It’s Monday. I know, I know. Here, have some caffeine.
Buck up. It’s a new week, a new year, and the start of a new writing challenge.
I wanted to do something different with A Round of Words in 80 Days. None of this frantic scramble to cram in high word counts in ridiculously short periods of time. Just like crash dieting, that kind of challenge cannot be sustained for the long haul by most people.
I know a great deal about goal setting and behavior modification. See, my stock and trade is clinical psychology. So I know how to analyze and change behavior for a living. Don’t worry, I won’t be analyzing you. But I will help give you some insight into what will actually work.
See people are really bad about setting ridiculous goals. ESPECIALLY when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions. Don’t tell me you haven’t said “I’m gonna lose 20 pounds by the end of January!” or “I’m going to get an agent by the end of the year!” Do you see a problem with these kinds of goals?
Well, apart from the fact that they’re big, they’re all or nothing, and to an extent, they aren’t in your control. See, these aren’t goals, they’re end results. They say nothing about action. Nothing about what you specifically will do to acheive these ends.
Instead of “I’m gonna lose 20 pounds by the end of January,” (which is, of course, a pretty enormous amount of weight to drop in a month), you could say, “I am going to exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. I am going to track my caloric intake and be sure to stay within my daily recommended value.” Instead of, “I’m gonna get an agent by the end of the year,” you can say, “I’m going to send out ten queries a month.” Do you see how these are different? These give regular, measurable steps that you can follow. They aren’t all or nothing.
Writing goals should be the same way. And this is why challenges like NaNo are inherently flawed. It requires a short, intense burst of activity. A sprint. But writing a novel isn’t the 100 yard (100k?) dash. It’s a marathon. A sprint like NaNo can burn you out and leave you panting. But our goal isn’t to just write a novel. It’s to be a writer. And that means developing consistent, long-standing writing habits that will make writing a priority in your life all the time, not just for one month.
So while there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I want to finish 2 novels this year,” you’ll get a whole lot further by saying, “I’m going to write 750 words a day and spend at least 30 minutes a day alone and unplugged.” (Yeah, those are my goals this round). Those are things directly in my control, each and every day. Things that I can monitor and modify as life throws challenges my way. Because goals don’t have to be static either. Life certainly isn’t. So feel free to tweak your goals as necessary. This is about making writing an effective part of your life. Make a sustainable change.