I am nothing if not consistently inconsistent. At least, that was my excuse. I used it all the time.The ‘I have a family and a job’ excuse was helpful. So was the excuse, ‘I’m a slow writer.’ After I used those excuses, I beat myself up. I was a failure for not being consistent, for not making my writing goals. I went through this a circular reasoning day after day after year. Until I decided to change.
I’ve tried to change many, many times. And I’ve failed many, many times. This time I was determined to make it work. So I did some research—of course! The internet is full of well-meaning but useless advice.I turned to some trusted experts: Marie Forleo, James Clear, Stephan James, Dean Anderson, and Henrik Edberg. From their insights, I’ve compiled a list of things essential for developing consistency.
Marie Forleo lists this as her number one key to being consistent. Being consistent over the long haul is hard work. She encourages you to have a clear compelling vision for what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Knowing what and why makes it easier to stay focused on your goals.
Oh, boy howdy, did this one resonate with me! Some say I am obsessed with perfect. If you, too, are obsessed with perfect, it’s time to change your mindset.
No one is 100% consistent. Life happens. Surprise and change interrupt every intention. I used to think I must function at 100% or I’m not successful. So when something knocked me off course, I was a failure. I’d curl up in a metaphorical, if not physical, ball and quit trying because I was a failure. How did I overcome this?
Aim for mostly consistent. Choose an achievable percentage that means winning to you—80%, 85%, 90%, 95%. There will be days or weeks when you are 99% consistent, but there will also be times when you’re 80% or less. Keep your eye on the average.
How many times have you thought that you aren’t motivated enough to do this thing? Stop listening to that! Telling yourself you’re not motivated is giving away your power of choice. Lack of motivation is a way to say you had no choice. It is a choice, you know. But you have to choose to work on your goal every day.
So, when you have a “I don’t wanna—“ day, don’t listen. Train your brain to ignore that voice. Get up and do it anyway. Pay attention to how you feel at the end of the day. And those days when you choose not to be consistent, to do the thing. Pay attention to how you feel on those days, too. Learn from that.
Focus on the process. Love the process. Acknowledge the process is work, but don’t associate the work with negative thoughts. Negative thoughts will beget negative progress. After all, if you do something that causes you pain, why would you choose to keep doing it? I don’t know how many times I have heard a writer say, “I hate to write” or “I can’t write when X happens.” Change your mindset. Associate the process with positive feelings and you’ll want to repeat the process.
Have a Plan
Without a plan, you won’t succeed. Steven Covey said, “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but schedule your priorities.” How you schedule is up to you. I have an allergy to rigid schedules, so I don’t schedule by the hour. I schedule by day of the week.
Dean Anderson recommends building momentum slowly. For example, if you want to exercise more, plan for a ten-minute session once a week. Do that for a while (at least three weeks), then increase it to two days a week. After you’ve worked that into your schedule, increase it to include another day or more time each day. The key is to move forward step-by-step.
Many experts recommend that you take 5-10 minutes each evening and make a plan for the next day. It’s a flexible way to schedule your priorities. I know that my days are much more successful when I choose to take that evening time and plan for the next day.
If you have trouble scheduling your priorities, ask yourself Edberg’s three questions. What is the most important thing I can do right now? Is doing this bringing me closer to my goal? Am I keeping things extremely simple right now?
HAVE A PLAN B
Plan B is for those days when life surprises you. This has been my downfall over and over. People who are not consistent usually fail to have a Plan B. Plan B would have saved me angst during our power outage last week. Yup, this is a habit I’ve not had as successful with, but I’m working on it. (Confession: My first thought was that I failed at this habit. I’m working on changing my mindset!)
Life is a work-in-progress. So is being consistent.
Tell me, about yourself. Do you struggle with consistency? What steps do you take to be consistent?
As always, thanks for taking the time to read this blog. And thanks, in advance, for sharing your thoughts.
Credits: When something goes wrong quote and image courtesy of zerotalking.com (TinEye attributes first use of this on August 6, 2013, to shadowfax42.soup.io however, I found this one dated July 3, 2013, on zerotalking.)
Public Domain image “Success Golden Key “by Animated Heaven courtesy Flickr
All sorts of people, from experienced professionals to the newest of neophytes, offer up rules on how to write, what to write, the order of scenes, types of characters, rules about rules for every flavor of writing from nonfiction to flash fiction. The rules offered by one author are often contradicted by the rules of another. The new writer searches and sorts through all of this looking for the secret rules for writers. She seems to think there is a secret out there that once unveiled will lead her down a petal-strewn path to a shiny finished manuscript and a publication contract. Here are two secret rules for writers that shouldn’t be a secret.
The secret rule is:
There is no secret. Nor is there one, right path to publication. The only real rules for writing are those of grammar, syntax, and editor guidelines. And even those rules can be broken if you have an understanding of what you are doing and why.
Is there harm in reading the advice of others? Possibly. If your attempt to “follow the rules” drowns your muse in the overload of information, freezes her in the quandary between opposing rules, or blocks her with rules that don’t apply.
I propose that as you immerse yourself in the “how-to” books and articles that you will undoubtedly seek out, make two hard and fast rules.
Rule one: The story trumps all rules.
There are all kinds of good books and articles out there on how to write a story, I won’t rehash any of that in this article. But there is very little out there to help the budding novelist sort the wheat from the shaft. That brings us to:
All how-to advice is one of two things: a guideline or a tool.
A tool is any method by which you can help yourself discover the novel within. A writer needs many tools in order to achieve a strong, well-written final draft. You, the writer, get to pick and choose which tools you need and when you need them.
A guideline is a principle that sets an indication of a course of action as opposed to a rule which is a principle governing conduct, action, procedures, etc. The difference is huge.
Rules confine you to one course of action. Guidelines give you boundaries and limitations in order to achieve a goal, but do not force your muse on down a particular line. And just as with tools, the writer decides which guidelines apply to his story. How do you decide which guidelines to use? That’s a post for another day. In the meantime, find tools and guidelines that allow your muse to play and be creative.
Want to read about some tools and guidelines? Try a few of these: