editing, writing

Updated: Writing Commitments

When I first wrote about writing commitments, I brought up the point that writing every day is not something that works a hundred percent of the time. As I start and try to get myself back into posting more consistently, I find that still holds true for the most part.

Numerous reasons work against writing every day. Daily life happens—we have families, jobs, friends, and other hobbies. All of these things have different time and energy requirements that may leave you without the time or energy to sit down and write at the end of the day.  Nor is everyone ready or able to write first thing in the morning—again, other commitments sometimes take precedent. Or maybe you’re just not a morning person and need a chance to fully wake up before you can properly function for the day.

Writing every day also builds an expectation. By itself, expectations are not bad things. They give us a base to work from, a pass-or-fail measure we can use to mark our progress. The problem becomes when that expectation imposes a requirement on us, despite any other factors that may be at play.

Think of it like any household task you don’t mind doing. Perhaps dusting or washing dishes, or folding laundry. Not difficult, but it does need doing and it needs doing repeatedly.  Repeat that task endlessly, with no thanks, knowing full well that you are the only one doing that particular task even though there are other things you could be doing, want to be doing or need to be doing. That task you didn’t mind doing is now a requirement to be done.

With that expectation that you will write every day becoming a requirement to fill, it turns that pass-or-fail measure against you. What happens on the days where you weren’t able to write? Failed. We’ve all had other things we failed at doing, and we all know the way that can make you feel: embarrassed, shamed, guilty. This is where the problem lies.

Writing is already an emotive task. Every single writer, fiction and non-fiction alike, seeks to create the sense of curiosity in their readers. Every single writer wants their readers to be satisfied and happy at the end of the story. Writing is an emotive task, but when the task itself brings negativity up in the writer, it becomes harder.

All of this is not to say that writing every day is the bane of every writer. For some writers, it is exactly what it needs to be: a commitment to their writing.

Writing commitments are nothing more than promises that you will sit down and dedicate some time to your craft. It’s a measure by which pass-or-fail can become a spectrum, instead of a two-sided coin.

The easiest way to set a commitment to your writing is setting a specific goal.

Specific goals give you a solid target, which enables you to measure how close you came. Didn’t make your goal today but tried? You still made progress. That can give you a sense of accomplishment and pride in your work that lets you move passed the bad days where you didn’t make your goal. Measurable goals mean you can also turn those ‘oh no, the kid’s sick, I have a double shift at work, and my in-laws just showed up for dinner unannounced’ kind of days into something you can still feel good about: you did all that and got five words down? Good job! You’re doing great.

Specific goals should be measurable. Some great examples:

  • 500 words in a week
  • 5 pages in a week
  • 1 hour a week

You may also note that those specific goals can be broken down into daily goals. Five hundred words a week becomes an easy hundred words a day with two days off. An hour a week only takes ten minutes a day for six days, still leaving you with a day off. You’d be correct, and there’s a reason for that: it allows you to avoid the pass-or-fail expectation of writing every day while still writing every day. Even if you only write seventy-two words on Monday, that’s seventy-two words you can count towards your goal, which means Monday is a successful day.

 Not every writer will use the same writing commitment. Adjust your goals as necessary. If you find a goal too challenging, adjust it. During your editing process, you may find it more beneficial to switch from an hour a week to five pages a week.  Or you may find your goal isn’t challenging enough to keep you interested in which case you might try moving it from five pages a week to ten pages a week. There’s a little trial and error involved in finding what works best for you. If something is working, keep at it! Remember that any advice you see anywhere is just that: advice. Much like feedback on your manuscript, it’s important to decide for yourself what will work best for your process.

What are some of your writing commitments? Do you have any specific goals? Let me know in the comments below!

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