Sometimes I crack myself up. Like in this post, from July of 2011, when I predicted that I would be ready to query agents in September. Of 2011. HAHAHAHAHA! HAHA! HA!
Well, that was before my “no timelines” rule, obviously. Before I realized that I am not very good at estimating how long it will take me to do things.* Before I admitted to myself and accepted that I have NEVER been very good at estimating how long it will take me to do things.** For example, in high school, 1 hour of calculus homework usually took 3. In college, a quick trip to the library for research could last all weekend.
So now? Now I just say, “I don’t know.”
When are you going to finish editing your manuscript, Kristan? I don’t know. When are you going to query agents? Dunno. When is your book coming out? No idea. When are you and Andy getting married? Eh, sometime. When are you planning on having kids? In the future!
Not a very satisfying answer, I’m aware. But it’s honest.
“I don’t know” also prevents me from feeling bad about myself for setting up an expectation and then not delivering. I think that’s important. Because otherwise you can get caught up in a cycle of self-defeat, and that’s vicious. Trust me, I’ve had to escape it many times.
Footnotes (which are almost as long as the post itself):
* Sometimes I worry about publicly admitting that I’m bad at predicting timelines for my writing. Like, what if an agent or editor reads this and doesn’t want to work with me? I could ruin my career before it even starts! I could be added to that giant blacklist they all pass around in a manila folder marked CONFIDENTIAL.
** But it’s important to note: I always get my shit done in the end. And on time, if there’s a real deadline. (Meaning, one that I did not create for myself and/or one that has actual consequences.) For proof, you can ask any of my former coworkers or bosses. I was NEVER the one holding up the line or dropping the balls.***
*** For whatever reason, my brain prioritizes things that I “owe” to other people. (Even if there’s no literal payment/debt involved.) Of course, that means MY stuff always get pushed off for “later.” That’s no good for an aspiring writer — because my manuscript will never belong to anyone except me**** if I never get it finished and out into the world! But that’s a whole other rant for a whole other post…
**** This is where crit partners help. Or at least, mine do. They’ve read my manuscript; they’ve grown attached to my characters. I “owe” them to a degree.
Addendum: To be clear, I am not excusing myself from ever being able to estimate timelines for my work. This is a skill that I need to develop. And I’m working on it. But just like you wouldn’t book a second year piano student for a concert at Carnegie Hall, I’m not going to aim too high too soon. So when will I be able to give more accurate predictions on my progress? I don’t know.