Bravo! Standing ovation to you. If you’re reading today’s post, then I applaud you for finishing The Family History Writing Challenge. It is no small feat to dedicate a month to writing every day. While you’ve been learning about writing family history stories these past 28 days, you’ve also been creating a writing habit by showing up every day. I’m certain you’ve learned a few lessons about how hard it is to build long-term habits. I’m sure you’ve had a few missteps along the way. Long-term habits are difficult to sustain, there is no denying it. Therefore, on our final day together, I want to offer you one last piece of advice to hopefully keep your momentum going.
You see, writing is a lot like dieting. I can put myself on a diet, each day, maintaining a strict healthy eating routine. It’s difficult. There are many temptations around us like the chocolate bar at the grocery checkout, the extra helping of potatoes at dinner, the glass of wine after work. It’s so easy to cheat.
Writing is similar. You find excuses, you can’t write today because there’s a kid’s soccer game, you woke up late, your favourite TV show is on tonight, or you’re just too tired. Oh and of course, you would rather be researching.
Do you see the similarly between the two? You justify the cheat because it offers you an immediate reward. When you are working on a long-term project like weight loss or writing a book it so easy to fall off because there is no direct compensation. We can’t eat healthy one day and achieve our goal, just as we can sit down and write one day and have a finished family history story to share.
When you’re on an extended project like a diet or writing that requires a daily commitment, there is no immediate payment and that complicates things. It takes many days combined together to start to see the results. We derail because the gratification is just too far out. The chocolate bar, sleeping in, the glass of wine and watching your favourite TV show all offer us, however, short term it may be, an immediate reward.
Rather than fight the need for immediate gratification make it work for you. As you begin to move forward after today, look for rewards to keep yourself from slipping. Make them weekly, even daily if necessary. You’ve been writing for 28 days, now is a good time to reward yourself. Make this a milestone. Especially if this is your first time.
We all know diets don’t work. Starting and stopping and starting again is counterproductive. What works? Making eating healthy a daily part of our life. We eat healthy daily and occasionally reward ourselves with a treat. Your writing life should be exactly the same. Write daily and reward yourself occasionally for your accomplishments.Writing needs to be continuous if you intend to improve and finish, not something you slip in and out of.
What happens when there is no reward?
If you don’t have a reward, then you start to think what’s in this for me? All those negative thoughts begin to take over. You know the ones.
This is too hard.
I’m not a writer.
My family doesn’t care.
That’s your mind looking for excuses, looking for a way out. An excuse to give up, because the reward is just too far away to comprehend. I preach often to break your writing down into small manageable chunks, do the same with your rewards. Give yourself small rewards along the way.
When you sit down to write, your only focus should be today, this one hour. After you have strung together a week or a month’s worth of daily writing, reward yourself. You choose how often you need the reward.
There is a certain amount of motivation and satisfaction that comes from achieving those daily 500 words. But that is not enough and certainly not after you’ve done it for the 30th time. You also need an external motivation, a motivation touchstone. It should be personal. Something you can enjoy immediately, it needs to be indulgent, not something you do every day. Otherwise, it’s not special. It must be comparable to the size of the goal.
What should those rewards look like?
Well, that will depend on the person. Here’s a few of my rewards.
- A writing class
- A new writing journal
- A dinner out (not fast food)
- Something new and shiny for my office
- A trip
Your rewards might be entirely different. That’s ok, as long the compensation offers you the gratification you need to stay the course and keep writing a part of your everyday life.
You will get to the point where writing will be a habit, and writing will be rewarding in of itself and you won’t need as many dangling carrots to keep you going. Until then don’t be afraid to give yourself a high-five for a job well done.
Thank you for joining me these last 28 days. I wish you much success in writing your family history stories.
But, wait this is not GOOD-BYE!!!
At the beginning of The Challenge, I promised you a surprise, and I haven’t forgotten. I’ve been busy working on it. Each year I’m asked how we can keep this great community going. Many of you will continue to write and want support and continue developing your skills. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I have something planned that will help. But it’s not quite ready. Before I unveil my idea, I just need a couple days to catch my breath after the Challenge. Next week, I’ll send you a brief email giving you all the details.Watch for it. In the meantime, you can help me by answering this very short survey. I need to know what help you still need because I want to offer my assistance accordingly. Do that for me, please, and I’ll see you next week with the big news.
“You fail only if you stop writing.”