Your long-term success as a writer (or creative) is dependent on your ability to be consistent.
The easiest way to engage with your writing consistently is to create a ‘bare minimum’ goal, something you can aim for and realistically achieve every day (or at least most days).
It’s far easier to write for 10 or 15 minutes every morning than it is to write 2000-3000 words on a Saturday morning.
I fully acknowledge that aspiring writers with full-time day jobs may be tempted to leave their writing for the weekends when they have more time, but ‘tomorrow’ thinking can be a slippery slow. ‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’ ‘I’ll have more energy tomorrow.’ ‘I’m too busy today, I’ll do it tomorrow.’
Big goals can quickly become bait for your inner-critic as they supply ample opportunity for self-doubt and imposter-syndrome to sneak in. And big goals rarely allow for interruptions, nor do they take into consideration your energy levels.
Are you really going to want to write 2000 words on a Saturday morning after a full week of work? Does that appeal to you? (And if it does, great! But some people might be more intimidated than inspired by that goal).
For many aspiring writers, it’s better to create a goal that is small but meaningful. Consider what word, time, or even ‘feeling’ goal you can set for yourself. What could you realistically achieve on your average day?
Can you write for 10 minutes?
Get down 50-100 words?
Feel a slither of peace or pride at having made time for your art?
It can also be useful to create a ‘bad day’ writing goal for times when life gets hectic. What is the smallest amount you could achieve on days when everything falls apart? For example, fifty words, two sentences, five minutes of writing etc.
Minimum goal aren’t about burning yourself out. In fact, it is just the opposite. The idea of a minimum daily goal is that you are making small, but consistent progress on a project. You’re protecting your creative energy because you are choosing to engage daily for a small amount of time, say thirty minutes, rather than shooting for a big goal such as four hours.
There will be days when you can’t meet either your minimum daily goal or your ‘bad day’ goal and that’s okay.
A minimum goal is not writing for two hours before your 10-hour night shift. We want to build a writing practise that is sustainable, remember?
You may think that writing every Saturday is consistent, but the problem here is that a lot of time and energy gets wasted on familiarising yourself with your work before you even begin. When you do a little bit every day, however, the story remains fresh in your mind making it easier to re-enter the work.
Now, some people may say 10-15 minutes isn’t long enough, but many people have written books in 15 minute chunks. Check out there articles here and here.
Yes, ideally we would set aside 1-3 hours to write. We all want to work in a flow state, however, there is no evidence that this generates better work. Flow state isn’t about quality but ease. When we’re in a flat state we are focussed and connected to what we are doing (which is great!) but it’s doesn’t guarantee that we’re producing good work.
Further, many of us don’t have 1-3 hours of spare time every day. You can certainly make time by getting up earlier, writing at night, or quitting other activities like watching TV, but not everyone is willing to do that.
If larger blocks of time are unavailable to you, then you need to find a way to write in bit sized chunks.
Okay, I hear you. You sit down to write but then nothing happens. Instead, you scroll on your phone, check emails, or stare out the window (for those of you who are super disciplined).
If this is you, you may be dealing with issues of perfectionism, in which case, you need to give yourself permission to write a shitty first draft.
Of course, there comes a time when we need to hold ourselves and our art to a higher standard, but not while writing a first draft OR when we’re creating a writing habit.
Remember, no one is going to see what you write unless you show them. It may be deflating to discover that you’re first draft doesn’t resemble a published novel, but everyone’s first draft is bad!
You can fix a bad draft, and there are slews of professionals out there who can help you editing your story.
Now, some writers thrive on being in-consistent. Not everyone is a daily or at least, regular writer, some writers are binge writers that go hard for a short sharp burst and then they don’t write again for a long period of time.
Maybe this is your method, but I strongly advise you to give daily (or regular) writing a go first before declaring yourself a ‘writer who only writes when inspiration strikes.’
There are some famous binge writers (e.g. Cheryl Strayed), but this is a much more difficult way to create, so don’t adopt this idea as your own narrative because you think it is romantic or see it as a way of opting out of the hard work of regularly connecting with your story.
Inspiration makes writing a lot easier, but habit is a lot more dependable.
When you show up consistently, those hundred word chunks and ten minute sprints start to add up.
Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.
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