Okay, you’ve started that short story, essay, memoir, novel, or blog, but how do you keep going? It’s one of the most frequent questions I’m asked, and my first response is always—have goals!
Begin with small attainable goals.
Having goals is critical. Without specific goals, you are simply hoping you’ll hit the mark, at some point … somehow … someday.
Determine what a realistic goal might be. Realistic is the keyword here. Creating unrealistic goals that you can’t meet will undermine your confidence and create more stress.
Start small and build on your success.
Create a writing schedule.
For example, if you want to develop a writing practice, rather than deciding to write for 3 hours every day, you might want to start with 1 hour/three times a week or twice a week for 2 hours at a time.
Once you’ve comfortably met this goal, you may find you are itching for more, and you can increase the time and frequency. But, remember to take baby steps—there’s a fine line between realistic and unrealistic, and you don’t want to feel defeated by taking a giant step before you are ready. Your motivation around writing will waver, but if your routine is consistent, it will carry you forward.
Plan for your writing schedule and follow it.
Now that you have a writing schedule established, you can create a plan for what you’d like to accomplish. Again, keep it manageable.
If you already have a practice established (brava!) and have a project in mind or have one underway, then a daily word count or page count can be helpful. You might decide on 50 or 250 or 1000 words a day—a page with 1-inch margins, 12 point font, double spaced, equals about 250 words—the important thing is getting the words down on the page.
If you decide to implement a word count, it’s essential to remain flexible and know you may not meet your count every time you sit down to write. If you have a strong internal taskmaster, remember to be kind to yourself and, as always, set realistic goals.
Write down your plan, revisit it regularly, and feel free to revise it as necessary.
Visualize your plan.
Once you have your plan committed to paper, commit it to your brain—visualize it. See yourself in your writing space, imagine how it feels as your hands fly over the keyboard or your pen glides across the page, and experience the feeling of satisfaction when you meet your goal. Visualization is a powerful tool and, if done regularly, will enhance your chances of success. This is also a great practice to revisit whenever you feel blocked or are doubting yourself.
Create your writing space.
Now that you have a plan, where are you going to write?
I recommend writing in the same place every day—in bed, at your special desk, in your writing studio, at a favorite cafe—doing this conditions the brain to know that it’s time to write.
Writing at the same time every day isn’t essential, but it has a similar effect on the brain.
Turn your phone off!
If rituals appeal to you, lighting a candle and taking a moment in gratitude can be a pleasant way to start.
If you like flowers, even a single stem will impact your space.
Some people like to write in complete silence, and that’s fine, but for those of you who enjoy music, find something without lyrics that feels inspiring. I recommend Mozart if you like classical music—I wrote my entire novel, The Gilder, to the Mozart clarinet concerto in A, and never tired of it.
Organize and prioritize your writing ideas.
Okay, you have a schedule, you have a plan, you know what to visualize, and you have a place to write, but do you have so many ideas that you don’t know how to get started once you sit down to write?
I’m a big believer in making lists, and it’s one of the first things I suggest to my coaching clients.
This is an important first step, so block off some time and assign this task the same respect and focus you would give to any writing session.
Begin the process by writing down all your ideas in the form of a list. Write enough of a phrase to remember your vision when you return to this list in the future.
Simply empty your brain onto the page.
Creating an ideas list will relieve the sense of overwhelm, and you should feel a great sense of accomplishment when you look at your completed list. Take a minute to pat yourself on the back!
Create accountability for your writing goals.
Creating accountability is immensely helpful in meeting goals.
Having a writing partner can be a great way to establish accountability as long as you have similar goals. If you don’t already have a partner, think about your friends who are writers, and choose someone whose writing you admire and whom you trust to be both honest and kind—and who will hold your feet to the fire.
A writing group can also be an excellent place for accountability if it has an established schedule for presenting your work in progress.
Writing classes are the perfect place to hone your skills, receive feedback on your work, and they will have hard deadlines on homework assignments.
Attending a writing retreat is an excellent way to engage in short term accountability, and is one of the best ways to supercharge your writing practice.
If you are serious about getting your project or practice on track, working with a writing coach (that’s me) is the ultimate scenario for anyone looking for undivided guidance, support, and accountability. Not only is it one of the best ways to nurture and elevate your writing there is also no way to hide in the back of the class when your work is due.
Follow the suggestions above, and you will be well on your way to establishing a sustainable writing practice and getting your projects done.
Working with Kathryn was the best investment I made this year. She was able to identify what was holding me back and guide me forward. Her gentle coaching and insightful editing elevated my work to another level. She’s just what I was looking for!
Antonella Saravia, Nicaragua
Thanks so much Kathryn. This is so clear, organized and helpful. Thanks for helping me get started!
Thank you, Nancy, I’m glad it was helpful.