March is here, and that means part 3 of the Prolific Writer blog series by my friend and colleague, M.S. Wordsmith! If you haven’t read her first two posts, read the first here, and read the second here.
In my latest guest post, I brought up the issue of making a living, and the importance of figuring out what we need to live comfortably enough. Oftentimes, we get so caught up in the success stories circulating within the indie community about authors making 6 figures that we forget to take a long, deep breath and check in with ourselves and what we actually need. Chances are, we need much less than those 6 figures, and we sure don’t need them in the next 5 or even 10 years. Taking a moment to reflect on this allows us to step back and enjoy our own private ride again.
Today, I will share yet another question I ask when trying to figure out what my clients want from their writing— What is a realistic goal for YOU for NOW?
Figure out your SHORT-TERM goals as well as your LONG-TERM goals
Being clear on your personal goal is great. Knowing what you want to achieve in the next 5 to 10 years will provide much-needed focus and enable you to steer your determination in the right direction. But what if that personal goal is a long way down the road from where you are now? How do you get to that point without constantly being frustrated that you aren’t there yet?
While it’s excellent to have clear goals in mind for the future, these goals are often for the long-term, and not the short-term. Yet, most of us find ourselves frustrated by the fact that where we ARE is not where we want to BE. And being frustrated about our own process tends to block our creativity and leads to less than constructive behaviour such as comparing our own creative process to that of others.
What goal is realistic for YOU for NOW?
Each and every one of us lives a different life, so it’s more than normal that we’re all at another place in our lives at any given moment. And that’s OK. Not only do we walk different paths, the distance we still have to travel differs as well. As such, there’s truly no need to compare yourself to others, not even to those with similar aims. Comparisonitis happens to the best of us, if not all of us—Joanna Penn, whose podcast The Creative Penn I highly recommend to any author, speaks of comparisonitis often and discusses it in her book The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey—but that doesn’t mean we should continue comparing our own process to that of others.
With National Novel Writing Month becoming bigger and bigger each year, I can only imagine how many writers are suffering from comparisonitis throughout the process. Not only can you compare your word count to those of others each and every single day, many writers feel as if they’ve failed when they haven’t been able to reach the magical word count that is 50,000 words by the first of December.
It’s not about reaching 50k words
In June, 2016, Joanna Penn interviewed Grant Faulkner, the Executive Director of NaNoWriMo, for her The Creative Penn podcast. (Click here to listen.) I still remember the episode because, where I was afraid it would—like so many other podcasts, articles, books, and magazines out there—be on becoming much more prolific than you are right now, that reaching those 50,000 words within a month is what defines you as a writer, what I got from the interview was that NaNoWriMo is not necessarily about reaching 50,000 words in a month.
That is what you officially sign up for, but NaNoWriMo shouldn’t be a stick you can beat yourself over and over again with (which I see happening around me more often than not). Instead, one should see it as a tool to do more than you would usually do, as an attempt to prioritise your writing over everything else for just a month. What can you achieve when you try to stick to writing as much as you can for 30 days? For Grant Faulkner, there is no ‘I only wrote 20,000 words during NaNoWriMo…’ As far as he is concerned, there’s only ‘I WROTE 20,000 WORDS DURING NANOWRIMOOOOOOOO!!!’ That’s still a novel in 4 months. Or a fantasy novel in 7, if you’re writing in the same genre as I do. Not bad, right? Especially not if you’re juggling a day job, a family, a personal life, and whatever else you need to take care of yourself.
Different paths, different means
There’s hardly a greater motivator than knowing where you want to end up, yet sometimes there’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you aren’t there yet. Embrace the simple fact that you aren’t, and focus on the things you can do each day to get closer to that point. If that is writing a novel every 4 months, every 24 months, or even every 5 years, it is what it is, and it’s OK. If you expect yourself to write a particular amount of words each day—whether that’s 125 or 5000—or amount of time—whether that’s 15 minutes or two hours—and that expectation is far from realistic considering where you are in your life right now, you will be in for serious disappointment. And disappointment is anything but a good motivator. It is more often than not what makes people quit.
Different paths ask for different means to an end. Figure out what means are realistic for YOU at THIS POINT in your life and go from there.
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