Christmas day 2007 I received a subscription for a Writers magazine and signed up for the corresponding website. Today I received my annual congratulations for being a member email and decided to log in once again- I skipped last year, might as well see if anything has changed.
The site has its own email section so I opened up one of the newsletters. Especially as New Years Eve is rapidly approaching, I like the advice for goal setting this newsletter provides.
Written by Sarah Reed Dreams, it reads:
We aren’t much after New Year’s, when the majority of the people in the Nation (perhaps in the world) tend to set unattainable and impossible goals for themselves. Not that they don’t have good intentions – certainly they do! But setting impossible goals can only accomplish disappointment, rather than encouragement and success.
There are many out there on this site that wish to be writers. (Isn’t that what this site is all about?) Many, however, don’t know how to go about it! I’m not going to give advice on how to get published – I’m not published myself, and my advice would fall short for that reason. However, I can give some advice on how to become a writer; someone who writes on a daily basis.Step 1: Make Reasonable Goals for Yourself
After several years of not writing much at all – Goal: Write something every day! is a goal many of us make for ourselves.
While this is a good goal for someone who has been writing for a long time – think about it in the terms of someone who has gotten out of the habit. Miss it once even when attempting to get back into the habit of writing, and you’ve already missed that goal. It’s not a very encouraging situation, there.
A more reasonable approach would be a gradual increase in the goals until you reach that final goal.
Goal #1 – Write once a week for 8 weeks.
Goal #2 – Write twice a week for 8 weeks.
Goal #3 – Write four times a week for 8 weeks.
Goal #4 – Write five or six times a week!
It is a gradual increase, gets you back into the habit more gently, and still has the same final goal of writing most every day. Yes, my proposition takes about six months, but let’s be honest… creating a habit takes time. It’s not something done overnight. Just like everything else, you have to train yourself to do it. Give yourself some baby steps, and gradually make them bigger. If you move faster – GOOD! As long as you are reaching your current goals. You’ll be writing in no time!
Notice something, please. In the final goal, I do not say, “Write every day!” If you do write every day, that’s awesome, but it is good to build in days when you might not feel well, or when you did not sleep well that night, or maybe you just want to take a day off or spend some time with the kids, family, or friends.
If you go two weeks in a row without meeting the particular goal you are on – start it over again. Again, this is creating a habit, so it will need to be practiced.Step 2: Document Your Progress
Get a little notebook to keep near where ever you write, or have a little online blog – something where you can keep track of your progress. Then, update it every… whatever time slot you have your goals set for. In my example above, it would be updated each week.
It doesn’t even have to be much. It can be, “I made my goals this week! I felt that what I wrote on Tuesday was a little short, but I did get the writing done.” Or, “I didn’t make my goal this week. I don’t know what happened! Things just got so hectic, it simply didn’t happen. I’ll try to do better next week.”Step 3: READ!
It is important, uplifting, and worth the knowledge to pick up other books and read them. Not just the modern popular books, though that is good information on what people are currently interested in, but classics. Read some of the older literature that turned reading and writing into what it is today. Read some of your favorites just to remind you what made them awesome. Read a new author, just to try them out. Read a genre you’ve never touched before, just to get the experience of having done so. Read, read, read!
You might even want to make a reading goal, just like you’d make a writing one, if you are not already an avid reader.
Reading is just as important as the writing simply because – hey, these people have been successful! These people have accomplished getting published, have caught the attention of readers, and can teach you a lot about what it is you need to do if your final goal is being published, or making writing your job.
This is not the be all and end all of getting into the habit of writing again, and it may not work for everyone, but it is certainly a place to start. I hope you find the advice useful!
Gradual. I understand the concept and think for somethings it might work really well, but I keep thinking about what my cello teacher would say if I set my goal as practicing once a week. Now, some weeks that’s what happens, but I have to at least aim higher otherwise when I get a perfect time when no one’s sleeping, I’ll be tempted to say that I met my quota for the week!
It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. Before I die I’d like to be an expert cellist. Maybe I have about 60 more years to practice- 10,000/60= 166 hours a year. Divide that by 52 weeks .. 3.2… 3 hours 12 minutes a week.
I’ll have some off weeks so if I want to be an expert by 80, I’ll have to aim for 4 or 5.
Or if I want to be an expert in 40 years, thats 250 hours a year, 4.8 hours a week- generously round up to 6.
So what about these other goals. I stumble across regularly remenants of projects. I letter from the past (futureme.org) chatizes me for not writing more often; a writing.com automatic response email says happy anniversary, asks where are you and are we still together even though I haven’t seen you in 2 years and only met ya a handful of times before that.
A flickr portrait party collects electronic dust and old artwork gathers the real deal.
& yet I refuse to give into the assertion that that’s necessarily a bad thing and I have to beat myself up over it.
I have an outlet for rants, I have art supplies for when the urge hits- I have priorities and I pick up my cello a few times a week even though the violin from a bygone era hasn’t been touched in months and has a broken string from the last time I tried to retune it.
I have commitments that I keep and I need to cut myself some slack for the bygone unrealistic goals that were surpassed by more pressing matters.
Thanks writing.com for the reminder- I’ll see you next year.