Sep 18, 2013

Stop Your Yo-yo Writing Diet Now!

There I was, in my writers group, sucking down my healthy snack and a good cup of coffee, listening to my fellow wannabe authors round-robin their week’s progress, looking for support to overcome their obstacles. And then it hit me – substitute words written for pounds lost and I’m in Weight Watchers for Authors.

Last post I talked about time management for writers and starting the new year with goal setting. But most writers have writing goals. The problem is, we aren’t meeting them. The number one issue facing many aspiring writers is not their writing talent or craft development, it's figuring out how to manage a writing life and a real life.

Goals and Desire Are Not Enough

Like the aspiring pound-dropping, healthy eater, we often start the week determined to meet our word or chapter goal, only to find ourselves at week’s end disappointed with the results. It was a bad week at work or with the family, we tell ourselves. Or the migraine flared up. Or I couldn’t possibly stick to the plan with the season premiere of Breaking Bad tempting me worse than a desert table at a Christmas party. So the manuscript sits until we can haul ourselves back to it through brute force. Before we know it, we've been on and off the yo-yo diet so many times our wip is dizzy…So we tell ourselves that we need more discipline, like the yo-yo dieters who tell themselves they need to have more willpower.

To stop the yo-yo writer's diet you must have a success system.

As much as dieters can’t willpower themselves to a gym routine and a ten pound weight loss, writers can’t discipline themselves into getting a 1000 words a day on the page. Instead we must put a system in place that sets us up for success. It is not enough to have a goal to write. To effectively execute any goal or change, we need a reinforcing set of support mechanisms that will keep us on track even when our discipline and willpower aren’t flowing at a 10. The system is like the safety net under the tightrope - if we fall, the system bounces us right back up.

What’s in a good system (and will it cost me 3 low payments of 19.99?)

Like no single diet works for everyone, everyone’s writing system will be different, as well. But a good system will have three things in common:

  1. You system must maximize your strengths
  2. There’s a segment of management theory that says you can’t help someone overcome their weaknesses, you can only play to their strengths. We all have times when writing comes easy.  For me, the words flow easiest in the morning. I’ve found that I’m a burster who likes writing big chunks in a sitting and then not writing (or preferably doing anything else either) at all for a while. My system doesn’t include a daily word goal. Instead, I have a week’s goal based on a daily average and I arrange my day so that it starts with writing when possible.

  3. Your system must help you avoid your triggers to failure
  4. When I’m tired I can’t write and I eat too much. By the time I’m tired, I have no hope of stopping myself from eating or motivating myself into getting in the words. Part of my system is to ensure I’m managing my schedule to keep from getting too tired. And when I know I have tiring times coming up, I don't include writing in my plan. 

    To do this, you must know what your triggers are and that typically doesn't happen unless we are analyzing our failures. This can take some time to discover, but with each new discovery, should come an adjustment to your system.

  5. Your system must help you stomp out your procrastination derailers
  6. While triggers suck your will to write, derailers take your will and have it focus on something else. If you are someone who gets lost in social media, install a social media blocking app, turn off your wireless or take your laptop where there is no wifi. Are you supposed to be writing on your lunch hour but find yourself chatting with colleagues in the lunch room? Start taking your lunch and eating at your desk.

A writing system is not one thing. It is a series of things that work together to get you off the binge-purge-self-esteem-bashing cycle of the yo-yo writer.

And like with dieting, if you fall off the writing wagon, evaluate what happened, tweak your system to compensate if needed, and get right back at it.

Now, while I eat my doughnut,  hit me in the comments with what is working well for you in your writing system and what you know you need to tweak? 

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I'm a night owl, so I was telling myself the myth that I "write better at night". The truth is, I don't. By the time night rolled around, I was tired and wanted to relax. I didn't feel like writing, and I'd usually already put in a day at the computer.

    I'm trying to write first thing in the morning now, before I go online or check social media. It's an ongoing struggle, and I usually peek, but I'm still doing better than I was.

    I going to try implementing your other steps and see how much better I can commit to my writing.

    Great post, very helpful!


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