The Chisel and the Mountain

A couple weeks ago, I started the umpteenth rewrite of my first novel. The first several were mostly in vain — I began again and again with no real feedback to help me better the story, characters, or writing, and I ended up making small improvements without affecting the whole.

So I began again last month. Or I should say, “began.”

Oh, I’ve gotten about 5,000 words done. Some of it’s even good. I think. But I’ve been stalling. And I realized today that the reason I’ve been a proprietor of the good old Procrastinapods is that I feel like I’m tackling this:

Upper part of K2

With this:

Image of a steel woodworking chisel.

Tally ho! Image of a steel woodworking chisel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “That’s a damn fine mountain. I think it wants to eat you.”

And then I nodded sagely.

Writers aren’t alone in this dilemma. Not at all. There’s that pile o’ stuff that’s been growing and festering in your garage these ten years. There’s that heap of receipts you keep meaning to organize to itemize your deductions on this  next year’s taxes. There’s re-painting the house, or losing 20 pounds, or finally putting in that flower bed, or learning how to cook when you practically burn water…

…you get the point.

We all have our K2 — some crazy people very literally — and if you’re anything like me, you take a gander at that steep-sided monster of a people-eating mountain and decide you’d much prefer a cuddle with your kitten.

I mean, I've made worse choices.

But imagine how you’ll feel after you conquer K2.

Whatever your mountain, here are some no-nonsense approaches to making it manageable.

Start with a small, attainable goal. Instead of saying, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds in April!” tell yourself that you’ll lose 1.5 pounds in the next two weeks by cutting 200 calories from your daily intake and committing to cardio exercise for the equivalent of ten minutes per day. When you look at the scale two weeks from now, you might even be surprised to be down 2 or 3 pounds.

Make small, sustainable changes. Maybe you can’t sit down and climb K2 in an afternoon. Assuming you’re human, you can’t. You’re not going to clean your garage in a day — but you can create a little grid of the space and tackle say, A1 today. Commit to tackling one square of your grid per week, and then in a couple months, voila!

Don’t beat yourself up. K2 will usually beat you up on your own behalf, so why would you team up with it? That mountain’s a monster. That pile of receipts is just armed and waiting to cover your hands with paper cuts and pour lemon juice on them. Don’t give it a chance. If you miss your threshold goals or skip a week, you can always add a few more receipts a day next week to catch up.

Something-something-marathon-not-sprint-something-something. There. A nice cliche to round it out. When you tackle K2, it will tackle you back and have your back flat on the mat if you run at it brandishing your chisel like William Wallace‘s claymore and screeching, “FREEEEEEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!” Like any successful battle strategy, you need to realize that you’ve got the disadvantage. Circle around and slash at the flanks until the flanks are gone — a frontal assault will just look silly until you’ve weakened your mountain a little. And those usually don’t end well.

I’m firing up my chisel today — are you?

Mel Gibson as William Wallace wearing woad.

"And if he were here, he'd consume the English with fire from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse." Mel Gibson as William Wallace wearing woad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on April 10, 2012, in Terror Tuesday, writing process and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. So true. Which is why “baby steps” is one of my favorite mantras. I’m not always successful in following it, but it helps keep me in check.

  2. I get you, Emmie. I’m at 85,000 words and into what I hope is the final third of my next novel. I want it finished by the end of April so I can have my life back. I can see a flag waving on the summit of K2. Head down, crampons digging in, onward!

  3. Emmie, I hear you. I’ve looked at the pile of pooh that is my draft and thought OMG how am I going to make something beautiful out of that?! But you are so right. You take it in small parts. I never think I’m going to revise this whole book. Instead I formulate a plan of attack. I break it into smaller pieces and then apply an editing technique to it. I’m a huge fan of Margie Lawson. She really taught me what to look for (stuff I’d have never seen on my own). I take it page by page and chapter by chapter. 🙂

  4. Good post & know that mountain well 🙂

  5. I laughed out loud at the “And then I nodded sagely” line. I’ve gotten great feedback from the three out of four rejections I’ve received from the Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam agents. I was pleasantly surprised that they took the time to say what they did and didn’t like about my first 50 pages. I learned they all like the premise and they all like how descriptive I am, but two of the three thought the read was slow. I don’t want to “literally” take Save the Cat! and apply the breakdowns to my novel, but I do think I didn’t deliver on the “Promise of the Premise”. In other words, it’s suppose to be about the music industry and I am taking too long to get there. So I’m taking a chisel (and maybe a big ol’ sledgehammer) and gettin’ to the meat of the story sooner. I swear – is your first novel EVER done! 🙂

    • I only heard back from one of the agents — but she gave me some good feedback. It was along the same lines as yours, that the promise of the premise didn’t deliver.

      I’m reworking it now. 🙂 Here’s hoping.

  6. I hear you Emmie! Some days, I look at the summit of my mountain and think “Cool, I’m going to climb that.” On other days, I ignore it. The hardest days are the ones when I beat myself up for not climbing it and the mountain is laughing at my fear. One step at a time… Great post!

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