As I was considering what to write about today, I was having a hard time concentrating on productivity in a writing context.
Because while I love writing, I have other goals too. And over the last couple of weeks, one goal in particular has been taking up a lot of my mental real estate.
Every year, my mom and I do a triathlon together. This year, we’re doing it in Boston…and it’s on Sunday.
Now, doing a triathlon isn’t just a one-day ordeal. I’ve been training for this since February. I started small, just getting back into the swing of swimming and biking. But by June, I was miles (quite literally) away from where I had been a couple months earlier.
And if all goes to plan on Sunday (*knocks on wood*), I’ll have reached my goal of completing a triathlon for the 6th year in a row.
So, what does this have to do with being a productive writer?
Like triathlons, writing takes time (and if you run as slow as I do, it takes a lot of time!). You have to play the long game.
If your goal is to write a full-length novel, you can’t expect yourself to reach it in a week. If I registered for this triathlon a week ago with no prior training, I’d be setting myself up to fail. It doesn’t take an athlete to know that, and yet we writers expect miracles out of ourselves all the time!
People who have established a practice of writing every day—no matter how inspired or not—already know this. The more you write, the better you get at it. Just like running or swimming, your “writing muscles” get stronger every time you use them.
Even if no one ever reads what you spend 30 minutes writing tomorrow (it’s not like I have an audience every time I go for a jog), those 30 minutes will benefit you in the long run.
Because 30 days from now, you’ll have 900 minutes of writing stacked up. That’s 15 hours of your documented thoughts under varying degrees of inspiration, determination, and exhaustion.
When those 30 days are done, you’ll look back on what you wrote in the beginning and see renewed inspiration—ideas you forgot you ever had! And you’ll keep going, every day building upon those ideas more and more.
Then one day, you’ll look up, and you’ll be staring at the finish line of your 6th triathlon!*
If our goals were meant to be completed in a day, they wouldn’t be very useful goals (case in point: this morning, I set a goal for myself to put the clean clothes that are in my hamper away and put the dirty clothes that are on my floor in the hamper. I’m currently ignoring that goal with no intention of completing it today, so what good is it, really?).
Give your writing goals the respect they deserve, and don’t expect yourself to just magically achieve them overnight.
Whether it’s a novel, a blog, or a song that you’re writing, chip away at it every day until one day, the results you crave materialize as if out of thin air! But rather than those results falling into your lap, you’ll have the work that went into earning them too. So not only will you have reached your goal—you’ll also be able to continue working those writing muscles and redefining your limits.
Now if I keep this exercise metaphor going, I think I just convinced myself to run a marathon. I better end this post before I sign up American Ninja Warrior too.
OK, get to writing ‘cause you’ve got some training to do! Oh, and wish me luck!
*I really feel like I’ve jinxed myself with all this talk of my 6th triathlon as though I already did it. I did not. Lord, please help me finish on Sunday. I can’t show my face on this blog again if I don’t—I’m in too deep.