Month Three Means Writing More

image cc failing_angel http://www.flickr.com/photos/11561957@N06/


Today is the first day of the third month of my 10K word challenge.

I can now look back to the start of the year and see that I have met my daily word count for a total of 50 days in a row now.

That’s a big wow.

A WOW.

I have set myself many goals in my life and attempted to inculcate many good habits.

I’m not sure I have previously achieved a 50 day unbroken stretch for anything.

In January, I wrote 1,000 words every day.

In February, I wrote 2,000 words every day.

For March, in accordance with the targets I set in the original 10K challenge post, I plan to write 3,500 words every day.

That’s quite a step up.

But here’s the thing: I am not daunted.

Well, not overly daunted.

This is because of a simple truth. The more you write, the more you feel able to write – and the more you want to write.

This benefits my clients, too.

A total of 3,500 words stretches ahead at the start of the day like a long road through interesting country. It feels less like a challenge than a promise of travel.

It feels like there is room for my stuff and stuff for others, too. I can be more generous with words. I don’t have to save some for myself. I’m already planning ahead to April when the count rises again. (Dangerous, I know.)

I’m excited about what can be achieved.

Thinking back to December 2011, it’s hard to believe that I was struggling to write 1000 words in a month rather than a day.

Already, I can see that my word count total is transforming the way I approach my writing. The daily goal is turning from a task into an opportunity.

What more could I ask for?

What writing goals are you meeting this year?

[10KWC] Tool Number 9: Your Calendar

image cc by wockerjabby - http://www.flickr.com/photos/rabi/

This is a simple one, as far as tools go.

No need for electricity, programming skills, or the sacrificing of cattle, goats, or virgins.

What you need: a calendar.

What type of calendar? A big paper one. Remember analogue? This calendar is not to be found on your phone, your laptop, or your office computer.

If you can get one with a big picture of kittens for every month, you’re on the right track.

It doesn’t matter what the pictures are, of course. I’m sure even Justin Bieber would do.

At a pinch.

The only vitally important feature of the calendar for this exercise is a nice square box for each day.

At the start of the month, I write the daily word count target next to the month name.

And each time I hit that word count target through the month I take a think red pen (is that a second tool?) and put a great bloody cross through the square of the day.

That’s it.

Why do this?

Motivation.

I can look at my calendar and see a regiment of red crosses marching across the page. Fleeing the kittens. (I don’t actually have kitten pictures. Honestly.)

And should I ever feel like skipping a day, I can look at the calendar and imagine the imperfection of a solitary unmarked day. Sitting there. Mocking. Laying its guilt on me.

Tell me what picture you have on your calendar.

Mine was actually a present from my eldest girl – Isla. Each month I have a photo of some distant star cluster or nebula. Space porn, I suppose.

[10KWC] Tool Number 8: Gold Stars

I’ve had a bit of a tricky week.

Nothing I need to share, really.

There was a bright shining diamond at its heart, though: I hit my daily writing target. That’s 2,000 of your English words each and every day, even when I didn’t post on the blog or add anything to my Twitter feed.

And for that…..

…..I’m awarding myself a gold star.

No, sorry. A GOLD STAR.

Sometimes we need to give ourselves little rewards. After all, it’s unlikely anyone else is going to do it.

When you set goals and you reach them, give yourself a gold star.

Especially when you succeed against the odds.

Especially when the ‘old you’ would have given up. Just stopped and felt sorry for yourself.

It’s enough to make you feel a little smug.

Just a little.

Oh, and the gold star I awarded myself was a day in London with my wife and youngest daughter. We even went to the Royal Academy and saw the Hockney exhibition.

Wonderful. (The time in London with Laura and Kirstie – and the exhibition.)

What are your gold stars? When do award them?

[10KWC] Tool Number 7: Setting Goals

A quick trawl of the web will uncover many fun and useful quotations about goals and targets and what happens if you don’t have them.

A common theme is this:

If you don’t set goals, you won’t reach them.

It’s tempting to avoid setting goals for that very reason. If you haven’t set a goal then you can’t fail.

This, of course, is the most simple recipe for failure – and continuing to fail.

This is failure in the sense of failing to even try – not the legitimate failure of coming up short.

When you fail to reach a goal that you have set in all good faith, you can step back and try to work out what stopped you hitting the mark. Was the goal too ambitious? Were there things in your life going on that were unavoidable and stopped you putting the work in?

If you’re honest – and compassionate! – you’ll be able to account for missing the goal. Then, you have a decision to make: you set a new goal or give up.

The Reasonable Goal

When you set a goal, it’s important to make it reasonable. If you’ve failed previously to reach a goal, you have some information already that can help you in your decision.

A reasonable goal is one that is achievable but requires a bit of a stretch.

Finding that balance between too easy to be considered worth doing and too hard to even take seriously is probably the trickiest part of goal setting.

It’s easy to dream up a goal of writing a 100,000 word novel in a month but if your daily writing total currently hovers between the 0 and 200 word mark, that’s not so much a stretch as a month on the rack with the Inquisition.

You may feel pumped and charged and excited by the challenge – for a day or two. But soon enough something inside will rebel and you’ll start to resent the goal and treat it with disdain. There’s not a hope in hell that you’ll come anywhere near your target word count and you’ll probably give up writing any words at all.

The other side of this is setting the goal too low. If your current daily word total is less than 200, setting your target to less than 200 will, at best, keep you treading water. You may hit that goal every day for a month and experience no sense of achievement. That will make you less likely to continue goal setting.

Using Stepping Stones To Reach Ambitious Goals

When I set my goal of reaching 10,000 words a day, I was stuck in the 0 to 200 word range. Closer to 0 on most days, if truth be told.

Obviously, there was no way I was going to go from 0 to 10,000 within a month.

Or two months, however desperate I was to up my writing output.

But it was that desperation that forced me to accept that I needed to make small steps of achievement towards the almost ridiculous final target.

So I gave myself six months and set monthly stepping stone goals that felt achievable – at a stretch.

This is key: reasonable goals act both as end points and beacons of encouragement.

Even if you have no crazy end goal in mind, set a daily word count you can commit to reaching. The commitment is important. Without it, you’re just playing a game.

Committing publicly is a great way to add a bit of beneficial pressure. That can mean posting your goal online or simply telling your significant other and a group of close friends. Invite them to check up on how it’s going from time to time. (I have a weekly meeting with a business coach in which we share our goals and progress. No lying allowed!)

Setting The First Goal

Now I’m guessing that you’re not writing as much as you want to. Who does?

Start with this: add 200 words to your current normal daily total. So, if you write 200 words a day now, make your goal for a month to hit 400. If you write 0, then 200 is your new goal.

Try that for a month.

That’s it.

That’s it?

Yup. The next step is up to you.

Let me know what works for you in setting writing goals.

Baker Street Is That Way, Sherlock

February’s first story from the relentless pounding of the keyboard brought on by the 10K Word Challenge is now up in the Free Stuff section.

Sherlock Holmes is making a regular appearance ion both TV and cinema screens at the moment and, as a long-time fan of the character, I can only relish this.

The new story is called “This Isn’t Baker Street” and its only relationship to the work of Conan Doyle, Mark Gattis, or Robert Downey Jr is that the bulk of it is set in the Sherlock Holmes pub off Northumberland Avenue, London. Which is a fair walk south of Baker Street.

Not that Doyle, Gatiss, or Downey Jr proabably spent time in this pub. But it’s called the Sherlock Holmes, you see.

There’s no more you need to know.

Oh, except that no detection is required when reading the story.