Why you should rein in your big, hairy audacious goals…

Reading time: Less than two minutes

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post by Michael Nobbs….

Do you fail to write because the task seems too big or too daunting to you? I see this problem in many of the people I coach. They delay and procrastinate because the simple act of writing has become unaccountably challenging.

One of the best ways around this issue is to devote a small amount of time to your writing each day, five days a week. This is what I ask of people who sign up for my Get it Done program to do. We meet and during this meeting we discuss how many words they’re going to write each day for the next three months. Frequently, I have to talk them down from the ledge. I’ve had people tell me they want to commit to writing 1,000 words a day or, worse, for three hours per day.

I applaud their aspiration, and then suggest they aim for a more reasonable goal. Having big, hairy, audacious goals can sound exciting, but when you fail to meet them you inevitably become disappointed. For me, the solution is to have short, tiny, manageable goals, because then you’re more likely to achieve them and become encouraged.

This strategy is also promoted by author Michael Nobbs (shown in a self-sketch, above) in his excellent blog post headlined “The Magic of 20 Minutes.” Hobbs has had some heath issues and has used the 20-minute strategy to keep himself pushing through the creative work. I particularly like his explanation as to why he limits his effort to five days per week:

It is very tempting, if we’re working for a short amount of time each day, to try and work every day. That’s a mistake. We need space. We need to let ourselves know that it’s okay to take an break and to look after ourselves. Our bodies will thank us, but so will our creative selves.

When we make some space around our Important Work our ideas have a chance ruminate, knotty problems can start to unknot all by themselves and we stand much more of a chance of staying excited and interested by what is waiting for us in our studios and on our desks.

If you’ve been delaying your writing, follow the example of Michael Nobbs and try starting with 20 minutes (or even less!) and let me know how it goes…


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