Machine (An overtired, brain-fried PSA)

You’re a machine!

I’ve heard that a lot the past few days, accompanied by laughter and more than a few rounds of you’re crazy and all its variations. Welcome to  life at The Rabbit Hole, the Queensland Writers Centre‘s yearly in-person and online writing challenge

The goal is to write 30k words in 3 days. At least, that’s the on paper idea. The reality is that it’s a chance to sit your butt down in a quiet room and spend three whole days writing as much as you can. At the end of day 2, not including this post, I’ve written just shy of 24,500 words- 12k and change each day. As long as I hit 6k tomorrow, I’ve managed it. Of course I’m trying for another 12k. I like frying my brain challenging myself.

Yes, I’m weird. That ‘crazy’ accusation might well have a point.

This scenario is my happy place. It’s a chance to write somewhere quiet, where the distractions are minimised. And my competitive anxiety brain hears the frantic typing of others and tries to keep up a similar momentum- pushing me to keep writing, to find ways around problems instead of stopping and thinking about it and finding something else to do to avoid figuring out a solution.

Having said that, I have a love/hate relationship with The Rabbit Hole. I love that I’ve made one of my favourite writing buddies through the RH. I love the way it makes me hyper productive. I hate the way it makes me hyper aware of how my productivity impacts other people. At the end of every day, in among the cries of ‘machine’, there’s generally at least a few ‘oh, I only managed x number of words’. Like writing 2-6k in a day is something to be ashamed of- like my achievement invalidates the achievements of those around me.

Which, lets be honest here, sucks the maggoty balls of dead donkeys in a heatwave.

It’s one thing when my friends say it, because it’s generally not going to have a chaser of self-flagellation. There’s not a thing wrong with it when there’s not a chorus of ‘I can’t write that much, and therefore I suck’. The truth is, there’s no one way to write, and however you’re doing it, you’re not doing it wrong. Whatever works for you, works for you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing.

The numbers are great and all, but they don’t take into account the reality of life. Everyone has their own stuff happening- when your world is falling to hell around you, getting ten words down is as hard if not harder than it can be to hit 10k plus in a day when everything is going perfectly and you have nothing but time. Being able to write a heap in a day doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme beyond an ability to withstand thumb cramps.

I’ve spoken to two of my fave writers this weekend, and both Sam and Peter said the same thing: they manage about 2k a day, and a lot of those get deleted. While the idea of pushing myself this hard is my idea of fun, it’s certainly not their idea of a good time. They know what works for them, and they go with it. This year I’m trying for 2k a day, every day, but from time to time I gambol about like a hyperactive bunny, and see what happens, because that’s my weird idea of fun.

They’re published. I’m not. There’s clearly more to it than the ability to churn out words on demand.

So here’s some homework for anyone who wants it: the next time you hear someone say they’ve hit a target that seems light years away from what you can reach, look at how you react.

Do you shrug, celebrate with them, and move on? Or do you use that random target as evidence that you’re not good enough? Do you judge yourself for not measuring up against someone else’s goals, dreams, or targets? Because that’s the emotional equivalent of finding someone to kick you in the crotch at random intervals and wondering why you’re in pain. It doesn’t help you do anything productive, except maybe keep some medical types employed. It doesn’t make you better or more successful, it just makes it harder to get where you want to be. You deserve to reach your goals- so why put another obstacle in your way? And you also really don’t need to downplay your achievements to let other people feel better about theirs. It’s not a competition. Not really.

Lemme tell you a secret: I love seeing what goals everyone reaches at RH. Not so I can feel superior about the results, but because honestly? It’s really cool to be able to see what people can do when they push themselves. I love cheering people on and celebrating their achievements. When people put down their efforts, it breaks my heart. It’s not my job to make people feel bad- it’s my job to celebrate them. Life is so much better when you’re celebrating, and reminding people how great they are.

And here’s some homework for those of us on the other side of this: when you acknowledge you’ve kicked an awesome goal, and people use it as a stick to beat themselves with, how do you react? Do you feel bad? Guilty? Do you feel like you shouldn’t publicly celebrate the kick-ass things you do in case it makes other people feel bad?

Because you should celebrate. You’re allowed to- it’s actually really important to celebrate your achievements. It’s not your job to dull your light, and your pride in your achievements, in case it hurts someone else.

And on that note, I’m gonna go crawl into bed.



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