In the life of every writer, there will come those times when giving up and abandoning a project begins to feel like an attractive option.
But, of course, if you are writing for someone else—as in the case of freelance writers or authors with contracts—quitting may not be an option. Even if you never intend to show anyone your writing, you still want to cultivate the habit of finishing what you start.
If you look at your writing the way a body builder looks at weight lifting, then you’ll see that the true benefits from writing come over the long-term. Just as a body builder doesn’t expect to work out once or twice and have the physique he desires, a writer can’t expect to write a little here and there and build a body of work that is substantial.
So, if consistency and persistence are the keys to determining your success as a writer, how can you develop the habit of going on during those times when all you want to do is quit?
1. Set smaller goals
Sometimes the thought of completing an entire novel or writing a long paper can be overwhelming. The overwhelm can cause us to procrastinate and put off getting started.
The key to overcoming this hurdle can lie in breaking the larger project down into smaller milestones. Identify each small part of your project and mark your progress as you move through them. In this way, you are continuously experiencing small wins. Each success that you rack up gives you the momentum to carry on to the next and the next.
2. Keep track of your wins
If you track your success on a spreadsheet or a calendar, you may find yourself motivated to go on simply by watching your progress grow. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has a simple version of this that he calls “Don’t break the chain.”
In this method, he prints an entire calendar on a single sheet of paper and for every day that he writes, he draws a bright red line through that day’s date. He swears by the motivation that he gains from seeing the red marks on the calendar grow.
3. Focus on your Why
If we don’t occasionally reconnect with our purpose for doing something, it can lead to a loss of focus and a lack of inspiration. Taking the time to remember why you wanted to write a particular project in the first place can be energizing.
For example, if you originally set out to write a nonfiction book aimed at helping people lose weight and keep it off, then taking a moment to remember the pain that you felt during your own weight loss struggle and how much it would mean to you if you could save someone else from having to experience that pain could be the motivation you need to go on.
4. Use small commitments to get started
If the thought of tackling a 20,000-word novella is keeping you from even getting started, you can use this simple mind trick to get yourself moving. The great thing about it is that it works in even the direst circumstances.
The trick is to commit to writing the smallest amount possible. Maybe that’s 150 words. Or two paragraphs. It really doesn’t have to be much at all. The idea is to just get yourself over the hurdle of starting. If you promise yourself that you can stop writing after you’ve reached your goal, you can almost feel the dread leaving your body as acceptance sets in.
Most of the time, you’ll reach your goal and feel good enough to keep going. But if you don’t, don’t force it. Take a break, then come back and commit to another 100 words. Or another paragraph. You can go on this way for as long as it takes. Eventually, you will want to keep going.
5. Let go of perfectionism
If the work that you see on the page doesn’t measure up to the vision you had in your mind of what the work would look like, that can be disheartening and make you want to give up. Don’t. Just remember that the most beautiful prose, the most helpful nonfiction, the most lyrical poetry… was not born that way.
Every piece of great writing has had to go through numerous drafts to get to the point where it is ready to be shared with the world. Many novelists boast about writing the most terrible first drafts that they can possibly come up with—because they know that writing is re-writing and that the real rewarding work can’t begin until you get those words down on the page, however awful they may seem to you.
Author’s Bio: Torri Myler is part of the team at http://www.bankopening.co.uk/ – a UK banks opening and closing times directory. She combines her experience in copywriting with her passion for words.
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