Last Monday the Go Teen Writers 100-for-100 Challenge began, which is a challenge to write 100 words each day for 100 days. So far it’s been a huge boost for me and it’s gotten me actually putting my butt in the chair and my fingers to the keyboard for the past nine days (with one exception). Not only is it helping me boost the word count of my current project, but it’s also helping me to do something that almost every writing blog will tell you to do: build a habit. This is something I’ve always struggled with, but I’ve discovered a couple of tips that have helped me maintain my habit over the past week.
1. Set a Time
Personally, I set a goal to get up at six in the morning, have an hour-long quiet time, and then get my writing done. Setting a particular time to write–especially if you have an existing habit you can tie it to–is super helpful, because it allows you to tell yourself “No, this is my writing time. I’m not doing anything else. It’s writing time.” This also trains your brain to get into writing mode at a certain time. Now, have I started my writing at seven every morning over the past week? No. But that’s where the next tip comes in.
2. Decide to Write Anyway
So you got up and got ready for the morning, but then you got sucked into social media, or a sibling demanded your attention, or your parents asked you to tackle an extra chore and you didn’t get your writing done. That’s all right. Beating yourself up over it or saying “Oh well, it looks like I missed my window” aren’t beneficial mindsets to have. Instead, tell yourself you’re going to do it anyway. Force yourself, at the next available moment, to sit down and write. For the 100-for-100 Challenge, this is only 100 words, which doesn’t take very long, and if you’re a fast typist you can probably get between 100-600 words in just fifteen minutes and then get back to whatever else you need to do. (If you’re a slow typist, no worries. Words written are still progress, whether there are 1,000 of them or 100.)
3. Set a Low Goal
If you set yourself a low goal–100 words, ten minutes, one paragraph, one page–then you know you can hit it, even if you only have a couple of minutes. This makes it way easier to convince yourself that you can sit down and get it done than if you set a goal of 2,000 words right out of the gate (which I’ve been known to do in the past and have always failed at). It also eliminates the urge to beat yourself up for not reaching a larger goal. But just because your goal is low doesn’t mean you can’t far exceed that goal if you get on a roll or have more time than you thought or whatever, either. Whether you barely eke out your minimum or far exceed your own expectations, you’ve won.
4. Recognize Progress
I have a penchant for not acknowledging progress when it’s in small increments. I often completely forget that I’m published because the short stories I’ve released so far aren’t what I’ve always imagined publishing: they’re not lengthy, they’re not all that meaningful (in my mind, at least), they’re not host to characters I’ve been living with for years, most of them were spur-of-the-moment ideas rather than epics that had been marinating for ages. But that doesn’t mean they’re not published, that doesn’t mean they can’t reach people, that doesn’t mean they’re not progress toward my bigger goal of publishing novels. It’s important to remember that even if progress is small, even if you sometimes feel like you’re not getting anywhere, if you’re taking steps toward your goal you will eventually get there. It could be a few months, it could be several years, but the important thing is that you keep pushing forward and acknowledge your little victories. Those little victories are what are going to keep you encouraged and motivated to keep going.
5. Get Accountability
Having someone keeping you accountable (or even having someone else to keep accountable, which will in turn remind you to keep up with your own habit) is super helpful. Get someone you want to impress, or someone who’s really good at challenging you to get things done, or someone else who’s trying to build a new habit, and set a time to check in with each other. I challenged both my sister and my best friend to do the 100-for-100 Challenge with me, and I’ve been asking each evening if they’ve written their 100 words for the day. It keeps me accountable, because it makes me ask if I’ve gotten my 100 words done for the day, if one of us hasn’t then we can challenge each other to a word war, my sister can ask me for help if she needs it, etc. But the main thing is that we’re keeping each other accountable and challenging and helping each other to meet our goals for the day, and that makes so much difference. Doing something alongside someone is so much more encouraging than doing it all by yourself.
What’s the most helpful tool you’ve found for keeping up with your habits, or building new ones? Do you have a current writing habit or is that something you struggle with? Have you ever done the 100-for-100 Challenge? Let’s chat!