A month ago I announced a goal for myself. I said, "I'm going to increase my hourly goal each week for the next four weeks. At the end of that time, I'm going to post about this again and tell you how well I'm doing."
Well, it's the end of that time, and I am now bracing myself for your mild disappointment, because I have to admit that I failed in my goal. Go ahead. Lay it on me. Really let me have it.
Done? All right. Now I'm going to rationalize why my failure is okay.
(I'm only partly serious about it being okay, because part of me hates that I failed to meet my arbitrary goal and doesn't see any way to live with it. But another part of me understands that one of the least productive uses of my time is beating myself up over past failures to make productive use of my time. I'm telling you this to assure you that I'm neither consumed by self-loathing nor bathing in zen-like tranquility, but somewhere in the mundane middle.)
First of all, I didn't fail to the point of not working on changing my habits at all. The first two weeks of the endeavor, I ramped up as planned, and in fact I even did one more hour of writing than I'd committed to. Of course the project grew more difficult as it went on, and the third week was just a flat-out failure in which I wrote less than half of the hours I was supposed to for no particularly good reason.
I made an important realization during that third week. Some time ago I began calculating my productivity by week, and since then I've developed a bad habit of thinking, "Ugh, this week has gone badly so far and I'm way behind, so there's no point in even trying until next week." To counteract this tendency, it would work a lot better for me to think about each writing day independently and adopt the philosophy that every day is a chance for a fresh start.
So for rationalizing purposes, I would like to put forward the theory that coming to an important realization to improve future habits is far more useful than meeting an arbitrary goal. Therefore, this week of failure was probably the most useful one of the experiment. Heck, I'm so convinced of this that it doesn't even feel like a rationalization.
In the fourth and final week, I was determined to make up for my failings of the week before, and I had a carefully laid plan to fit in my required hours. But my calendar had different ideas, and I was up against a greater than usual amount of competition for my time during the week. I might have met my goal if I'd skipped some of those appointments, but instead I fell somewhat short. I've decided that my failure in week four was only a technicality.
The way I was focusing that week, I would have made the goal if I'd been home a little more, because I spent just about every non-scheduled hour working on my novel (that's why there were no blog posts last week). In the past, I've usually accomplished very little writing during a busy week due to my distractibility. For me, this week was a huge success, despite not quite meeting my numerical goal.
Now here's the biggest rationalization of all: It's kind of a relief that I failed to do what I committed to. If I'd succeeded easily, I'd be kicking myself for going so long without writing more hours all the time. As hard as it is for me to accept, I'm already writing at close to my limit.
Once I've had a chance to recover from your disappointment, I'll try to share some more embarrassing admissions on this subject.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ In The Millions, Bill Morris looks at five cases of good and bad literary timing: "While Shakar's misfortune was that events [9/11] made his novel seem instantaneously dated in many eyes, Franzen's good luck was that those same events made his novel look prescient to just about everyone. Life is not fair."