The NEW YEAR is upon us, and that means we get a fresh start! Now is the time to ditch old habits and create new ones, habits that will keep us motivated all throughout the year. It’s easy to get discouraged, especially in later months, but if you keep these five new habits in mind, chances are you’ll accomplish things you didn’t even know you could do.
Only compare yourself to yourself
Comparing yourself to other writers is a recipe for disaster. If you write 1,000 words in a day while a fellow writer manages to fit just 500 into their busy schedule, it’s easy to get cocky and relaxed, which makes you slip into bad habits. But if you see somebody else get a book deal and crank out six drafts a year, you will find yourself more discouraged than ever.
You can’t compare your skills to the skills of others. Every writer has different strengths and weaknesses, a different day job, a different state of mind. You can only compare you to you. When you look back on last month’s progress, how do you feel? Do you think you can do better? If so, push yourself harder. If not, don’t beat yourself up about it. You can only worry about doing your best, not someone else’s version of your best.
Write every day
It can take weeks to form a steady habit, but if all you resolve to do is write at least a sentence or a paragraph of your current work in progress, you’re well on your way to a better writing routine. It’s so important to keep your mind sharp in order to keep your writing flowing. If you do this much, it’ll be second nature to sit at your desk and let the words pour out of you.
Finish your projects
There’s nothing that feels better than finishing what you set out to do. How disheartening would it be to train for weeks for a marathon, pouring your heart and soul into it, and decide to stop just feet from the finish line because you’re too tired? That’s what you’re doing to yourself whenever you abandon a project.
That’s not to say some projects don’t deserve to be abandoned. It’s okay to scrap a story or two if it’s not working for you. But you have to give it a good shot before you say it’s too difficult to complete. If you work extra hard at something, using every bit of your strength and brainpower to push through the tricky spots, you’ll feel that much better when you finish. It’s a great motivational boost.
Celebrate your strengths
Every writer has a special skill or two they ought to be really proud of. Sometimes that skill is crafting realistic dialogue. Other times it’s the ability to create a fictional world so vibrant, it leaps off the page. Think of three things you do well and take a minute to give yourself a pat on the back. Constant criticism doesn’t do anyone good, so remember to recognize your strengths whenever you’re feeling down.
Minimize your weaknesses
Unfortunately, weaknesses tend to be easier to spot in ourselves than strengths are. It’s okay to notice these weak spots, though, so long as they don’t cloud your vision and make it impossible to think about anything else.
One way you can make sure that doesn’t happen is to minimize your weaknesses. What is the hardest thing for you as a writer? How can you make that thing easier on yourself? How can you improve? Ask a fellow writer for help, read articles on that topic, set goals for yourself, whatever you need to do to be better. If you make progress in your weakest areas, you’ll feel better about yourself as a whole.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
It’s easy to give up on something new, but if you dedicate yourself to these habits completely, you’ll find yourself improving in no time. The more you improve, the more motivated you’ll be to keep doing better. It’s a long road, but a fulfilling one. I know you can do it.
What habits do you want to keep in the new year? How do you plan to reach your goals?
~The Magic Violinist