Using intermediate goals correctly and avoid cheating

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The easier would be to have many intermediate goals. If you divide your project in sections, then you can create several objectives, many of them.

This is the method applied by several soccer coaches. If the goal is to win the championship, it is viewed as a far unattainable objective.  However, if you only need to win the next match, it does not seem so overwhelming but achievable.

These sections may be chapters, different drafts with different level of details, main scenes that need to be connected later. How you divide your work into stages will depend on how you work, but the advantage of doing it is twofold: on the one hand, you cheat your brain by making it want to achieve a goal in a set date, but knowing it is not the end. You will have the benefit of achieving an objective, but you will still have the mental attitude needed to transition from one phase to the next. And on the other hand, if you are not able to complete this delivery in the planned time, you will have room to make adjustments to the following dates at the pace you are going, thus avoiding a bigger problem.

You may wonder, how do I know how long each stage shall last? But this is the beauty of setting your own goals: it does not matter. All this is a way to cheat your brain into doing what you want. As with most of the psychological tricks, you really do not want to know how it works, as long as it is working. The important thing is to set goals and then go for them, so your brain will get in the game and try to comply each time.

It is as important to find the time to write regularly as it is to be motivated to do it; the good news is that both complement each other.

Time management

In a perfect world, with amount of free time and without distractions, you would not have excuses not to write on a daily basis. But this is not the case.

A method you can use, though it may not always be nice, is to set deadlines. Not a great final objective, but some intermediate ones. This helps get the complete novel out of your head, which is far in time; and it allows you to focus on a closer goal, easier to be accomplished without hardships.

This system rests in the need our brain has to compete and to try to win. We can use this tendency to achieve whatever we want.

I am not sure if this happens to you, but I often find that my brain does not cooperate all that it could. There are times when, for no apparent reason, writing becomes heavier. I have an idea, I like the development, I want to write it, but I feel that it is a long sorrowful process and the end seems so far away…

Setting an intermediate objective, even if it is completely arbitrary, can make a great difference. Mainly to let our brain regularly get its portion of satisfaction for a task accomplished.

It is a trick, I know. We will not get any reward, nor penalty; but, the simple fact of having a closer finishing line, will make our brain want to cross it.

Of course, there are negative aspects in this method. Even though you can keep motivation until the end of the project, it may also give the false impression of work accomplished, undermining the desire to keep going. If you focus too much on the sprint to achieve that intermediate goal, you will faint without any force left in you after you have crossed the line, and, the unfinished manuscript may end up in a drawer, languishing until you have strength to return to the path.

The alternative would be to fail that intermediate goal, which would lower our morale and make it harder to carry on with the rest of the work.

Daily writing space

It will be hard to create a daily writing space, so it is imperative to take advantage of each minute you get, but how is this achieved?

The first thing is to understand that it is best to write in short periods, focused and routine, that for several hours of “writing this on the morning, while…”

If you decide that you can only devote three or four hours to writing a week, try to do it every day. It is better to have an exclusive dedicated half an hour (without phone, web, kitchen, mail or other interruptions) than to devote the whole Sunday morning to it.

If you write every day, even for short periods, you keep the story fresh in your mind all the time, allowing that mental development of writing that is so helpful. On the contrary, if you only do it once a week, you will waste half the time catching up and solving issues before moving on. The daily writing also keeps the creative muscle in better conditions. Yes, it is like gym.

On the other hand, small dosages of hard work are much easier to handle that long sessions. To write intensely for one hour is not a problem, but wanting to do it for four hours straight is not realistic. There will be interruptions, coffees, blockings …

Time to write

Writing takes time. The hours (days, months, years) that one spends trying to express the story imagined cannot be helped. That time is real, the word count that is produced in that time is real and the time that needs to be dedicated to it, fixed in your daily activities calendar, is real.

Even when it is known that writing takes time, there is a difference between taking time to write and making the most of the writing time.

Any time spent writing a work of enough quality to be published is time well spent; but, wasting time that you have assigned to writing, doing other things, is very easy (at least for me).

It does not matter how good a planner you are, even if you have given yourself months or years to finish writing your novel, you still need to handle the day to day; you need to try to find a constant and routine space of time in your busy life to actually work in your project.

It does not matter how busy a day you have, you can make time for the things you want. If you really want to do them.

You (if you are anything like me) want to write, but you may not have put this activity in your priority list. Despite the fact that there are things that you need to do, as most of us (work, family, pets, errands), it is necessary that the writing time is included in the organization with a label of “important”, so it is not easily discarded.