Ooops, I Forgot to Write: Sticking to Your Resolutions
It's the third day of January, the day that most people break their resolutions. That first day is easy-peasy, the second day is a little harder, but the third day is when life usually gets in the way, forcing you back towards your old, familiar habits. I was about to say "easier" habits, but the truth is, once you train your mind to get accustomed to a new way of doing things, that new habit can become easy as well. So how do you train yourself to remember to write more?
Set up a do-able daily goal. What is do-able for one person may not be do-able for another, hence why I don't think it's helpful for me to tell you a word or page count. I personally aim for five pages of a novel and one or two blog posts per day. But you need to aim for a certain page count or blog post count, a certain amount of time, or a word count daily that works for you.
You need a visual reminder in an obvious spot that will keep you focused on that daily goal. I log my daily work using the "stickies" function on the side of my computer screen, but you can keep a notebook where you log your progress each day, a post-it note left on your desk that you tuck into a drawer for safe keeping once it's full, or even a sticker chart. Whatever you need to do to keep concrete evidence of reaching your goals. You need this because there will be days when you'll want to look back to see what you accomplished during, let's say, summer vacation the year before so you can predict how much you can accomplish during an upcoming summer vacation. Make sure you write down what sort of writing you did: blog post, novel work, editing, etc.
All you need is fifteen minutes a day, every day, to always have a productive fifteen minutes and stave off writer's block. Writing begets writing. Have you ever noticed that right after you finish a blog post, you feel like you could write another one, though you didn't feel like you were racing out of the gate when you started that first post? It's because writing begets writing. Write every single day, just for fifteen minutes, without fail, and you will always be able to have a productive fifteen minutes. While it may not sound like a lot of time, you can usually accomplish a page a day at fifteen minutes, which means at the end of the year, you have a 365 page novel. Wow!
Grades in school helped you judge how well you were learning the subject, but they were also there as an incentive. Now that you're out of school, you need to create a series of incentives in order to keep going with that writing work. Keep the first few small: a special cup of coffee if you write all five weekdays, a new movie from iTunes after you write ten blog posts. My husband buys me a fun, inexpensive ring every time I sell a novel that I wear until I sell the next one. It means that every time I look down at my hand, I remember that I have to write! The rewards don't have to be big, but you do need to have something beyond a job well done to motivate you when you hit those rough patches.
Because you will hit those rough patches. Everyone does. They are the times when you don't feel motivated to write, when you have nothing to write about, when you can't figure out a scene, or when you feel discouraged because even though you're writing, you're not meeting other goals -- such as more blog traffic -- that you have for yourself. In those cases, still show up. Still put in your daily writing time. Don't skip it for anything because you'll have a steeper hill to climb in coming back to your writing. But after you stare at the screen for your writing time, take time to go do something else and feel inspired. Read a book, watch a movie, take a walk, have coffee with a friend... anything to live a little more and get a few more ideas.
Meet up online or face-to-face with other writers. Nothing else makes you write more than seeing other people accomplish their writing goals. Join up with NaBloPoMo and find other people who are engaging in daily blogging. Start a private Facebook group with some other writers so you can post your daily writing stats to each other and feel as if someone is holding you accountable. Hanging out -- even online -- with other writers tends to make you write more.
What advice do you have for others about sticking to those writing resolutions?