I always compare writing to running. I’ve done dozens of ultramarathons/Ironmans and this is not because I’m an extraordinary athlete and it’s not because I’m lucky I’m in such good shape that it doesn’t hurt. (I do enjoy the sense of nothing else in the world existing while I’m racing, I’ll admit, but it’s not pain free.) I race because I like the sense of accomplishing things literally one step at a time. I count all my steps while I run (all my bike pedal revolutions, all my strokes while swimming, every rep of every set while strength training). And I do a little math calculation in my head with each one. Now I’m x % of the way done. Or a fraction, 1/1000th of the way finished.
Now, in the beginning, things are often easy. It’s easy to go too fast and think you can keep going forever at that pace. And then you hit the last third and you’ve used yourself up and you think you can’t finish. And this is when I start thinking about “just 100 steps.” I don’t know at this point in a race if I can finish, but I am almost always sure I can do just 100 steps. Sometimes I can walk those steps. Sometimes I can run them. But I focus only on 100 steps.
As a writer, I encourage you to think about just 100 words. Just one sentence. Just one paragraph. Just one page of revision. You can do that, can’t you? Anyone can do that. It’s easy. Just delete the bad stuff. Just write notes to yourself about the good stuff you need to fill in there. It’s easy. As long as it’s easy, your brain isn’t going to start telling you that it’s an emergency that you stop. That’s how I trick my brain in ultramarathoning, and it’s how I trick my brain to write novels. Just 100 words.