[Disclaimer: While the following post is geared for writers, the message can be applied to anyone working on their goals. Simply replace the word ‘writing’ with ‘your goals’.]
If I had to name one of the most important factors for being a successful writer, it would be this . . . write and write consistently.
Writing is a craft and to become better at it – like most things in life – you have to work at it CONSISTENTLY.
And if a novel is something you are striving to complete, this is particularly true. I can attest to that fact! I’ve spent the last two years working on two novels (yes, two – long story for another day) and what I am about to share is what I’ve observed WHEN I HAVE WRITTEN CONSISTENTLY and WHEN I HAVE NOT.
I will start with the basics . . .
WRITING IS A MUSCLE. The more you work at it, the easier it becomes. Two of my goals for this year are to finish my novel and to work out regularly. In making this happen, I have found out the hard way that stopping makes it so, so, so much harder to start again.
USING EXERCISE AS AN ANALOGY:
Exercise has (finally) become a staple in my week—no longer something I would sporadically do. Looking back, however, I remember what those first workouts were like—tough and painful. The first workouts are always the hardest. You struggle to get through the workout without passing out and then for the next couple of days, your body is incredibly sore. [There have been times when I literally cannot stand up straight and walking is – well let’s say – slow-going and quite comical.]
BUT THEN AFTER TIME and consistent working out, you build up your endurance and stamina. You body aches a little less after each workout and you start seeing results. It becomes easier.
It is the memory of how bad I felt after working out those first times and the realization of how far I’ve come that keep me staying consistent. Starting over – and being at that beginning level of working out – sounds much too hard. I’d rather drag my butt to class then feel that way again. And honestly, I always feel much better after the workout even when it was an internal battle getting myself to (workout) class.
Writing is the same way. In the case of writing my novel, there have been times when I’ve stopped writing for a rather extended period of time. I wouldn’t even look at my manuscript.
And when I WENT BACK TO WRITING, I was miserable. It was hard to get back into it. Every sentence seemed like a struggle. It was as if my brain forgot how to use that creative muscle.
Not only that, but I would feel stuck and uninspired because I didn’t know HOW to move forward. What did I do?
I GOT BACK AT IT. . . . I JUST STARTED WRITING. Sometimes my writing was horrible, other times I could only get out a few sentences (if that), but I TRIED even when that meant staring at a blank computer screen.
But after time, the creative muscles came back.
“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks
‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’
And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff.
But I try.
When I’m writing, I write.
And then it’s as if the muse is convinced
that I’m serious and says,
‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.’ ”
— Maya Angelou
The great thing about writing consistently (in the case of writing a novel) is that you become IMMERSED IN YOUR STORY. It is this level of familiarity that allows you to manage all the moving parts that are involved in writing a book.
Plot lines, tone, pacing, and continuity—these are all critical elements that must be considered when writing a novel. In my experience, I was only able to remember facts when I wrote daily. Little details that you’d think I could remember since I created them were often forgotten. I would have to go back to what had already been written and re-figure out how to get things moving. However, when writing consistently, the continuity and all the critical components of my novel came easier.
I do have to say this though . . .
Even when you are sticking with your writing, opening your computer, and typing away every day, there WILL be times when the words don’t come. It happens. I wouldn’t call this writer’s block. Writer’s block typically happens when you haven’t written in a while and attempt to start it back up.
I refer to this moment as BEING STUCK. It is not that you have lost your writing muscles, but, instead, that you are just trying to figure things out. Being stuck might involve determining what will happen next in your story line or, perhaps, figuring out how to transition from one subplot to another. There is a difference between writer’s block and being stuck.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE STUCK
There is no clear-cut method for getting unstuck. Methods can vary, depending on person or situation. The following seem to help me:
- Sometimes, I have to walk away from the writing and mull things over.
- Other times, I need to divert my creative energy to another project. Otherwise, I allow my frustration at my lack of movement rattle me. This frustration becomes a bottleneck, blocking words from flowing.
- Reading is also effective. You can learn a lot about writing styles, tone, and good ol’ fashion grammar. Taking a break away from writing with a good book often jumpstarts my writing.
If you are stuck, don’t despair–it is only temporary.
As for the MAIN REASON – at least for me – that CONSISTENCY IS SO IMPORTANT . . .
Writing daily (or almost daily) can keep you motivated and focused on the final outcome, e.g., a completed novel!
Writing is a mental and an emotional game on many levels.
There have been so many times (just recently in fact) when I’ve read my working novel and thought, ‘this stinks, no one is going to like this or want to read it’.
And you know what? There isn’t a novelist out there who hasn’t thought this same thing, at some point. Negative voices will enter your head, attempting to talk you out of writing.
The longer you go without working on your novel, the easier it becomes to believe those negative voices and the harder it becomes to keep moving ahead.
I am currently 65,000 words into my novel (a chic lit/romantic comedy). When I first started writing my novel, I made a pact with myself: I would write – or attempt to write – every day. My goal was (is) to write 500 – 1000 words a day, but realistically I know that is not always possible, especially with a full-time job. Some days I can only get out a mere 50 – 100 words and that is okay. Because 50+100+85+500+++words add up. Small efforts are better than no effort.
Success is the sum of small efforts
repeated day in and day out.
– Robert Collier
The important thing is that I am sticking with it–KEEPING MY BLINDERS ON.
It is only when I am consistent that I am able to SEE the FINAL OUTCOME. I daydream of my novel being completed, being read with positive reviews. That, too, is part of the process. And this motivation has only been possible when I have stayed consistent with my writing.
THIS IS MY CHALLENGE TO YOU:
If you want to write, then write and do so consistently. Ignore any negative voices that may attempt to talk you out of pursuing your goal. You can do it.
I want to hear from YOU! WHAT IS YOUR WRITING GOAL? Please share.