A Writer’s Weakness

In last week’s blog, I mentioned that I had a lot of trouble finishing projects—especially when it came to writing books.

I’d be writing a story when suddenly, a shiny new idea came strolling along and I’d go after it like a cat chasing after a laser pointer.

I knew I needed to break this habit or I’d never finish anything, so I employed several tactics—none of which actually worked.

#1 No Pressure

At first, I told myself not to worry so much. After all, I wasn’t trying to be a full-time author or anything. My stories were just a way for me to escape from reality. If I finished one, then great! If not, then… well, we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.

Unsurprisingly, the method of taking all the pressure off my writing didn’t help much. If anything, it allowed me to brush off my writing as unimportant and meaningless. It didn’t matter if I kept switching stories or just stopped writing entirely, because hey, I was writing for fun, right?

It didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t want to write just for fun. I wanted to be a full-fledged author who finished books, novellas, short stories, and whatever else I had the urge to write—even if I didn’t want to make writing my career.

With this established, I decided to change my method.

#2 Rewards

I started setting small word count goals for myself. If I wrote one hundred words, I could spend a little time looking at Pinterest, watching things on YouTube, or drawing.

But soon the word count started to decrease, and the time I spent not writing increased.

I’d write twenty words and then watch a twenty-minute YouTube video, or spend an hour drawing.

This method made writing seem like a chore that I needed to be rewarded for doing, instead of a thing that I loved to do.

#3 Punishments

After the reward method didn’t work out, I fell into the opposite (and yet very similar) ditch.

If I didn’t reach my word count goal, I didn’t allow myself to do the things I wanted to do. No listening to music and dancing, no going outside and enjoying the beautiful weather, just writing. I wouldn’t even allow myself to eat until I’d reached the goals I set. I took the phrase “starving artist” to an unhealthy extreme which was such a mistake!

This method nearly made me quit writing altogether.

I felt trapped, and any joy I’d once found in writing was slowly sucked away by all the rules and restrictions I’d placed on myself.

During this period of my life, I looked forward to all the times I couldn’t write because I had to go eat dinner with my family, or I had to go out somewhere.

Since this tactic was suffocating both the artist and writer in me, I finally decided to give it up and try something new.

#4 Forced Focus

No punishments, no rewards, just pure focus. I’d put my earphones in, turn on my writing playlist, set my word count goal, and write until I’d reached my goal for the day.

But life is not kind to a writer’s dreams and goals.

My focus would be continuously broken by my parents, brother, and friends. I’d have plans to write for the entire evening, only to learn about a birthday party my entire family had been invited to. Or I’d sit down to write, only to be called to do the dishes, or vacuum the living room.

I’d get so frustrated about my writing time being disrupted that I would want to just give up.

All four of these tactics that I’d tried did nothing to help me finish my book. I was only 35,000 words in and I was tempted to give up again.

But that’s when I discovered one more method.

#5 Self Motivation

I was tired of giving up. Tired of never finishing. I saw a lot of authors on Instagram who’d managed to finish one to dozens of books, and I was convinced that if they could do it, then so could I.

Writing had become so important to me. I no longer wanted it to be a hobby, I wanted it to become a career.

But first, I needed to prove to myself that  I was capable of finishing a book.

Instead of having word count goals, I switched to my main goal—which was to finish. I still celebrated every time I wrote another 10,000 words, but my focus was on my ultimate goal.

The Goal To Finish

And I did finish it.

Finishing that first novel broke the mental block that kept me from growing as a writer. It grew my confidence and showed me what I was capable of. I started writing more words in less time, and I went back to enjoying the writing process.

The key to writing is finding the method or methods that work best for you. Some people work better with word count goals, while other people (like me) work better with big picture goals, like reaching certain places in the story (a key scene, the middle, or the climax).

Having goals isn’t as important as having the right goals.

The right goals can motivate you, while the wrong goals can destroy your will to create.

Special Announcement!

I’m going to take a two-week break from posting on my blog to enjoy my summer break! I’ll still be posting on Instagram, so if you don’t follow me there yet, you totally should!

Before You Go…

Do you set goals for yourself? What are your plans for summer break?

Let me know in the comments below!