Three steps to change & how you can realize your writing goals
New York Times best-selling author Bob Mayer’s nonfiction book Write It Forward is the best book I’ve read for helping writers become successful authors. It’s not a book about plotting or character development (though he does have an excellent book for that—The Novel Writer’s Toolkit). Write It Forward addresses things like fear, self-sabotage, how to design a writer’s business plan with long term and daily goals, how to take yourself seriously as a writer, how to get others to take you seriously, and that big, scary monster called change.
Mayer’s three steps of change are:
- You have a moment of enlightenment
- You make a decision to take a different course of action from what you’ve been doing
- Commitment to your decision leads to sustained action which brings about permanent change
You’ll want to get Mr. Mayer’s book (the ebook is only $4.99) to understand these steps and implement them in your life, but I’ll share a recent example where this process helped me make a major shift in my writing life.
Over the past two years, my writing time slowly but surely began to be gobbled up by demands in my personal and business life. My husband and I work from home and, on more days than not, it seemed we were working from the time we woke in the morning to the time we fell into bed at night, usually around midnight or later.
I would snatch a few minutes to an hour of writing time here and there, and that worked fine for blog posts, writing poetry, or making revisions, but I found I needed a longer stretch of uninterrupted time for the novel I was writing. Because our phone rings all day long, this seemed impossible and I was frustrated.
After working with Mayer’s book and taking his online class of the same name, I had my moment of enlightenment: I needed to change or I’d never accomplish my goals. It was up to me to make it happen. If I didn’t value my writing time, then nobody else would.
Next, I made a decision to take a different course of action: I would get up at 6 a.m. each morning to have uninterrupted writing time while everyone else was still asleep.
I thought about this decision for a while. I came up with a list in my head of all the reasons why this was not doable: “I’m too tired, I’ll do it when business is slower, after our next seminar, when I get more rest, when the latest writer’s conference is done, when hell freezes over…” You get the idea.
Finally, I made an agreement with myself: I’ll tiptoe into it. I’ll try it for one day, just one day. Don’t think about the 2nd day or the 9th day or the 365th day. As I was deal-making with myself, I had another moment of enlightenment from Write It Forward: writers need to be around other writers. Writers understand other writers. I realized that, too often, I rely only on myself (childhood conditioning) when it would benefit me to reach out and ask for support.
So, I enlisted the help of my writing partner, Carly, who had been getting up early to write and wanted to continue her routine. The first week was rough. I was exhausted. I couldn’t keep my eyes open in the evening. I had to set my alarm (which I really hate doing and think is uncivilized) for 6 a.m., then had to listen to hubby and cats moan when it went off. I was jealous they got to stay in bed.
But I did it. And it helped immensely to have another person to check in with via instant message. “Yes, I’m suffering too” kind of thing. By the 7th day, I woke up one minute before my alarm went off.
It’s been a week and a half but I can tell I’m adjusting to my new routine. I already see improvements in my writing, my focus, and my creativity. There’s a kind of magic in those first morning hours before even the birds are singing.
If you have something in your writing life (or, for that matter, in any area of your life) that you’d like to change or goals you’d like to reach, I recommend Write It Forward. It will be one of the best investments you’ll ever make if you read it and do the exercises. Good luck!