I mentioned before that an off-day quickly leads me to give up, because I see it as a failure and as evidence that I can’t succeed at my goals. I know in my mind that’s not true, but it’s how it feels. And feelings are pretty powerful.
I almost let it happen again. The last half of January was quite a struggle for me, for lots of reasons. But I’ve been keeping track of my writing, and I realized that I actually had done some significant writing in January: a total of 9737 words. And that was in the face of a depressive spiral.
Here’s what my writing pattern has looked like so far this year:
I decided to reset my goals to something more realistic. I noticed that I usually managed to write at least 500 words, but that I rarely hit 1000. So, my new goal is consistency: just write something every day. A minor stretch goal is to write at least 500 words five days a week. A major stretch goal on any given day is to hit 1000+ words.
And I’ve done that for the past two weeks. The week of 1/29-2/4, I wrote five days, crossing 500 every day and 1000 on Friday. This past week, I wrote six days, and surpassed 1000 on Thursday (actually hit 1211 words that day); granted, I wrote fewer than 200 words on Friday, but I did write something, and that’s the first level of success.
This is important because, more than churning out words, I want to build the habit of writing. And it’s like building a muscle: I have to start light and work up to heavier goals. Goal number one: just write something. Consistency builds habits.
Rest is also important. I’m taking Sunday as my “day off” – though if I happen to feel like writing, I’m not going to stop myself.
So that’s where I am today. If you’re having trouble being consistent in your writing, well, you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to start again, and don’t be ashamed of setting realistic goals. You’ll never finish a novel if you’re holding yourself to unrealistic standards. But even one new word brings you closer to a completed story.