Be The Best You and State Your Round 2 #ROW80 Goals

I do a lot of reading, and it seems I’m often coming across quotes about stuff that makes me think “Oh, I should write a post about that.”  It’s not a surprise that my brain takes stuff from all kinds of venues and sources and twists them around to fit for writers and the writing life.  It’s how I filter the world, interpret it.   I’ve been reading my way through The Art of War For Writers by James Scott Bell, and last night, I came across the perfect quote for the start of this new Round:

Don’t worry about trying to be better than someone else.  Always try to be the very best you can be.  Learn from others, yes. But don’t just try to be better than they are.  You have no control over that.  Instead try, and try very hard, to be the best you can be.  That you have control over.  ~John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach (p. 49 The Art of War for Writers)

So much of our lives as writers leads us down the path of comparison.  It’s a dangerous road to walk.  It can lead us to turn a disease ridden GREEN.  Because there’s always someone further along the path than we.  Someone who got lucky or was in the right place at the right time.  Someone who might not have been working as hard or as long (according to our perceptions) as we have.  That way lies madness and envy and a soul-sucking waste of energy.

I’m big about issuing challenges around here.  I like to push people.  So of course I have a new challenge for y’all this round.

For the next 80 days, I want you to resist comparison.  Don’t you give a single thought to anyone else’s goals, anyone else’s progress.  You are the only one who matters.  If you must compare, compare your progress this round to what you did last round.  Push yourself to do more.  Up that daily word count by 50 or 100 words.  Edit a few extra pages.  Read a craft book.

But don’t you be checking your Amazon ranking.  Don’t look at anybody ELSE’S Amazon ranking.  Or their number of reviews.  Don’t pay attention to whether Billie Sue wrote 5,000 words a day to your 500.  It doesn’t matter.  You’re not Billie Sue.  If you’re hanging out on Twitter and Facebook and talking to other writers, use it to get into some word wars and push your own limits.  Don’t pay attention to whatever the latest article is about whoever the latest wunderkin is who sold 100,000 copies of their ebook overnight.  You aren’t them.  They don’t matter.  They are not part of your path.  All these potential comparative distractions are like the moles in Mario Kart.  They pop up and blind you to your true path, trying their damnedest to make you crash rather than win the race.

The only one in this race is you.

So keep your eyes on the road and challenge yourself.  See you on the other side.

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Make The Habit and Declare Your Goals

I find myself thinking  a great deal about habits as this new year gets rolling.  Nothing new about this as we are all usually vowing to change some (Exercise more!  Eat less! Avoid sugar!).  But I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how exactly you create a successful new habit.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the subject and trying to suss out how I can apply what I know of learning (because, hey, I teach that class every semester) to the process and aid in success.  So I’ve come up with a few things between all my reading that you should keep in mind as you’re working out what your goals are and what writing habits you would like to create (because really, writing should be a habit, not a chore or a special occasion when inspiration strikes kind of thing).

  1. Make it small.  There’s this tendency, ESPECIALLY at the start of something new, to want to declare sweeping and drastic changes!  Problem is that humans are hard wired to resist change, so this sets us up for failure.  So instead of declaring “I will write 1,000 words a day!”, say you’ll write 250.  If you write more, then great!  But if you don’t you’ve done a page and that’s more than you had before writing any.  And as we are all about adaptation here at ROW80, if you find that works fine for you, then stretch yourself and adapt, going up by 50 words each week or whatever.  By the end of the round, you’ll likely have trained yourself to write more at each sitting than you could at the start.
  2. Attach it to something you already consistently do.  This is kind of like setting the stage for writing, training your brain that now is the time to buckle down and focus.  Priming yourself for the action you want to take. For example, I always do my dishes and load the dishwasher while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil to make tea.  I drink my tea religiously at least once a day, every single day.  Which means that usually, all the dishes are done at least once a day.  So for writing (on weekdays anyway), I sit down every night after I feed the dogs and open my WIP.  It’s part of my nightly routine.
  3. Reward yourself.  I confess, I am really bad about this.  Because I’m inclined to want to reward myself with something food related (which doesn’t fit in with my lifestyle of calorie restriction) or with diving into a good book (which I don’t have time to do in the evenings).  But it doesn’t have to be some grand thing.  You can celebrate with a self back pat, a fist pump, a “Go me!”  The point is to associate positive feelings with engaging in your habit.  This makes it much more likely that you’ll, you know, stick to the habit.

So lay it out!  Write up your goals for this round.  You’ve got 80 days to make these new habits a reality!

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Failing Small (And State Your Round 4 Goals)

There is a disturbing trend in American society (and, dare I say, Western culture in general) to have an All or Nothing attitude.  We make these grand, sweeping (and totally unrealistic) goals of “I will do X every day!”  “I will never eat chocolate again!”  “I will stop ordering cheeseburgers every time I go out to eat!”  Whatever the statement, it’s usually well intended but utterly moronic and setting yourself up for complete failure.  Because change is hard and it’s challenging and your brain is automatically programmed to abandon ship at the first sign of distress or failure (it’s actually programmed to derail you in a lot of ways–go read the article, it’s very interesting).

So the first time you slip up and have a Snickers bar, or that first day you oversleep and don’t work out, or that first weekend you don’t write–your traitorous brain is sitting there like the devil on your shoulder, saying “well it’s all over now…you’ve already messed up.  Forget the slippery slope, you already blew it.”  And then your subconscious gives you permission to blow your diet the rest of the week.  Stop running.  Stop writing.  Whatever.

This is a grossly illogical way to think and you do yourself and your goals more damage by engaging in this kind of thought process.

Here’s a newsflash, people: Y’all are human.  You’re gonna screw up.  Life is gonna rear up and bite you in the butt.  This is as inevitable as death or taxes.

Part of what I want you to learn by participating in ROW80 is how to FAIL SMALL.  Instead of saying “Well, I ate out at lunch, so I might as well cheat the rest of the day since I already blew it”, say “I won’t cheat two meals in a row.”  Instead of saying “I’m going to write EVERY DAY”, maybe it makes more sense to say “I won’t miss two days of writing in a row.”  You may very well have stretches where you write every day.  But if you miss a day here or there, then you ought to have that much impetus to get back to it tomorrow.  Learn to be okay with these tiny failures.  In fact, don’t even think of them as failures.  Think of them as Human Moments–those points in time that prove you aren’t a machine.

This concept will be particularly salient this round as it includes HOLIDAYS.  So, keep that in mind as you state your goals for Round 4, which (for you newbies) you will write up in a post on YOUR BLOG, then link back to in the linky below (that would be the thing that says CLICK HERE, not the comments section).

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