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Lowering the Stakes

All too often, when we think of writing a project, we think of writing the whole project, and we find ourselves daunted. “I’d like to write a novel,” we think, “but it’s so much work, and what if it doesn’t sell?” Thinking this way, we talk ourselves out of our creativity. We have set the stakes too high. How much better when we lower the stakes, when we say “I’d love to write a novel, and I’ll bet I can, one page at a time.”
Lowering the stakes is one of my favored creative tricks. People often say to me, “Julia, you’re so productive,” and I think to myself, “Anyone can be productive if the stakes are low enough.” Writing the current book I aim at a modest goal of two pages daily. I find this amount “perfect”— and encouraging. Writing two pages a day, I write sixty pages a month. If a modest book is two hundred forty pages, that means I will complete a rough draft in four months. Giving myself two more months for polishes, I will have completed a book in half a year. By almost anyone’s standards, this is speedy. And the trick to such velocity is lowering the stakes. “Easy does it” is my motto— meaning, “easy accomplishes it.”