Last year, I set a goal of getting to a certain level of fluency with Spanish by my birthday this year. My first step was to complete all the lessons available from Duolingo. I set aside time each day to not merely go through new lessons, but to practice with existing vocabulary, review notes, and even to read and write outside the boundaries of the app. I was doing really well, and I had only a dozen or so units left to complete.
And then Duolingo introduced more lessons. A lot more lessons. I wasn’t going to finish by my birthday. It would take me at least through middle of summer, probably longer. It sapped my motivation completely.
You see, the thing was that I didn’t enjoy the Duolingo lessons. They were a chore, and as long as I felt like the end was in sight, I could keep going. Suddenly, the end felt farther away than ever before. And what if I got near the end again, and they added even more lessons?
At the same time, I was preparing to become a Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org. That was more interesting and more rewarding, and when I had time for only one thing, studying for the exams won. My progress stalled, then halted.
I started the lessons again last week, but I liked doing them even less than I had before. I still want to gain fluency in Spanish some day, but for now, learning Spanish has to wait.
I’ve been tearing it up vis-à-vis word count lately, turning out about 500 words per day for my novel. Which may not sound like much, but given how little time I have to write, it’s amazing. I can generally devote 90 minutes max to fiction a day, five or six days a week. So I’m pleased with my output lately.
I’m even more pleased because until three weeks ago, I was lucky to get 500 words in a week. I’d gotten bogged down over a plot detail that I thought I needed but just couldn’t make work. I was considering giving up on this manuscript. I was considering giving up on writing fiction entirely. “If I’m not writing,” I told a friend, “Then I’m not a writer, res ipsa loquitur.” Because I have the kind of friends to whom I can say “res ipsa loquitur” (not to mention “vis-à-vis”) and not have them slap me silly. I have great friends.
My friends told me what a loss to the world it would be if I stopped writing, because they are great friends who are willing to lie to me right to my face.
When I took the last week in October off, I set a goal of writing twice each day, with a target of 500-750 words for each session. I decided that background and planning would count, since I wasn’t going to add much to the manuscript until I worked out some plot problems. And I did it. I wrote, and as I wrote about the problem, I found a way to get past it. I created a matrix of characters and their possible means, motives, and opportunities to have committed the crime. I turned that matrix into a chain of plot points. Then I created plot points for my two subplots and wove them all together. And while I was doing all that (and ever since), I added to the manuscript a little each day. Ever since, I’ve been on a tear. This morning I wrote 520, which put my total over 45,000–halfway to the target length I established for the first draft.
I guess I can keep calling myself a writer.