Back in September, I attended an Atlanta arts festival and learned something new about hourglasses. Because the flow of sand through the hourglass is largely determined by the shape of the passage between the upper and lower chambers, an artist handcrafting an hourglass determines how much sand to put in the vessel after it’s been constructed, not before. At the artist’s booth, there were timers that measured an hour that looked almost identical to timers that measured sixty seconds. But in the latter, the sand dropped quickly while in the former it barely trickled through.
My workflow lately has felt like a mismatched set of hourglasses. I’m participating in NaNoWriMo and trying to pump out 1,667 words per day on a new manuscript. At the same time, I’m rewriting the first chapter of my first novel, the project I’ve been working on for over a year.
For the new manuscript, the words come quickly, like sand pumping through the hourglass, because I don’t care if these are “bad” words. I’m just trying to get something on paper. The first chapter rewrite, on the other hand, is slow and painful, sand barely eeking through the hourglass. Each word matters so much to me because I love my characters, and I’m plagued by the fear that their story will never get told because I’m not good enough.
I’m looking to recalibrate the flow of sand through my hourglass and strike a balance somewhere in the middle on both projects. I feel like I should care more about the new manuscript because I’m trying to build a solid foundation for a book. And even though it hurts me to say it, I’ve got to loosen my death grip on the first novel so I can make faster progress–let the “bad” words in and then try to improve them rather than standing guard at the gate judging every word that tries to pass.