A couple of weeks ago, I introduced Writing Power’s Writers’ Circle, a way to get motivation, support, and encouragement from other writers. As of today, our merry band has four members. Is it too late to join? Not at all – the more, the merrier.
You can jump into the Writers’ Circle any time. All you need to do is introduce yourself in the comments. What kind of writing do you do? What would you like to improve?
Now that we’ve introduced ourselves to each other, it’s time to get motivated. So, Writers’ Circle members new and old, let’s set some goals.
Advice abounds, in the blogosphere and elsewhere, about goal setting procedures. In general, the most helpful goals are measurable: that is, you can judge whether you met them. If your goals aren’t measurable, then it’s hard to know whether you’ve achieved them. For example, the goal “be healthier” isn’t measurable. How do you know whether you’ve achieved that? It would seem to vary day by day. In contrast, the goal “take a 30-minute walk 5 times per week for a year” is measurable. Either you took those walks, or you didn’t.
Useful goals are achievable yet daring. On the one hand, you don’t want to set yourself up for failure. On the other hand, if you can meet your goal without trying, then why do you need to go through a goal-setting procedure to do it? Try to delineate a goal that will push you a bit outside your comfort zone; that way, you’ll be delighted when you reach it.
Finally, worthwhile goals are exciting. Not to anyone else, maybe, but certainly to you. Your goal should be something that you feel driven to accomplish. If the idea of achieving the goal doesn’t excite you, then keep working to reformulate it.
Now that we’ve got our goals defined, it’s time for the other half of the goal-setting process: establishing motivation. You can have the best project- and task-related productivity systems in place to stay on top of all of the stuff you have to do, but you won’t be productive unless you do the stuff on those lists. Action is the key, and action requires motivation.
Two motivating strategies have always worked for me:
1) Take the first step now. My biggest productivity stumbling block is getting started. Writing-related projects and tasks can seem daunting, but for me the dread is always worse than the task or project itself. The longer it sits there, un-started, the more painful I imagine it to be.
To avoid dread-based procrastination, I do something – anything – to get the ball rolling right away. If I receive a stack of papers to grade in the morning, I read three or so that afternoon to get a sense of the task before me. As often as not, I go on to grade the three that I originally intended merely to read, which really makes my day. That stack of papers, which loomed so large in my imagination, diminishes almost as soon as I get started.
The first step can be tiny: making a phone call, drafting notes for fifteen minutes, blocking out writing time in your schedule. But get that ball rolling.
2) Set deadlines that you will feel pressure to keep. It’s human nature to want to save face. If you tell someone you’ll have a job done on Monday, your words will ring in your ears all weekend, urging you to get the job done. Conversely, if you only told yourself you wanted to do the job this weekend, the littlest disturbance in your routine might cause you to delay the job.
To stay motivated, writers need to avoid this tendency to delay and rationalize. A great way to do that is to exploit the motivating power of public accountability. Sharing your goals with the Writers’ Circle will help you make progress toward your writing goals.
So, define a measurable writing-related goal that you want to accomplish by the end of March. Then, tell us:
What will you do today toward that goal?
- In one week?
- In two weeks?
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