In the following weeks, I’ll be shining a light on the idea of being a “prolific” writer. Today, I will share the third question I ask when trying to figure out what my clients want from their writing – What is a realistic goal for YOU for NOW?
Figure out your SHORT-TERM goals as well as your LONG-TERM goals
Being clear on your personal goal is great. Knowing what you want to achieve in the long run will provide much-needed focus and enable you to steer your determination in the right direction. But what if that personal goal is a long way down the road from where you are now? How do you get to that point without constantly being frustrated that you aren’t there yet?
The third question I always ask is: What goal is realistic for YOU for NOW?
Where it’s excellent to have clear goals in mind for the future, these goals are long-term, and not short-term. Yet, most of us find ourselves frustrated being where we ARE and not where we want to BE. And when we are frustrated about our own process, we tend to start comparing ourselves to others.
Each and every one of us is living a different life, so it’s no more than normal that we’re all at another place in our lives at any given moment. Comparisonitis happens to the best of us, if not all of us—Joanna Penn, whose podcast The Creative Penn I highly recommend to any author, speaks of comparisonitis often and discusses it in her latest book The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey—but that doesn’t mean we should continue comparing our own process to that of others.
With National Novel Writing Month starting in a month, I can only imagine how many writers will be suffering from comparisonitis throughout the process. Not only can you compare your word count to those of others each and every single day, many writers seem to feel they’ve failed when they haven’t been able to reach the magical word count that is 50,000 words by the first of December.
In a recent podcast, Joanne Penn interviewed Grant Faulkner, the Executive Director of NaNoWriMo. Where I was afraid this episode would—like so many other podcasts, articles, books, and magazines out there—be on becoming much more prolific than you are right now, that reaching those 50,000 words within a month is what defines you as a writer, what I got from the interview was that NaNoWriMo is not necessarily about reaching 50,000 words in a month.
That is what you officially sign up for, but NaNoWriMo shouldn’t be a stick you can beat yourself over and over again with (which I see happening around me more often than not). Instead, one should see it as a tool to do more than you would usually do, as an attempt to prioritise your writing over everything else for just a month. What can you achieve when you try to stick to writing as much as you can for 30 days? For Grant Faulkner, there is no ‘I only wrote 20,000 words during NaNoWriMo…’ As far as he is concerned, there’s only ‘I WROTE 20,000 WORDS DURING NANOWRIMOOOOOOOO!!!’ That’s still a novel in 4 months. Or a fantasy novel in 7. Not bad, right? Especially not if you’re juggling a day job, a family, a personal life, and whatever else you need to take care of yourself.
There’s hardly a greater motivator than knowing where you want to end up, yet sometimes there’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you aren’t there yet. Embrace the simple fact that you aren’t, and focus on the things you can do each day to get closer to that point. If that is writing a novel every 4 months, over even every 24 months, it is what it is, and it’s ok. If you expect yourself to write a particular amount of words each day—whether that’s 125 or 5000—and that expectation is far from realistic considering where you are in your life right now, you will be in for serious disappointment. And disappointment is far from being a good motivator. It is more often than not what makes people quit.
Different paths ask for different means to an end. Figure out what means are realistic for YOU at THIS POINT in your life and go from there.
Want to know more? Read all about the why behind these series of posts and the first question—Where do you want your writing to take you?—here. In the second post, I discussed the second question: What does “making a living” mean to you?
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Knowing your why is an exercise in freedom. Getting there is an eye opening process.
What a lovely turn of phrase! It is, isn’t it?