NaNoWriMo felt like it was sucking all the words out of me. I sat and pushed myself to write a few more words then a few more then a few more every day. The ability to put down words even when I didn’t feel like it or was even highly resistant was satisfying and felt right.
What made that pushing through and writing thousands of words when I didn’t want to possible, was that I outlined the novel in detail in October. This made the actual writing so much easier since I always knew what was supposed to happen next. After I finished writing the rough draft I started working to break down the editing in same way so that it doesn’t involve a large, open space of trying to figure out what to do. I made a checklist to go through one issue at a time.
We, as humans, need structures to follow to move us forward. I’m sure there are people who can move ahead without needing anything to fall back on, but I find that structures, even structures I create, give me something to rely on. They make me feel like I don’t have to invent anything new, that I can just go back and look at my structure to be able to move ahead.
In education, this is called “scaffolding.” If a child is trying to produce something a teacher will keep adding a little more help and information as the child seems to struggle. If the child can produce the work right away then nothing is needed, but if they need some help the teacher will provide a piece and then another and another as needed. As the child learns, less and less scaffolding is needed for that particular task.
The way I use this is to create as firm and complete a scaffold as possible for myself, for my writing and then I use or ignore it as I need. School and even jobs provide that type of structure or scaffolding. It’s easy to get comfortable and rely on the structure that someone else has set up. For achieving your own special goals, though, you need to build your own scaffold. Don’t think of it as extra work or wasted time, but as a foundation that you can fall back on when you’re feeling lost and unable to see your goal off in the distance.
To build your own scaffold,
1. Think about your goal
2. Break it down into the different pieces that need to be done for you to achieve the goal
3. Work backwards putting the pieces, the tasks that need to be done in reverse order
4. Write these down in a line perhaps across the top of a spreadsheet or just a piece of paper, then underneath each piece, list the specific tasks that you need to do to accomplish each one. Put a little check box next to each doable task.
Now you have your own scaffold. You can start working on each item in order. When you’re feeling motivated and moving you can do what you feel like. When you start to feel like your ambition is flagging you can open up your scaffold and see what piece is next to do or if your goal doesn’t require that thing be done in order, look over your list of checkboxed tasks and decide on tone to do that would be least miserable and do it. Your goal is to cross them all off. You can feel accomplished and successful with more checkboxes and you won’t have to think up each task when you’re not feeling that motivated.