Friday, January 20, 2012

The Importance of Milestones

I finally crossed the 25,000 word barrier today, despite having a few errands to run that cut into my writing time. At 85 1/2 pages, my manuscript is now the longest single project in terms of page length that I've ever worked on, eclipsing the 60-page project I undertook at the end of law school that examined "law as entertainment," as well as the importance of entertainment within law (believe me, it was a real page-turner...).

Is it as far as I wanted to be by this point? Yes and no.  Yes, because my previous efforts at two novels had stalled right around the 25 page mark; this time I breezed through that with relative ease, and continue to make good headway.

"No," because I always like to push myself to do "more" and "better," and think that I can do both as I continue to gain experience throughout this process.

For now, though, I wanted to touch on a question that I've been thinking about: why do these milestones matter to me?

I think that my answer is simple: they're a sign of progress.  I guess this is really true of any number of milestones in a person's life: birthdays and holidays signal another year, another period of time that you should have improved yourself, or at least positioned yourself closer to attaining some of your life's goals.

At the same time, they also signal the passage of time, and the idea that "it's in the books."  Yes, I've written 25,000 words, and I've certainly worked hard to do so, but now it's getting to the point where I'm starting to worry whether or not 100,000 words will ultimately be enough to tell the story that I want to. 

Milestones are at the intersection of thinking forward and thinking backward; of progress and product.  They are a measuring stick, to be sure.  Hell, I'm putting them out here on this blog to keep myself honest and writing something every weekday. 

Milestones are targets to shoot for, like the signs on the side of the road that tell you how far away your destination is.  I know I always do the quick, back-of-the-envelope math...in my head (wait, that doesn't really make sense...) whenever I pass one of those on a long road trip, "Okay, we're going seventy, so if there are 300 miles left, that puts us at about 4 1/2 hours.

Of course, things don't always turn out as planned; there are detours and unexpected delays.  One time on a drive to Virginia from St. Louis, my brother and I decided to stop at the Wild Turkey distillery, which we though was a quick jag off of I-64.  Two hours later, despite missing the tour, we were back on our way to Charlottesville.  That same trip, we were stuck in traffic for three hours on I-81 because of some horrendous truck convoy accident.  My brother had his portable DVD player plugged into the cigarette lighter and went through Aladdin and most of Super Troopers while we crawled along at an almost imperceptible pace.  These things happen.

Even with those detours and delays, each and every one of those trips ultimately ended.  I'm here now.  I've reached each of those destinations and then some.  I had those experiences and moved on, and all of the miles and steps have added up to put me in front of this computer, typing this blog post up right now.

I guess that's the heart of the matter; since those journeys ended, I'm sure that as I tick off each new milestone, eventually this journey will end, and there will be plenty more to follow.  Hopefully I'll be able to keep up my progress and hit each of these milestones in turn on my way to publishing this book by April.

And even if I don't get there when I anticipate doing so, even if I go two hours out of my way to sample bourbon at the Wild Turkey distillery, or get caught up in a three hour traffic jam, I'll get there at some point.  And that's all you can really ask for, right?



Days: 9
Words: 25,009
Pages: 85 1/2


D.J. Gelner covers the Rams beat for insideSTL.com, and is an aspiring author.  Follow him on twitter (@djgelner) or facebook (here).  E-mail him at djssuperblog@gmail.com.  You can also listen to his podcast (Bottle and Cans) here. 

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