One of my reading goals, aside from finishing my Goodreads list, is to get through a stack of magazines my mom gave me. I skim the pages in search of healthy meal ideas, ways to boost energy, and other ways to keep healthy. I was not expecting to get some great writing advice.
I’m not dieting, and I certainly don’t need to, though I could afford to up my exercise. I do what’s known as deskercizing, but that’s getting a little off topic. I do, however, like to read about dieting breakthroughs, because I know people who struggle with their weight. (Although I’m sure the last person someone wants weight loss advice from is a popsicle stick). Back to the point, recently I read an article about dieting that claims people lost more weight and kept it off longer when they set subsequent small goals in place of one large one. The overall goal might be to lose 200 pounds, which sounds really daunting. Instead of throwing in the towel for some cookie dough, what they would do instead is break that down into five-pound increments.
This method worked for people wanting to lose weight, so I thought why can’t it work for people wanting to add word count. NaNoWriMo works like this in a way. You have a 50,000 word goal by the end of the month which is divided into a daily goal. You can see your progress on a line graph or a bar chart, so you see where your at. So if your goal is 80,000 words, why not break that down into chapters or a certain word count. This works for editing too. Instead of making your goal finish editing book two, your goals might look like this.
- finish editing chapter one
- finish editing chapter two
- finishing editing chapter three
Why big goals don’t work
Setting large goals leads to failure, explains Robert Maurer, Ph.D., because setting goals or making life changes can activate the amygdala, the area of the brain that processes fear and anxiety. People often respond to fear by slipping into old or bad habits, which in turn makes us feel like failures.
Large goals also cause people to binge. This isn’t just a diet thing. Think about it. You really want to finish your book. You’ve got 80,000 words to write, so you dive in. By the time you reach 20,000 words, you feel so far from the goal you may just quit. You might write hard and heavy for a week, feel like a failure, quit, and come back to it hard and heavy again. But this doesn’t encourage anything long lasting or consistent. If your goal was 1,000 words a day, you are more likely to meet your goal and feel successful. Smaller goals help achieve steady progress. You’ll write more words and improve your writing habits.
So whether you’re working on the book of your dreams or the body of your dreams, taking small steps towards the top of the hill instead of one leap is the way to go.
Do you break your writing goals into steps? What’s the best advice you ever got from a magazine? Was it related to writing? I’d love to hear from you.