Writers: What You Can Gain From Studying Weight Loss

Standard

SIMMONSOne 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.

  1. finish editing chapter one
  2. finish editing chapter two
  3. 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.

Forming the “Write” Habit

Standard

NoHum_routine1

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve heard it said that for every break you take from writing, it takes ten days to get back into the habit.

Ten days seems to be a popular truism. Everywhere advertisements promise you can lose weight or quit smoking in just ten days. Maybe there is some truth to the ten-day rule–or maybe it just looks good in print. After ten days of not running you lose muscle. I guarantee if you don’t go to work in that time span you won’t have a job.

There is a fallacy to the ten-day rule. Ten days is hardly enough time to form a habit. If forming habits could be done in a snap, we’d all eat well, exercise, show up to work on time, take our vitamins, and we’d never lose our keys. Another popular truism is the twenty-day rule, which my boss is a firm believer. Instead of ten days, this rule promises you can form a habit in twenty days.

It’s more beneficial to know how to make and keep a habit than to know how long it takes. For starters, you must first have a goal. This is the big picture you want to achieve. Without a goal, you won’t have the motivation to keep going. Do you want to publish, write a trilogy, become a best-selling author?

Second, you must complete smaller task that will help you achieve the major goal. With writing, it’s simple: WRITE. Set a quota. It can be pages, wordcount, or time limits. Let me just start by saying, you don’t need to write for hours, or give up an entire day (As much as we’d like to have an entire day to write). Even ten minutes a day counts. If time is the real issue (not browsing the internet, checking Facebook, and posting on Twitter) start by writing ten minutes every day. If you have more time, write for 20-30 minutes. I always shoot for no less than an hour. In that hour, I may only write a paragraph (or a sentence on really bad days), but it all adds up.

Taking a day off here and there isn’t that detrimental, but significant lapses will set you back. Real life example/cautionary tale: I haven’t written since April 28th. If I do my math (let me just take off my shoes), I’ve taken roughly two weeks off. When I opened my word document I had to go back and read a few pages to find where I left off. Not only that, but it took me forever to start writing and what I did write is cringe-worthy. The process of getting back into the flow looked something like this.

Ready to write after two weeks: full of optimism

imagesCAPGJ5XZ

Reading what I wrote: realizing it’s crap

give up

Giving up: napping is easier

Let’s face it, your writing will suck after a break. It’s like when you return to work from vacation and it takes a day just to get back in the flow.

So let’s say you’ve missed a day, a week, a month, or a year (it happens), it’s never too late to start writing again. So whether it takes ten or twenty days to get back into the flow, it all begins with day one.