Hi there, and welcome to The Daring Writer, with me, your host, Sherry Peters, the show for writers looking to bust through the block, the self-doubt, and the fears holding them back.
Today we’re going to talk about the five ways we can be satisfied with our writing progress when we feel like it will never end.
I don’t know about you, but I have developed a deep appreciation for online shopping. For the most-part, I buy books online. There are some pretty nifty Kickstarter projects to back too. I mean, who doesn’t love getting packages in the mail, and avoiding the mall at Christmas?
Except for the one teeny, tiny, major flaw: I have to wait.
I am probably one of the most impatient people in the world. At twenty, I had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome for a year and a half. I couldn’t type, I couldn’t hold a pen, I couldn’t even turn the page of the newspaper, let alone hold a book. I lost my job, and though I was a part-time University student, I had to get special permission to have a fellow student take notes for me, and I had to dictate my papers and my exams.
During that time, a lot of people I knew, in their way of being helpful, would tell me this was meant to teach me patience. From day one, if that was indeed the lesson the Universe or whatever was supposed to teach me, it failed miserably. Kind of backfired actually.
I may have developed a certain kind of patience and empathy, but generally speaking, I became even more impatient than before, if that was even possible. That year and a half set me behind, in my studies, and my earning potential. I relied on others to drive me everywhere, which I hated. Still do. And I felt like things needed to happen faster so that I could catch up to everyone else my age.
I’m a bit better now, but there are still times when I find myself wanting something, I like to be able to go into a store, pay for it, and walk out with it in my grubby little hands.
I know I’m not alone in my need for instant gratification. The industries of the world count on that need, and they feed it. It’s why Amazon has Amazon Prime with next day delivery, and same-day delivery in some cities. The news is at our finger-tips 24/7. You like a song you hear on the radio? You can download it instantly from iTunes.
Being impatient, needing instant gratification, can make life difficult for writers. Any writing project, especially novels, can take a long time to write without having a complete and final product in our hands.
Impatience and need for instant gratification are frequently behind procrastination. The thought of sitting down at the computer when you have 75,000-90,000 words ahead of you, and that’s just the first draft, to be followed by months of editing, it can be incredibly daunting. We don’t want to do it. We’d rather do anything else but write because even if we get 1,000 words down, there is still so much more to go. It’s a drop in the bucket, right?
So we clean the house to feel productive. We cook some meals and have something tangible, and tasty, to show for our time spent. We play a game on our phone or computer because we see ourselves earning points and leveling up. We watch television because after a few hours, we’ve had several stories told to us, we’ve been entertained, and maybe we even learned something.
It isn’t easy to face writing day after day and having only incremental progress, but that is exactly what we have to do to be successful. So what do you do when you need that instant gratification?
Rather than depending on the final product of a complete novel or story, or feedback from readers — either constructive critique or fan love and praise — to be your reward, it is important to create other means of feeling accomplished. Here are a few you can try:
- Set a daily word-count. Reaching that goal made it a successful day. You can take this a step further and track your daily word count in a color-coded spreadsheet. 1 – 250 words is the color you like the least. 250 – 500 words is your second-least favorite color. 500 – 750 words is a color you almost like. 750 – 1000 words is a color you like. 1000 – 1500 words is your third favorite color. So that on an amazing day when you write over 2000 words, you get to make that cell your favorite color.
- Print out the scenes or the chapters as you complete them so you can see the stack of pages growing. If you write four or five pages a day, print out those pages. Paper is thin, so it is going to take some time to see the pile grow, but it will grow steadily, in a very tangible way. The bonus here is that if you have the pages, scenes, or chapters printed out, you have quick access to them to check on a detail as you’re writing.
- If you really need reader feedback to keep you going, consider posting scenes and chapters to Wattpad or something similar to receive that feedback for a work in progress. I will link to Wattpad in the comments, and when I post this transcript on my blog. It is a platform for writers to share their work and build readership. I want to caution you here, though. Posting on Wattpad may be considered as having published your work, which may make it ineligible for submitting to some agents and editors. Please also be aware that this is a platform where those who read your work can, and will, provide you feedback, which can be amazing, but may not always be helpful, or kind.
- Set a goal of how many days a week you are going to write. At the end of the week, if you stuck to your goal you’ve been successful. If you’ve taken music lessons as a kid, you are probably more than familiar with this. My piano teacher would put five circles at the top of the page in my notebook at each lesson. She’d make her notes on what I was supposed to practice that week, and then every day, Monday – Friday, I had to write in how long I practiced each day. If I practiced a minimum of thirty minutes each day and filled out every circle, I got a gold star on the chart, where all the other students had their gold stars. It inspired the competitive spirit. You’d be amazed at how desirable getting a gold star could be. And still can be as adults.
- Sticking with the theme of rewarding yourself, this is something I always recommend to my clients. It is important to celebrate the small steps, along with the big ones. Small rewards for small goals. Bigger rewards for completing the actual novel. What type of reward is a small reward? When you reach your daily word count, allow yourself an episode of your favorite TV show, or read a chapter (or two) of a book. When you finish writing a chapter, allow yourself a trip to your local Staples or some other favorite store for a small treat like a notebook or new pen. When you meet your weekly writing goal, meet a friend for coffee or go to a movie. Whatever you choose, find a reward that works for you. It should be something that you want, something you will look forward to, so that you will want it again the next day or the next week.
So let me review:
- Set a daily word-count goal, and track it in a color-coded spreadsheet, with higher word-counts coded in your favorite color.
- Print out what you wrote that day and watch the stack grow.
- Post your work on platforms like Wattpad, to receive reader feedback.
- Plan the number of days you will write during the week. Track the days you write, and for how long. Give yourself a gold star for every week you met your goal. Be honest, though! and
- Celebrate the small steps, along with the big steps.
Yes, writing a novel can often feel like it is never going to be done. Using any one of these methods we talked about today, will help you achieve that sense of accomplishment to keep you writing consistently. The more consistent you are in your writing time, the more you will produce. The more you produce, the sooner it will be done.
I would love to hear from you. How will you celebrate your small steps?
If there are any topics you would like me to address in a future Facebook Live, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested and this is value-based to you, check out my coaching program at sherrypeterscoach.com. As always, I will put the links in the comments.
Until next week,