Okay, that sounds a bit pessimistic. But hear me out. If you wanted to become a high jumper, you wouldn’t set the bar at a height impossible to clear, right? You’d start low and get really good at each level before moving up to the next. If you are learning a new skill, you’d start with the basics and then work yourself up to the more complicated elements. And maybe you’d fail a few times, or a few million times before you could do the thing you set out to do, and maybe that feeling of failure lights a fire under you and forces you to try harder.
But you know what else is super motivating? Success.
I have participated in Camp NaNoWriMo three times. It’s an online contest of sorts that grew out of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, where to win you must write 50k words in a month. Camp is more laid back (as camp should be). You set your own goals and have a cabin of fellow writers to cheer you on and make references to roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. It’s fun. It’s encouraging. The first time I participated, I agreed to join a large cabin – some writers I knew, some I didn’t. There were virtual crafts, write-ins, and shout outs on Twitter. At the time I was revising my second novel and thought two hours a day seemed a reasonable goal. But I started the month off on a road trip, clocked zero hours of revisions for the first few days, and rapidly became discouraged. There’s this great STATS feature, which tells you your daily progress, how much you should do to reach your goal, and if you continue at your current rate you will finish…. in 2020.
The second time around I was working on a new novel, and decided 10k was reasonable. It wasn’t. Our cabin had only three members, and we had some amazing discussions about plotting and staying confident in your work. I made more time to write, but the words weren’t flowing and again I felt discouraged by the ever distant finish rate.
Third time’s the charm. Between April and July, I worked to unclog the stuff that wasn’t working and brought the first chapter to my critique group. They loved it and told me to keep going.
Let me stop here for a second. I know some of my blog followers aren’t writers and they are probably skimming through this post because blah, blah, blah she’s carrying on about writing again. Look. Your words can make a difference in someone’s life: your child, spouse, co-worker, employee, friend. A stranger. Be kind. Encourage someone today. It might be the very thing they need to keep moving forward.
When I decided to join Camp NaNoWriMo this past month, I thought about my goal. I didn’t want it to be too high and get discouraged. July was busy, people. BUSY. But I didn’t want it to be too low and seem insignificant. I thought about what my friend Kate had said a while ago, about setting micro-goals. If I could sit down every day and write something, 100 words, I would keep moving forward on the story. I set my overall goal for the month at 4k, and did my best to write at least 100 words every day. I didn’t write every day (I missed about half), but when I did, it was always more than 100 words. Sometimes it was only a few more, sometimes a lot more.
So I set the bar lower, but at a reasonable, attainable height. And it worked. The project is at 12k and I’m excited to keep writing.
And it feels pretty good to see this:
Are you trying to accomplish something and feeling overwhelmed? Can you break it up into smaller, more manageable micro-goals? Find a way to earn success. To celebrate the mini victories and stay motivated.
You got this.