Last week I began a little experiment that I am going to try and keep doing in the new year — an approach to writing more regularly.
For whatever reason, I’ve discovered that if I start a habit just before January rolls around, then my New Years Resolution is that much easier to keep, because I’ve already gotten a couple of days (or in this case, weeks) under my belt.
So what is this resolution and how will it help me (and you, quite possibly) write more, you may be wondering. I’ve made a decision to do the following:
Do one small thing for your art today.
That’s it. However you define “small” — whether it’s woodworking or needlepoint, or textiles, ceramics, visual arts, dance, or writing. Just define what “small” is for you, quantify it (so you can remain accountable) and then do it. How small? As small as a marble, that is, small enough that you can accomplish it without thinking twice about it, small enough that it won’t seem like it’s even worth doing because you’re not making any huge leaps and bounds towards that end goal.
I can’t tell you how many working sessions I’ve wasted sitting around, struggling to try and meet a self-imposed goal because this writer or that writer has that working pattern and when confronted with my own inability (or lack of time) to meet those impossible-for-me-at-that-time expectations, I grew to hate my writing and myself. And trust me, if you are constantly trying to measure yourself by someone else’s standards, you will always be miserable. There’s no kind of artistic block quite like misery.
And maybe you’ve never encountered this but I’ve found that when I’m miserable, when I feel like nothing that I’m doing is making any headway, then I give up. If I can’t do my art at the same level of excellence as someone else (or same quality or speed, or quantity) then I’m not going to do it at all. I quit, and quitting equals no progress at all, and the self-loathing spiral continues downwards.
But I promise you, believing that you’ve got to do things the way someone else has or it’s not worth doing at all, that is a lie from the pit of hell. You’ve got to begin to change your thinking and it begins with a courageous decision to try.
So, beginning last weekend, I made a radical decision. Do something. Do one small thing for your art today. For me, I defined something small as “a page of writing” (i.e. 250 words). For you, it might be something different. That’s totally okay.
The point of all of this is to establish a regular habit of sitting down and working on your art.
To release yourself from the expectations of others to just experiment, and try, and yes, occasionally fail, at a pace that you can do without thinking about it too much. If you do that, then trust (like I am) that your overall output will slowly begin to increase as all those little actions begin to add up; trust that you will be moving closer to your goal, and:
Trust that your confidence will begin to grow from all of your tiny victories.
So a week is gone, and how is my little experiment going?
I’ve already written:
- an article for The Scribe
- two blog posts (including this one)
- and 10 pages of a screenplay that I never finished (due to lack of time) back in college.
And my overall stats for the year are slowly creeping upwards. Enough that I’ve had to modify my “End of the Year Writing Statistics” post, and likely will have to again. Small gains add up.
So, I just want to encourage you never to give up on your art — it’s a gift that God gave you to share with others. And if you’ve been struggling as I have in this area, why not try giving my little experiment a go for yourself?
If you do, I’d love to hear about it! Leave me a comment below and share your journey.