I've invited writer and short story-zine publisher, Emily Wenstrom, to guest post today. If you're struggling for focus or perserverance in your writing journey, you'll want to hear what she has to say:
Sometimes, as a writer—particularly an unpublished, aspiring writer—you get the feeling that you're not getting anywhere. You hustle, hustle, hustle, but never seem to make any real progress.
Writing can be slow work! I've been writing my manuscript for over two years, and still have a ways to go before it will be query-ready.
Authors who succeed know that persistence is one of the most critical elements to the writing process. But how do you keep from being discouraged?
Set bite-size goals. My goal? Simply to write 100 words a day. I'm a pretty slow writer. It used to frustrate me when I read author interviews about writers who get caught by an idea, write through the night, and resurface at the end with a complete first draft. I simply can't operate that way. But this small, reasonable goal keeps me steadily moving toward my completed manuscript. Every day I know I'm taking another baby step forward. Find your own comfortable pace, and then stick with it. Slow and steady wins the race.
Make it routine. I know that if I'm going to get to my manuscript every day, it's got to happen in the morning before other pressing needs demand my attention. So I wake up at 5 to make sure that I can. Pay attention to when you do your best work, and then arrange your schedule to take advantage of that time. Stick to it no matter what. It will get easier over time—habit is a powerful thing.
Celebrate the small victories. I have been know to dance in my bathrobe at 5:30 a.m. upon the completion of a chapter. Finding your own way to celebrate these small victories is critical to keeping up your morale and momentum. So go ahead, splurge on that fancy latte to celebrate a finished draft. Keep some dark chocolate on hand. Do what you gotta do.
Keep it fresh. For me, this takes many forms. It's as small as moving to a new scene when I get creatively blocked, and as big as taking occasional writing classes to sharpen my skills. I've built relationships with other writers with whom I trade critiques, and I've joined a writers group for additional support and community. These activities keep me focused, but more importantly, they keep me challenged and highly engaged.
Look back. When it feels like my best efforts barely make a dent toward reaching my goals, I look back and remember how far I've come. This includes checking my word count and thinking back to where I was a few months ago, reviewing earlier drafts to remind myself of how much my characters and plot have grown, etc. These flashbacks remind me that, even if it feels that I write slower than grass grows, my persistent efforts compile and DO in fact amount to something over time.
I've heard it said that writers are masochists—by our choice of hobby, we set ourselves up for a lifetime of agonizing hard work and long hours. But if you ask me, writers simply know better than most that some things are worth the hard work. Always keep an eye on the prize, and slowly but surely, you'll make your way there.
Lit addict, movie junkie, writer. Emily Wenstrom blogs about creativity in art and career at Creative Juicer. She is also the founder and editor of wordhaus, a short story zine built for the digital age and now seeking submissions.