I’ve had my Fitbit for three and a half months. My daily average for steps is eleven thousand, seven hundred. My daily miles are five point five two. My personal best for daily steps was seventeen thousand, five hundred.
Until yesterday. Yesterday, I achieved almost twenty-two thousand steps and ten miles. I confess, if I’d known I was so close to doubling my average, I would have done it. That’s how I’m wired.
Now it’s the morning after.
I feel great but I question myself about what my Fitbit goal and expectations should be. I will work to reach and exceed my daily goals. I want to attempt another big walking and exercising day.
It’s the same way with writing. I typically write about eleven hundred words a day. I also edit, revise and polish. That’s part of my pantser organic writing process. My writing mind is like a loom weaving the story. I move back and forth through it.
Some days, I catch fire. The most I’ve ever written in one day was five thousand words, five thousand very intense words. Just like walking twenty-two thousand steps yesterday, it felt awesome. The next day, I wanted to do again. Why, if I could do five thousand words a day, every day, I’d become impressively prolific.
But the next day’s writing session was a struggle to achieve my standard output. I fought to achieve one thousand words and felt exhausted and disenchanted afterwards. It’s been like that with other writing days when I’ve doubled or tripled my average. Why, I tested myself to understand.
After thinking about this over the years, I’ve concluded that I do have a finite daily energy level. Exceeding that can happen but it takes it toll on the next day. I don’t know if science and medicine back me up on this, or if others have had the same experience. I know through my military experience of working twelve plus hours a day through illness and terrible conditions that I can draw deeper from the well. But doing so requires me to shut out absolutely everything else.
That was easy to do in a military environment. We had an established mission with a high priority. Other missions and units were depending on us. If we failed, a domino effect began. The stakes were high. So was the visibility.
Our expectations also set us up for success. Everyone outside of ours – family, friends and other unit members – understood our focus. They knew we didn’t have time or energy for anything else, and they gave us space.
But the writing experience is different from the military experience and the Fitbit experience. With Fitbit goals, it’s a personal goal. If I don’t make it, well, that sucks, but c’est la vie. The military commitment was well-established and understood.
Writing, however, is a terribly personal beast that has a hold on me. While the Fitbit goals require physical commitment with some smaller levels of intellectual and emotional commitments, I have all that in me, no problem. The military commitments were drawn at higher levels from those same veins.
The veins of energy and activity required for writing are much, much different. Physically, sitting in a chair, thinking, reading and typing, it doesn’t seem like it should be taxing. Yet, it becomes physically exhausting. Writing takes more out of me than walking all those steps.
Likewise, from intellectual and creative points of view, writing is more of a debilitating challenge. I worked for a decade for IBM as a planner and analyst. I was often presented with unique business cases to analyze and consider for my recommendations, observations and inputs. Those were interesting and challenging logic problems, and required intensely creative problem solving approaches, but still, they fell way short of what’s called for when fiction writing. Yes, my stories, characters, situations and worlds tend toward being complicated and involved. I remain constantly astounded by the levels of commitment I give my writing.
Returning to my Fitbit goals, I understand that twenty-two grand was a terrific result for me. I’ll enjoy it and move on because my goal is not to beat myself every day, but to maintain and achieve an average that will help me toward greater goals of being healtheir. In other words, the daily steps are not an end of themselves but part of a larger process.
So it is, too, with the writing. The word counts, editing, revising and polishing are not the end results. They’re part of a larger process of conceiving, writing, finishing and publishing a novel.
Time to write like crazy now, at least one more time.