Sunday, January 15, 2012

Get in shape

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Time to get in shape.

It’s a new year. Not surprising, I’m hearing lots of people say that they want to get in shape this year. They want to lose weight, eat better and all in all feel healthier. I’m all for that. Being healthy is an important part of being happy. And trust me when I say I’m a huge fan of happiness.

When most people make their resolution, they often put a huge number on their goal to a thinner, happier self. 30 lbs. 45 lbs. Even 60 lbs. They make a huge long term goal that seems horribly difficult to achieve—especially in the beginning. Because the finish line to that goal is so far in the distance, it is hard for the goal maker to celebrate the small victories of 1 lb here and 2 lbs there. Because they aren’t celebrating those steps on the way to crossing the finish line, they are more apt to drop out of the race before the first month of the year is done.

So why am I talking about this? Well, I often hear writers say their resolution for the new year is to “finish a manuscript”. Is this an admirable goal? Hell yes. But it is a BIG goal. This is the equivalent to “I am going to lose 50 lbs this year” type of goal. It is easy to be enthusiastic about the goal when the year begins and by the end of the first month feel let down because reaching the goal is taking longer than expected. That’s when trouble sets in. It’s at this point that many writers stop sitting down at their desks with enthusiasm. They tell themselves they need a break to really work out the plot of the story. Many go back and rewrite what they already have written. Others come up with a bright and shiny new idea that they think is way better than the first and embark on that project with the same gusto as they with the old. In short—the book never gets done.

So, here’s the deal. For anyone that has set a large goal for themselves this brand new year– do me a favor and break that goal down into manageable chunks. If you are losing weight – go for a pound a week. If you want to eat better, don’t cut everything you love out of your diet. Trim a bit and go from there. Set yourself up to succeed.

As for writers who want to finish a book this year—try this instead. I am challenging all writers to the 100 words 100 day challenge. Get up tomorrow and write at least 100 words on your story. You can write more if you want, but you have to write at least 100. No editing. Just writing. Then get up the next day and write 100 more. Do this for 100 days. If you skip a day, you go back to day one and start all over again. 100 words. 100 days. No skipped days. No excuses. No apologies. No giving up.

Why 100 words a day? Because no matter how busy your work and personal schedule gets, I promise you can manage that amount every single day. And guess what? When you flex your writing muscles every day they get stronger. Like any diet or workout plan, the first couple days are the toughest. The words won’t come as fast. The story will struggle. But you KNOW you can write 100 words, so you’ll do it. The more you flex your writer muscles on this story, the easier those 100 words a day will be. Heck, it might turn into 500 or 1000 words a day. By the time those 100 days are over you might be halfway done with the book or even close to THE END. A manageable goal that you can reach every day means you have a shot of actually finishing your ultimate goal much sooner than you might think. You just have to take the plunge and do it.

So, let’s all make this the year of achieving our goals, no matter what they are. Deal?

And for those writers who are interested on taking the 100 words, 100 days challenge – let me know! I’d love to check in with you during the challenge to see how you are doing.


WriterMarie said...

Excellent post, Joelle! This is the year I finally broke down both my fitness and writing goals into smaller ones along with the big ones - and I'm already making more progress halfway through January than I did last year, or the year before, for that matter. ;o) Great advice!

Dana King said...

Great advice, Joelle. I was always more intimidated by how much was left to do than I was encouraged by how much was done. Then my Beloved Spousal Equivalent (now the Beloved Spouse) taught me the concept of eating the elephant one bite at a time. Now I do almost exactly as Joelle has proposed here, set bite-sized targets for each day. Works like a charm.

To build on her idea, Irish writer John Connolly has told people to write every day, even if it's only a sentence. He believes that, once in the habit of doing even that little bit, pretty soon it will be a paragraph, then two, then a page, and pretty soon it's a regular part of the day.

Peg Cochran said...

Great way to get something accomplished! Maybe I'll apply this concept to my other goals--I'll eat 100 calories less per day and burn 100 more by walking or exercising!

Scott D. Parker said...

As I now have a 36-day streak going of writing *at least something*--and that something is, at the least, around 100 words--I can throw my hat in the ring. I treat my physical workout the same way: I don't necessarily care if I only do 5-6 pull-ups a day, doing 5-6 pull-ups a day increase my strength. Writing is a muscle. Exercise.