Last week I returned to the University of Michigan (YEAH!) for an alumni event. This was a fabulous, small gathering with many opportunities for one-on-one conversation. When I told people about my work with Inked Voices, I could not believe how many responded that they’re interested in writing a book. A couple had participated in NaNoWriMo or had a draft in process. But others mentioned it as a dream, something to do later, something to do in retirement.
This struck me hard, probably because I’ve been there. I remember that the hurdle to writing seemed large. I felt like I had to be either all-in or not at all. And so I did nothing with a dream I held for 15+ years. It took the birth of my second for me to say, hey, it’s time.
If you’re a person who has said “later”, or “after”, or “when I” to your goal, this note is for you.
Life events are good catalysts. But you don’t need to go and [insert your favorite: have a child, retire, move, get sick] to write. I would argue that a simple mental shift can do the job.
Saying “I’m going to go write my book now,” is a seriously inspiring but terribly overwhelming goal. It’s easy to fail at a goal so large. Would you go from the couch to a marathon directly?
Instead, challenge yourself to a small goal. Microscopic will do nicely.
For example, set aside 30 minutes per week for your writing. Or, write 50 words per day. Setting goals for number of writing days or writing sessions, or pages written works, too. Experiment to see what resonates with you. Your goal should be easy to remember and relatively easy to achieve. The start is not your moment for stretch goals.
Here are some suggestions to play with:
Pick a small goal and work with it. You don’t even need to tell people you’re working on your book. If the subject comes up, you’re doing some writing. Let the seed grow some roots.
It’s OK to exceed your goal. Those days, give yourself a high five and celebrate.
If you’re not succeeding, tweak the type of goal and how much you do.
Track your progress in a notebook, an Excel spreadsheet, or the notes section of your phone. Inked Voices has an app called Ink On specifically designed for tracking your writing. Note what you accomplished and review the results weekly or monthly.
Get consistent with something small. Then when you feel ready, you can layer on an additional stretch for yourself. Maybe it is another 10 minutes, or another writing session for the week.
Start by establishing your writing process and pretty soon, you’ll see the pages add up. And maybe, it will grow to become a book.
Jessica Murray is a poet and children's writer. Her poetry collection Singing Without Melody is forthcoming from Galileo Press in spring 2022, and her poems are featured in journals such as AGNI Online, Barrow Street, The Cortland Review, Free State Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, and Memorious. A member of Inked Voices and SCBWI, by day she works in higher education, non-profit, and educational media production spaces.