I know hundreds of writers who fall victim to the deadly P-syndrome. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you’re one of the lucky ones. This syndrome is not only a killer of words and inspiration, but it can also be contagious, claiming other areas of the victim’s life or spreading to others. Washing your hands won’t keep P-syndrome away―unless washing your hands is part of a new mindset, one where you set daily goals.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about PROCRASTINATION. It can be extremely debilitating to an author.
Worst case scenarios:
- Author has an exciting idea for a new book or short story or article, but procrastinates about writing it and it never gets written
- Writer is writing a novel, but puts it aside every time something else needs to be done―like laundry, dishes, cooking, eating, sleeping, brushing dog, dressing kids, coffee at Starbucks…and the list goes on and on, so the work never really gets any quality writing time.
- Author needs to set up book signings for the week before Christmas, but doesn’t start making calls until December 15th, only to find there are no spots open and he’ll have to sell his books from the trunk of his car in 40 below weather.
- Writer needs to edit his chapters, but leaves it, eventually talking himself out of it because: ‘They weren’t that bad anyway. Were they?’
- Author needs a new publisher, but has decided to start her search “tomorrow”. Well, you know what they say? “Tomorrow” never comes.
Writers, I get it. I really do. I can procrastinate with the best of them. Heck, I put off writing this article for a few days, even though I was excited to do so. No one’s perfect. However, there are ways that you can diminish P-syndrome’s effects and actually have something to show for it.
How? It’s simple. Set goals!
If you’re a parent, you know how hard most kids will work for that gold star. I’m not suggesting you buy those stars, but hey, if that’s what’ll work for you, go for it. I think, in general, that most writers will function more effectively if they set small goals each day. It’s also important to have intermediate goals for a few months down the road; and of course, you’ll want long term goals.
The key to goal setting is this: Set the goal, commit to it, do it and celebrate it.
For me, I find it very helpful to announce my daily goal to the world. Nowadays, that’s an easy thing to do. Log in to your Twitter account (writers, if you’re not on Twitter, you’re missing out) and send out a tweet about your goal. Use the #writegoal hashtag in your tweet. You can even search for #writegoal and read other people’s writing goals. Give them KUDOS when they achieve theirs, and the next thing you know, you’ll have your own personal cheering section.
My tweets usually look like this: Today’s #writegoal is 1000 words and edit 1 chapter.
I usually try to remember to post later that day or the next morning to let people know if I’ve achieved my goal. Shouting it out to the world makes me more determined to achieve it. In many cases, my reply was: Yesterday’s #writegoal was 1000 words. I did 1500. YAY!
In an email from www.HigherAwareness.com, it states: “The 80/20 rule says that on a list of 10 tasks, only 2 of those tasks will return 80% of the value of the entire list.” So the trick is to find those top 2 tasks, do them and reap the 80% value reward.
Here are some tips on goal setting:
- Make a list of your top 10 priorities for today, things you want to do or achieve.
- Now circle the 2 that could actually affect your career or your biggest dream.
- Do those 2 first.
- Reward yourself after you’ve done those top 2.
- Work on remaining goals in your list, giving yourself permission to carry some into the next day. That’s not procrastination; that’s organization!
Goal setting isn’t about cracking the whip and being rigid. It’s about recognizing which actions will actually move you forward in life and closer to the big picture. If you don’t have a big picture, find one. Do you want to be a bestselling author? Do you want to be well known like Stephen King and JK Rowling? Do you want to quit your job and write full time? Do you want to see your book made into a film? Do you want to make decent money from writing?
Find your dream and dream it BIG!
The other key to setting goals is rewarding yourself for a goal you’ve achieved. The best rewards are those things you like to do that often pull you away from your writing. But you can also reward yourself with the less important goals.
Let’s say you really need to fold laundry today. But you also want to write a chapter of your sizzling romance novel. Set the goal that will propel you forward, which is the writing. Once you’ve written that chapter, go fold laundry. Maybe the reward is watching an hour of your favorite soap opera or a hockey game. Whatever it is, use it as a reward for accomplishing your top goals.
I once used chocolate as my reward. Sure, I could have eaten it while working on my latest novel, but instead I set a goal to write 1500 words. Once I finished this―and in record time, I might add―I ate the chocolate.
So, writers, be a goal setter. Before you even turn on your computer or sit down to write, list your top 2 most important goals and set the reward in advance. In the end, the best reward is the feeling of accomplishment you’ll get when you see you’re 2 steps closer to your dream because you did what you set out to do that day―achieved your goals.
“Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets.” –Nido Qubein
About the author
Cheryl Kaye Tardif is a bestselling suspense author who is currently working on her debut romance novel Lancelot’s Lady, which you can read for free at www.textnovel.com. She has appeared on TV and radio, and in newspapers and magazines in Canada and the US. Cheryl also shares her marketing experience with other writers as a book marketing coach.