submitted for about four months and like you, just agreed to have something ready for the next meeting. I'd forgotten about it until I read your post. Now I'm getting a touch nervous.

  7. Wow, good for you. I couldn't manage it! Good luck - I hope the Fates are kind!

  8. Sounds like you work well when there's something on the line. That's great and you should exploit that as a sort of "writing hack" for yourself. For me, just writing a little bit every day really helps me add up the yearly word count. We have to figure out what works best for us.

  9. Yes, I think time constraints, deadline, and some sort of pressure do press us to produce more. Heck, I get the least amount of things done on the days when I have the most time to do them. :)

  10. I too like deadlines, and goal that I set for myself. I use them mostly for revising where logic and rules run strong. It would never work for my creative side though.

    I hope you find this works for you. It can't hurt to try it. :-)

    Anna from Elements of Writing


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