Do you think about writing all day long, but never actually sit down and make the time to do it? Do you envision yourself one day being on the New York Times best-selling list, or signing a multi-book, six-figure contract, but fail to put the pen to paper? If you have the desire and the passion to make writing your life, the key is to start with immediate and attainable goals. Tell yourself what you will accomplish each day, or each week, and stick to it.
Too busy, you say? Not enough hours in the day, or energy at night to fit in any amount of significant writing time between your job, kids, family, friends, and the sundry of other obligations pulling you away from the pen and notebook?
If you are at all like me, your days often take charge over you, versus you managing your day. Now is the time to stop letting everything and everyone take a place in line ahead of what you really want to be doing—writing!
If you are going to make time to write, you first need to think about how and where you are going to fit that time in. How are you spending your time now? Are there small changes you can make such as altering the time you need to be at work? What about altering the way you get to work? Would you free up some writing time if you took the train versus driving in? Could you arrange to have someone else pick-up the kids to allow you an extra half hour of writing time that you normally wouldn’t get?
Just as a doctor’s appointment is for your body, and a tune-up is for your car, writing time is crucial to your success at pursuing your writing dreams, and it needs to be scheduled. Sure, it may not be as romantic a thought as suddenly being hit with a block of inspiration thrown by that elusive muse that you are forever in search of, but without scheduling writing time, you will never get that book finished… or even started.
After setting aside fifteen to thirty minutes of writing time, you can move on to setting your writing goal. Again, the key is attainability. Can you commit to one page a day? Three hundred words a day? If this still feels too overwhelming, have no fear. You can always begin with a smaller, more manageable amount, and work up over time. Anne Lamott (one of my favorite writers) suggests that writers "Write in short bursts, a paragraph at a time, one scene." She calls these "short assignments," suggesting the writer give no consideration to the distance between the beginning of the story, and the ending.
Come up with a list of realistic goals. For example some of my past ones have been:
Write 1 page a day for 90 days.
Write 300 words a day for 12 weeks.
Write from a different point of view
If any word count feels overwhelming, try the oven timer technique. Set a timer for as little as five minutes and write. Whatever comes out onto the page in that five minutes is more than you had before, and let's face it, anyone can find five minutes a day to pursue their passion.
The key is to write something at least five days a week, seven if you can manage, but don't beat yourself up if you can't.
Now, choose one of the goals from the list you've come up with to focus on. You want to make sure the goal you choose has a specific outcome whether it be word count, pages, etc. And you want to give yourself a time frame, a deadline whether it be six weeks or six years, it doesn't matter as long as you have an end date for completion.
And now for the final and most important tip:
When you have reached your daily or weekly goal, whether it be completing a paragraph, a page, or a chapter, don’t forget to reward yourself, even if it's a self pat on the back, though I prefer chocolate myself.
Acknowledge your accomplishments, feel good about yourself, and then write on some more.
In time, your story will be told.