Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Secrets of Kidlit: Five Ways To Maintain Momentum

January is a challenging month. Many of us, myself included, tackle the new year with enthusiasm for our shiny new goals. We work hard, accomplishing far more than normal. It's exhilarating and we can't help hoping that we will be able to maintain this pace throughout the year. But...New Year's resolutions have a horrible history of draining away as we hit the end of the month, leaving us sad and disappointed.

But does it have to be that way?

Actually, no.

Even if you didn't make a New Year's resolution, this is a good time to re-assess goals and find the right momentum to keep writing. Here are five tips to keep you on track:


1. CHECK YOUR GOALS

As it's nearly the end of the month, it's a good time to check in with the goals you made four weeks ago. The number one reason people fail to meet goals is that they have set multiple goals that are too ambitious and vague. It's overwhelming.

If you have a goal that states, GET PUBLISHED! Or, FINISH MY NOVEL BY JUNE 1st, it might be a good idea to spend some time figuring out the specifics of how you're going to get there. As you review your goals, make sure they are still things you want to achieve. This year, I wrote down some goals that I'm no longer interested in... and, I might have some timelines that may be a teensy bit too ambitious. If you have similar goals, adjust them to be more realistic.

Finally, check in with your long term goals every month (or every few months) to reassess. Not only will it stoke your ambition, but it will help you to stay focused.


2. RITUALS AND HABITS

Maybe you feel that you need to form better writing habits to reach your goals. Many authors write every day. Some write a thousand words a day. Some write even more. But how did they acquire that habit in the first place? Sheer willpower?

Maybe.

But that's not the only option. There's a mix of science and mysticism in the act of forming habits. On average, it takes a person sixty-six days to form a new habit. If your goal is to write every day, trying to keep your momentum going for that long (or longer!) is challenging. Fortunately, you can use rituals to help you achieve this goal. Rituals are activities that we do mindfully. They set our intention and signal our brain and soul that the work we are about to do is important. By performing a ritual before you start writing, you will soon find that your creativity awakens more easily.

Some writers light candles, or stretch their muscles. Some read or work on a crossword puzzle before they start writing. Others create playlists that are specific to their work. My ritual is to meditate. It's a peaceful way to clear my mind of distractions before I open my my laptop.

If you find that you have only a few minutes of writing time, do your ritual anyway and write something - even if it's fifty words or a rhyme on a napkin. Keep training your brain to be creative after your ritual. After sixty-six days, you won't feel right if you don't follow your ritual. Which means... you won't feel right if you aren't writing! It's now a habit!


3. SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT

Success builds momentum. If you go to the gym for three days a week for a month, you are proud of that accomplishment and want to keep going. However, it's helpful to have a visual record of your accomplishment so you can point at it and say, "See? I did it!!!"

Popular forms of tracking your accomplishments include daily planners, calendars and stickers, or logging in word counts on a spreadsheet or Twitter. A few years ago, I found a method that works very well for me. I LOVE to-do lists. I'm the kind of person who will complete a task and if it isn't on my list, I'll write down just to check it off. But...when I tracked my work with just a to-do list, it didn't keep me motivated. It felt like my work was just another grocery list.

Then I saw someone's custom made planner and I fell in love. In a notebook, I give myself a to-do list, then leave the rest to explain what I did. One of my New Year's resolutions is to read three blogs on writing every week day. But on a simple to-do list, I'd just cross off the fact that I'd read them. Now, I have a log of what I read. I can jot down thoughts about what I've read or written that day and ideas for my next writing session. Sometimes, I even write down vocabulary words. I can, because I'm not restricted by space. If you haven't found a method of tracking your successes yet, I encourage you to give this one a try.


4. PEER PRESSURE


Another way to keep momentum is to find other writers. You can do this by joining a writer's group or by finding other writers on Twitter.
Our Writing Team
I have several online friends who keep similar writing hours as I do and we check in with each other almost every day. When several of us are drafting at the same time, we sometimes do word sprints to boost our word counts. We encourage and support each other - sometimes by encouraging someone to find their way out of a plot hole, or answering grammar questions. And, of course, we have our moments of pure silliness!

This is a great way to make sure you keep returning to your writing desk; when your friends are expecting you to write, it's hard to let them down.


5. FORGIVENESS AND DEDICATION

It's okay if you stumble off the path every now and then. Because you will. We all do. Your job is to find your way back and return to your writing. Remember how habits take about sixty-six days to form? It also turns out that if you miss a day once in awhile, it isn't going to keep you from forming that habit. That's true of all of your goals. Life gets in the way of our best intentions all the time. Be kind to yourself by returning to what you love - writing. As long you keep showing up, you have a good chance of meeting your goals.

Happy writing!






4 comments:

  1. Now where have you been hiding this wonderful site? I've been writing for almost 20 years (with some dry patches in there). I settled on YA and MG in the last couple years. I find it hard to stay on track because, as a daytime engineer, I get a lot of interuptions in my world. Last November I started a new job and I went from writing a couple thousand words a day to almost nothing. I'm just now getting back on program, editing my MG historical and beginning a new YA spec (I'm glad "spec" exists because it sounds really smart). I'm tempted to add to your list, "Don't let disruptions disrupt." But that's not life. We know better. Sometimes we have to step back and focus on the new paying job, or moving to a new house, overthrowing a government...whatever. My best piece of advice--free and worth every penny--is to jump into a conference or get together with other writers as soon as possible after said disruption. It's amazing how all that writer talk can get the juices flowing.

    I've also joined SCBWI (finally) and started a search for a YA\MG critique group. Two other low-cost measures to get me back on track. And to think I actually wrote and indie-pubbed 4 novels last year. I must be exhausted.

    Love the blog! I'll be back.

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    1. I'm so glad you found us! And, that you've been able to get back to writing. I've certainly taken time off (years off) to raise my family - but I always came back to writing. Disruptions are inevitable, but sometimes they provide great material.

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  2. Great post. No am a weekly and daily goal setter, and I really like writing down the specifics. You've also inspired me to add extra things I've done that weren't on the list or part time f my goals. Every accomplishment makes me feel more in control, always a good thing!

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    1. :D I'm so glad! I sleep better at night when I feel that I accomplished something - this method works wonders for that. If I didn't meet my word count goal, then it reminds me of what I learned that day. It's proof that even when I'm not working at an ideal pace, I'm still making progress.

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