Rather than cancel or quit

Lots of folks will start National Novel Writing Month on November 1st. This writing challenge involves writing a 50,000 word novel over the 30 days of November. It’s doable, if challenging. From past experience, I know that level of output (1667 words per day, or about 2500 words per day if you only do weekdays) could require 90 minutes to 2 hours per day.

I’ve spent a lot of time these past few weeks pondering whether I intend to participate this year or not. My current thinking is that I will construct my own challenge, likely writing 1000 words each weekday in my “free writing file” — figuring out ideas I might incorporate in an existing novel draft. I do not think I will be able to carve out a full 90-120 minutes per day, so best not to set that as a goal. An hour is more doable. I could see doing an hour today, but not two hours, and my life will not be different in a week. Future Laura will likely feel the same.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time thinking about what my yearlong projects will be for 2023. The leading contender for a reading project is all the works of Jane Austen (I’m looking for projects that are doable in a few pages a day — to limit resistance — and worth doing, meaning the author’s works have stood the test of time, and that I haven’t read all of them). My current leading contender for a year-long writing project is to write 2 lines in a sonnet every day, thus producing 52 14-line sonnets in a year (longtime readers know that the “collection of sonnets” idea has appeared on versions of my list of 100 dreams). That would also meet my criteria of being doable in a few minutes — to limit resistance — and worth doing.

In any case, it’s a lot of hemming and hawing. Why? Because once I decide to do something, I want to see it through. I really dislike canceling or quitting things. I doubt anyone likes doing so but for myself, I dislike it enough that I’d prefer to quit on the front end — that is, think long and hard about whether I truly want to do something. That’s true for big projects, though it’s true for everyday stuff as well. If I’m going to take something on, I’d like to have a plan, I’d like to have thought through the challenges, and I want to anticipate how I will deal with them.

If I have those three things in place, then it’s not too hard to sustain something, even for a full year. If I don’t, then it will be. And I’ll probably be kicking myself.

Are you taking on NaNoWriMo? What about any 2023 year-long projects?

In other news: I was a guest on The Art of Manliness podcast! This was so cool — I know it has a huge following. If you’re coming here because you heard me there, welcome! I blog a few times a week on productivity topics and daily life. We have a great and positive comment section.

I was also a guest on the lovely Caroline Dowd-Higgins’ podcast, Your Working Life. It is always a treat to talk to Caroline, and the episode is fairly short, so please give it a listen if you’ve got a few minutes!

Photo: Random fall color, fallen to the ground

26 thoughts on “Rather than cancel or quit

  1. Yipee for Jane Austin. I read all of Austin’s work in the spring of 2020–as an escape. I may join you in rereading Austen in 2023.

    1. @Gillian – excellent! If I do this one, I will figure out a calendar over the next few weeks. The 7-volume set (which includes her juvenalia…) looks like it is around 3000 pages, so 10 pages or so per day.

    1. @Mary – it could be fun! I will post a calendar if I wind up doing this, since I can’t find another “read Jane Austen in a year” project online…

  2. Don’t really have much to say except Thank You. A new blogpost from you is aways a highlight of my day and there is reliably something worthwhile to think about as a result of reading your blog. So appreciate all you gift to the world as you generously share your perspectives with us. Have all your books and love your podcasts too. Such a bonus having all the extra links.

    1. I feel the same way, Hayley! Been tuning in daily for about a decade and always appreciate Laura’s perspective. Thanks for showing up consistently in this space, Laura, and sharing so much about your perspective and experiences!

  3. My mother was an English major. She has been passed away for many years now but I have her (handwritten of course) papers on different books. I plan to read the book then read her report, 1 per month. Scarlett Letter, Chaucer, Wuthering Heights…. I’m excited!

    1. @Erin – wow! That would be a fascinating project – and a lovely way to connect with your mother’s past. I hope the project goes well!

  4. I love your common sense time management advice, Laura. Just the fact that you can’t find 2 Hours today so likely won’t be able to in a week either… so simple, and yet life changing for anyone like me who likes to imagine that future me will have endless time, energy and willpower!

    I’m currently reading War and Peace as my 2022 book, and also considering my 2023 plan… I think I’m going to read the Bible. I blatantly took this idea of a yearlong reading project from you and it has been endlessly satisfying. Thank you!

    1. @Katie – yep, Future Us won’t be radically different from our current selves. That is really a life-changing realization! And so glad you’re reading W&P. It really is a great book.

    2. The One Year Bible is a GREAT way to do this. It does require buying a new book, but it lays everything out by date so there is NO thinking. You do some from OT, NT, and Psalms each day (I can’t remember). Full disclosure – I quite on day 311 last year because it was just something I was checking off and that’s not how I want Bible-reading to be, but I highly recommend this layout for keeping things simple!

  5. I am like you and do not like to set goals or plan to do something that I know I might not accomplish because I am an upholder. That’s why I haven’t really set much in the way of goals in the last couple of years. I am still accomplishing things but I try not to ask too much of myself in this stage of life where I have less free time and am just generally more tired!

    In 2022, I read the Count of Monte Cristo but I used a daily reading ap. I found that it was not the best way to read a huge work of literature, though. It just kind of broke the book out in odd ways at times so it was hard to really get into it. I am part of a patreon group that is reading it and that has really added to my enjoyment. So whatever they select next year for their “conquer a classic” challenge, I will be reading in print and I’ll follow the breakout that the bookstore owner recommends (the patreon is From the Front Porch, hosted by the owner of The Bookshelf in Thomasville, GA).

    That’s kind of it for long-range goals in 2023, but one thing you’ve inspired me to do is think of something else I can add to the ‘3 times a week is a habit’ rule. So in 2023, my goal will be to reach out to 3 people every week, either through text, email, etc.

    1. Oh that’s a lovely idea Lisa. I am sufficiently extroverted that I could definitely aim for three social events a week, but I’d likely have to get creative on my wfh weeks. I weirdly have way more social interaction in work city than home city, I think because we moved during the pandemic and use wraparound care so don’t meet folks at the school gate.

  6. I just wanted to echo what a commenter posted above. I absolutely love coming to your blog to a new blog post, and I love reading them. It’s so refreshing that you’ve maintained a more diary style blog and I love reading it. I also love hearing some practicalities in your everyday life.

  7. I’m doing NaMoBloPo. It’s a twist on the novel version and involves blogging each day in November. I think it used to be a big deal, but blogging isn’t quite as trendy these days, but San (from The In Between Is Mine) spearheads the initiative in my little corner of the internet and I’m really excited!

  8. I’m going to read Les Mis one chapter at a time – inspired by an earlier post/comments.
    I did a deep Sondheim dive this year and feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface. Way too much to mine/read/watch/hear. So it continues next year.

  9. I love the energy of Nanowrimo so much, but I just can’t think of an hour’s worth of stuff I’m willing to not do the make room for it (I take the quantity-not-quality ethos more to heart, I think, which makes it faster). So I’m going to start a project and write with the Nanowrimo spirit but without the goal… at the end of the month, I’ll have some number of new words, I’ll have read one or two fewer books than I would have, and I’ll have gotten to engage in an event that feels as much a part of the month as thanksgiving.

  10. “once I decide to do something, I want to see it through.” I am very much like you – I used to proudly proclaim “I am not a quitter”, but I have in recent years found some freedom in letting things go that no longer serve me (it’s been a process).
    I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, because well, I am not a novel writer, but I’ve been doing the blog version “NaBloPoMo” ever since its heydays (back in 2006)… so, you count how many years that is. It’s a great little exercise that I can commit to once a year 🙂

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