I recently finished the third draft of my manuscript. (Pro-tip: when you’re writing a book, you’ll feel much fancier if you call it a manuscript.) My manuscript is 87,000 words long and some of those words are even good!
Two years ago, after I typed “the end” on my first draft, I stood up from my desk, went into the bedroom, and sobbed. I couldn’t believe I had actually done it and I felt overwhelmed with emotion. I’m a crier (the working title of my book is Crying in Public), so this wasn’t an unusual reaction for me. But it felt like an appropriate way to respond to such a momentous and meaningful occasion.
I cried again last summer, when I finished the second draft of the book, but not because I was proud of my achievement. I cried because I finished that draft on the same day that I got my first freelance writing rejection. All I could think about was how far I still had to go.
A couple weeks ago, I told E that I only had one chapter left to edit before I finished draft three.
“What should we do to celebrate?!” he asked.
“Um… nothing?” I said. I didn’t want to celebrate until I had taken another pass at the draft, cleaned it up, and started sending query letters to agents. “That will feel like an accomplishment,” I explained.
He was skeptical.
You know you’re crossing the line from the pursuit of excellence into perfectionism when you feel like nothing is ever enough. A big clue is if you don’t know when to celebrate.
Oh… well then.
My work is not about to appear in a bookstore near you. I still feel very far away from achieving most of my writing and life goals. I could spend several paragraphs listing all of my wants and everything I lack… Or I can be proud of what I have done.
I can (and should!) celebrate each step in the process of achieving my goals. 87,000 words isn’t nothing! In fact, it’s 87,000 somethings! And who does it serve if I downplay that fact?
Focusing on how far I still have to go doesn’t inspire me to work harder. Recognizing that I already work hard inspires me.
Yes, it’s possible to motivate yourself with guilt and fear, but I don’t recommend it. Again, who does it serve if we beat ourselves up over all the things we haven’t done? Better to celebrate accomplishments when we make them happen and then get back to work.
I didn’t cry when I finished draft 3, but I did tell E that I had changed my mind — I wanted to celebrate.
We got doughnuts.
And I wrote this post.
What have you accomplished recently? Leave a comment and tell me about it. Big or small, I’m so proud of you.