Stuck in the middle

Anyone who’s ever started anything knows: beginnings are exhilarating, endings are fulfilling (hopefully), and middles… Yeah, the middle can be a slog.

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Sometimes in the middle, you can’t even see the end…

In my college days, a number of times I hiked the Manastash ridge trail in central Washington State before dawn to catch the sunrise. It was the same every time: Getting up and heading out in the dark to hit the trail? Yes! How exciting! And then at the end, standing at the crest while the sun inched up over the horizon and the dawn light filled the valley below? Awesome. (It was the nineties, so everything was awesome.) But slogging up the seemingly never-ending trail in the shadowy, predawn half-light with a head full of bleary thoughts? It went something like this: What am I doing here? I should still be in bed! I’m starving and my side aches… I really don’t even like this trail!

No doubt about it: the middle is hard.

I’m into day three of five days of focused writing–my Audacious Writing Week. (And I actually got a head start on Sunday evening, and I’m thinking I’ll extend into Saturday… but either way—I’m smack in the middle.) Today was most definitely more of a slog than the previous two. The novelty has worn off; now it’s feeling more like a grind. And a face-filling head cold has decided to come my way which means I’m propping up the kleenex industry and drinking loads of seltzer.

But I’m still on pace for my goal. And in the midst of just trying to get my 3,000 words down, I even had some unexpected–and welcome–character and plot breakthroughs. And I guarantee, without the goal in mind, I wouldn’t have gotten those breakthroughs. Perseverance pays off. And even though the middle can be a grind, I managed to cap off the day with an evening with friends. Now to get some sleep. Tomorrow’s coming.

Got a goal driving you? Has perseverance paid off? Leave a comment!

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7 thoughts on “Stuck in the middle

  1. Matt: I have prayed for creative break-throughs for you, that new and wonderful developments would unfold that you would never have found if you had not carved out this week. You may be stuck in the middle with a stuffy head, but before you know it, the girls will be unpacking their ski bags and asking what’s for dinner. Carpe diem, again!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Pringle! I appreciate that greatly. There is something about pushing past the barriers of resistance like fatigue and sickness–and perhaps especially thoughts like “this is hard”… or “I’ve put in enough time for today”… or “I’ve earned a break.” I’m definitely seeing how a daily goal can drive me to simply keep going, push past those thoughts–and discover things I don’t think I would have any other way.

      Maybe that’s why it’s called a breakthrough–you actually have to push a bit!

      I hope you’re enjoying your time away with your family.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I got a lot of writing done in my time not-blogging/on vacation. It’s interesting that just putting time limits on writing “I can only write for 20 minutes, non-stop, Go!” {Natalie Goldberg-esk}…I work best under pressure 😉

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      • So I have a question: when you do word count goals, we’ve *discussed* {in comments!} of our mutual love of writing longhand – when you write long-hand, do you estimate your word count? I find it tedious to do an actual count, yet I write on unlined paper specifically to have the freedom to write without boundaries. However, in writing like this I sometimes write very big and loopy {usually when I’ve lost my train of thought or my hand is hurting from writing so much!} and very small and “scribbly” when I’m in the groove and the thoughts are flowing so fluidly…how do you do word counts?

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        • Well, for this week, I did everything on the computer. No longhand at all. Which wasn’t my original plan, it just worked out that way. I thought I would print some of the outlined/rough sections and hit them hard with the red pen and even rewrite them. But as it happened, I didn’t work on any (!) of the sections I looked at leading up to this week; instead, I got so absorbed into a series of scenes leading up to the climax that I just kept going with it.
          Now: when I do draft longhand, I don’t ever count every word. Sometimes I’ll count maybe a third of a page and extrapolate from there to get a rough idea. But I rarely even bother with that. I’ll just get a count when I finally type it up. The whole point (I think) is to use whatever measures help spur your productivity. Word goals IMHO are a bit artificial. But just like a deadline, they can really help inspire you to put the work in!

          Liked by 1 person

          • That makes SO much more sense for me! I, too, think that word counts are so arbitrary — but as a forcing function {for me, time is a more accurate measure}, it totally makes sense! Thank you so much for sharing your methodology. Wishing you great success on your writing goals!

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