Losing motivation is easy. Maintaining your drive through the long-haul of a big writing project may seem impossible, but the truth is that you may be focusing on the wrong things. Big dreams and final goals can do a lot to help motivate you in the beginning, and it’s the underpinning motive for your work. Ultimately, however, staring too hard at the finish line in the distance may hurt your progress.
Reevaluate How You Mark Goals
Big, flashy goals are the prettiest. We work hard because we want to finish that draft, publish that novel, and win that prize. Our big goals represent the final destination on our long, hard-fought path, so naturally we aim for them and measure our success by them. The problem is that those lofty aspirations may be months, years, or even decades down the road.
Just because you didn’t get published today, however, doesn’t mean you didn’t accomplish anything. Every word you commit to the page is a little victory – every single one. You cannot reach those final goals without winning all those tiny battles. To prevent yourself from losing focus, falling into despair, and giving up on ever reaching your ultimate destination, you need to refocus and celebrate smaller things. You sat down and wrote today? Fantastic! Well done. You finished a chapter, a scene, or a paragraph? That’s wonderful! Appreciate what you’ve accomplished.
Look for Feedback from Yourself
One of the most frustrating elements of larger projects is the lack of immediate feedback. No one stands up and cheers when you hit your daily word goal. There are no parties for writing instead of sitting in front of the television for the evening. Unless you are one of the few folks who has a dedicated accountability team, then it’s very likely no one knows what’s going on in your day to day writing world.
Except – one person does know.
You do. In fact, you know more about the secrets of your personal craft than you realize. The best way to track your progress, discover your best writing time, and surprising motivations is to journal. Journaling is the unicorn of the writing world. Everyone sings praises of its mystical powers, but no one has ever seen one in the wild (or captivity, for that matter). You don’t have to do much to benefit from this practice, though. Think of journaling as a writing account. How much “income” did your work receive? When did those gains appear? What is subtracting from your profits? By recording some basic numbers, times, and insights, you can figure out what time of day you do your best writing, what your greatest distractions are, and – most importantly – you can track the progress you’ve made.
Understand Progress is Gradual
A mountain is – more or less – a great big stack of rocks. You can build your own mountain by adding a rock or two to your own little hill every day or so. Each rock adds to the size and scale of your project, bringing you closer to the sky. It’s easy to overlook all those little rocks in a finished mountain, but they are the mountain. If that visual doesn’t work for you, think of that slow, annoying drip under the bathroom sink. You leave a pan under it to keep the floor dry, but in the morning you discover the pan is nearly overflowing from all those little drops. This is how writing works.
Measure success in drips, pebbles, and daily accomplishments. You will achieve more than you ever thought possible. So long as you stay in motion, sooner or later you’ll cross the finish line.