There is no shortage of talk about consistency in the writing world. How often do we hear things like, “write every day,” and “don’t wait for the muse.” They tell us that if you write one page a day, you can finish an entire book in a year or less.
And it all makes sense. In theory.
In reality, it’s a struggle. Life is busy. It’s exhausting. It’s discouraging. Some days–let’s face it, most days–curling up with a good book is a hell of a lot more enticing than doing the work it takes to tap into the creative mind.
I’ve always been more of the mind that you should write when it makes sense for you–and I still am–but lately I’ve developed an unprecedented consistency and it has shocked me how much of a difference it has made in my writing and my life overall.
Battling the Emotion Dragons
I’m going to get real here for a minute. It’s not something I like to talk about because I strive to stay positive, but I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life. I know, not a big shocker there. I think most of us writers do. I mention it because it has a huge effect on my consistency and productivity as a writer and it’s something that I often feel ashamed of. Like, why can’t I just get my sh*t together and make it happen like everyone else!
Hey, I didn’t say it was rational. I know the majority of writers and bloggers out there struggle with consistency as much as, if not more, than I do. I have the tendency to focus on the people who are doing it “better” and wishing I was more like them.
Queue the downward spiral.
My point is that I think that our biggest struggle when it comes to being consistent in our work is more emotional than anything else.
That feels easier in the moment, but in reality, it only makes it harder the next time we sit down at the keyboard.
Writing is Hard
Why is writing hard? Because we doubt ourselves. It really comes down to that.
“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
– Thomas Mann
Once we decide we are writers, we decide we have to do it “right” and we spend the rest of our careers trying to decide what “right” is and measuring ourselves against this vague idea. And so writing becomes hard and we begin to avoid it as if someone has sentenced us to this lifelong punishment.
We turn something we love–something that gives our life meaning–into torture.
Consistency Builds Confidence
The ironic part is that: the more frequently you write, the easier it gets. Forward progress dispels doubt. Accumulating wins builds confidence, and confidence overcomes fear.
Before November, I had hardly written much for the previous two years. Yes, quite a bit of that time was spend revising in fits and starts, but I wasn’t actively creating. I had a hard time keeping up this blog. I often fell off of social media for weeks at a time. It was a painful time in my life.
Thankfully, NaNoWriMo has the ability to motivate me out of just about any funk. I began to create again, and regularly. The challenge pushed me to write, but more than that, it pushed me to be consistent. I’ve never been the kind of writer who could sit down and slam out 5,000 words in a sitting so for me, NaNo has always been a trick of slow and steady progress.
December was busy but I still managed to keep at it at least a little each week. January was a huge win for me (pictured above) and February is looking to be even better.
As you can see, just as there is a downward spiral, there is also an upward spiral.
The added bonus is that in addition to being consistent in my writing, the confidence I’ve created by producing has spilled into the other facets of my life. I’ve been teaching more, submitting more, and yes, even keeping up this blog.
Being More Consistent in Your Own Writing Life
Do I write every day now? Heck no. Honestly, I still need the weekends to decompress after the busy week and I think that space allows me to be more productive than I’d be if I wrote every single day. Consistency is more about deciding on a writing schedule that works for you, and sticking to that–whether it’s every day or a few times a week. It’s about making a promise to yourself and then following through on it.
I know some people struggle to make those promises to themselves. They’ve let themselves down too many times. I’ve been there too. But just like the doubt you have about writing, that doubt you have in yourself is also remedied with steady forward progress–steady wins.
I believe all fear stems from the worry that you won’t be able to handle what life may throw at you. So the more often you accomplish difficult tasks, the more you’ll believe in your ability to do so in the future.
It all starts one day at a time.
Do you struggle with being consistent in your writing life?