Home > Lifestyle, Motivation > Time to get serious. Again.

Time to get serious. Again.

February 5th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments
  • Tweet
  • Sharebar
  • Tweet

The launch of Getmewriting.com represented my first real attempt at taking this writing thing seriously. Despite years of study and occasional dabblings, this was the first time I decided that I couldn’t live without this, and I was going to have to make it happen for myself.

I needed a plan, and one of my own devising. Stage one was to generate some material, or even more basic than that, get into some kind of writing routine. Gather some of the tools to generate some material in other words.

And after two years, look how far I’ve come! Not very far at all.

The disappointing Truth

I recently looked at my writing over the past year, and realised that on average, I had written less words per week than the year before! Admittedly, the stats for the latter are incomplete, so I can’t be certain, but it’s disappointing to say the least.

What’s more, if I look at my completed projects, it gets even worse. The list is so woeful I will not go into specifics here, but suffice to say I felt ashamed.

The perilous plateau

I think the reasons for this are pretty clear – I got comfortable. It’s likely a familiar pattern to anyone trying to achieve a long term goal, and it goes something like this:

This is not a plateau. Plateus are more scary than this. You do not want to se a picture of a plateau. Instead, feast your eyes on this fantastic image is courtesy of Paul Kehrer.

  1. You become dissatisfied with an aspect of your life.
  2. You get serious. You write goals, you make plans and you get to work. It’s hard work, for a while.
  3. Your routine is now established. You are used to it; you get comfortable. This happens without you realising and could therefore go on for ages.
  4. After a while on the plateau, something causes you to slip. Your standards drop a little; you do less.
  5. This causes you to suddenly take notice. It is as if you have caught a glimpse of the precipice on the other side of the plateau. Shaken, you quickly move back to step one and start the whole thing all over again.

Somewhere along the line, I had made the unconscious decision that what I was doing was enough. I lingered there for too long, and was surprised and dismayed at the results.

Slowly slowly, raisey barrey

That last title may or may not read right – you decide!

Okay, enough of the doom and gloom – this realisation is also cause for some celebration! I have been doing more writing than before I decided to get serious. More importantly, I’ve recognised that this is not enough. In other words, my head is now no longer where it was two years ago – the bar for satisfaction has been raised.

So, you could see the cycle above as going like this:

  1. Raise the bar.
  2. Improve.
  3. Plateau (and maybe dip a little).
  4. Repeat.

Here you can see a recipe for steady improvement, continually raising your threshold for satisfaction with each iteration.

It is for this reason that the plateau is so dangerous, and nit the dip. The former is insidious and stealthy, the latter is a slap in the face that forces you to improve or quit. The trick then, is to minimise the time spent plateauing. Cut the “slowly slowly” out of that near-nonsensical heading in other words.

How to do that? I’ve got the measuring bit down now, but there’s always room for improvement. Perhaps I need to separate my stats into blog time and word count, versus fiction time and word count. I also need to update the goals that I’ve written in the same spreadsheet.

The other piece of the puzzle is regular reviews. Basically, this is a structured way of paying attention. Frankly, I’m not sure how to make myself do this. I need to spend some time once a month totting up my averages for the month gone and updating my goals. But I’ve said that before…

Over to you

So tell me – I need to know – am I the only one who’s experienced this with their writing? What techniques have you come up with to help you pay attention? Is it even feasible to build up writing habits like this over time, or am I pussy-footing around, kidding myself?

Who knows? Someone knows. Tell me!