Regarding the Merits of Pushing Oneself

Actual photo of author, with his goal in sight.

Man it was a great time.  Last weekend, I spent almost two full days writing and commiserating with other writers.  On Friday we vowed to hit 10,000 words over the course of one day of writing.  In general, this equals about 33 pages.  I can’t speak for all writers, but for me this was a monumental task, and one I was very doubtful that I would hit.  I’ve probably never written more than 3,000 words in a single day. 

But, lo and behold, as Friday progressed, it became more and more clear that it wasn’t totally impossible!  By 2:30, I was at 4,200.  That was after about 5 hours of writing. 

Side note:  If you look up the words “perseverance”, “nose to the grindstone”, or “determination”, in any dictionary, I can 100% guarantee you that my face or name will not be anywhere near the definitions or synonyms.  When my middle school gym teacher challenged me to do an 8-minute mile?  I was very comfortable with my 9-minute mile, thank you very much.  When a couple of friends started rock climbing and encouraged me to push myself to get to the top?  I was not at all embarrassed to give up after scaling a towering 8 feet of indoor, safety-harnessed wall (hey – the thing was like 40’ high).

So imagine my surprise when, on pace of a little under 1,000 words an hour, I saw that I might actually hit my impossible goal of 10,000 words by 8:00 pm.  Which would leave time for a drink or two before collapsing from mental exhaustion.

By 6 pm, I was at 7,000 words.  My pace had slowed, but still, I was over two-thirds of the way there!  If I picked up the pace, I would comfortably make 10k by 10:00 pm. 

Now, before I give you the seat-gripping conclusion of whether or not I hit my goal, I want to address what may or may not be going through your mind, especially if you’re a writer.  “Sure,” you cynical bastards might say, “10,000 words sounds good, but what’s the point of writing 10,000 words of complete crap?”

Great question.  One I was asking as well.  But as the day wore on, and 3,000 turned to 6,000 and then 8,000, I was aware that I was strangely comfortable with the quality of what I was writing.  It was like I’d turned off the critical part of my brain, and was just letting the story flow out of my fingers.  It was kind of like I was reading an already-finished story that my fingers just happened to be typing.

At 9:15, I hit my goal.  10,000 words in one day.  Eleven and a half hours of writing! And when I went back and looked through what I’d done, it was good!  I mean, even if I only end up keeping half of what I wrote, it’s still FIVE THOUSAND words of material.  Put another way, that’s about 15 to 16 pages.  But I think I’ll be keeping more than half, because I’m telling you – Once you can find a rhythm, and you can keep working, uninterrupted, you can really put out some great stuff!

So, on that note, I’ll stop this post that could alternately be titled “OMG LOOK HOW TOTALLY AWESOME I AM”.  The point is that, pushing yourself is extremely difficult to do (especially if you share my name and likeness).  But if you can finally do that – if you can get over that hump – you will find the rewards soooooo totally worth it.

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