The Difference Between Pushing Yourself and Straining Yourself

Okay, so I know I talk about goals on this blog a lot. Like, a lot a lot. But it's a new year, a new semester (that started today. Nooo.), and I've just really been struggling with pushing myself to write lately. So bear with me.
A few weeks back, I talked about how I have set a goal for myself to finish my mystery book, The Rosewood Does Not Lie, by this June. Then  I realized that wasn't going to happen, so I pushed my deadline to November, and I still don't know if that's going to happen. Does that mean I'm an awful writer who will amount to nothing? No, not it does not. But for a while, I thought it did. I kept pushing myself and pushing myself to write and get these words down, and when I would get stuck in a chapter I would get extremely stressed and anxious. Then when the holidays came around, I missed a lot of my writing days, hardly got words down, and didn't have time to post on the blog. I mentally yelled at myself, stressed myself out, and finally disappeared from this blog and TRDNL for almost a solid month. I thought all of that stress and mental chastising was just me pushing myself, but I was wrong--I was straining myself.
When we writers make goals, we tend to want to stick to them. That's why we push ourselves to get the words down, not procrastinate, etc. But sometimes, like in my case, we end up accidentally straining ourselves instead. So how do you know the difference?

Say you have a goal to write 200 words a day. That's not bad, right? With a little mental pushing like this, it can easily be done:
Pushing: I need to get these words down today. Maybe I can write a little before work. Oh, didn't have time? No worries; I'll just do it later. Don't procrastinate too long, though. Let's get some words down now. Oh, only 119 for the day? Eh, that's okay. I'll do a little extra tomorrow, maybe.

Straining: I have to get these words down, or I'll just keep putting it off and nothing will ever get done. I'll fail as a writer. I better let the stress of getting these words down steer the direction of my entire day. Oh no, is it almost midnight? I still have to write! Oh gosh... I don't think I'll have time to get these words down today. I better start panicking because I'm a failure. I'll never survive in the publishing world. I'm so mad at myself. I'm never going to write this stupid book.

See the difference? Maybe you're one or the other, or maybe you're a little of both sometimes. Maybe you thought you were pushing yourself but now realize you've been straining yourself all along, like I did. I've been so beyond stressed about writing my mystery book, that it's not even fun for me anymore! So that's why I've decided to not stress myself out with a deadline, but instead gently push myself to write this book when I can. If I finish it by November, great! If I don't, oh well. All I want is to make progress on it throughout this year.
And maybe that's what you need to do, too. If you're super stressed over a deadline you set for yourself, don't feel bad about letting that deadline go! Or if you keep pushing yourself and pushing yourself to write a set amount of words a day but only seem to end up with a lot of stress and not a lot of words, stop being so hard on yourself. It's great to set goals for yourself, but if you're too hard on yourself, you'll never accomplish that goal.

With all of this being said, I have an exciting new writing project to announce that would be absolutely perfect for finding the right balance between pushing and straining yourself. My friend and awesome beta reader, Faith Chapman, came up with this project the other day, and the moment I heard about it I got suuuper excited. Basically, her challenge is for all of us fantastic writers to write one short story a month, since short stories tend to be something a lot of writers struggle with. I know I do! For more information  and instructions, check out her blog here! Happy writing :D