writing, writing tips

Micro Goals and Writing

I was recently listening to an episode of my favorite writing podcast, Write Now with Sarah Werner and she was talking about “The Slog”. The slog is a real thing, and 2020 has been the kind of year that brought it to the forefront for a lot of us writers.

Throughout the pandemic I’ve been posting tips and other ways to help writers keep a routine, manage stress, and other ways to help keep a little bit of creative output going. It’s been extremely difficult, especially for those extraverts among us who are “re-fueled” by being out in the world around other people. I even succumb to it towards the end of summer, and had a pretty big gap in posts here for some months. My writing output also suffered during this time.

I’m still deep into editing the final draft of my next novel. I managed to finish the manuscript earlier this year, but then I simply ran out of gas. My writer’s group has kept me accountable to continue reading and critiquing the work of others, which is wonderful. However, even that wasn’t getting me through my own “slog”. It was this recent episode of Sarah’s podcast though, that really let me put a name on what I was going through. It seems like such an entitled, aristocratic problem to be trapped in one’s own writing, but here I am anyway. #SorryNotSorry.

Over the past few weeks I’ve managed to climb my way out of this hole though, and what worked for me was something (admittedly silly) that are referred to as “micro goals”.

Micro Goals and You

So, what is a “micro goal” and how does it work? Do you need a self-help book from Barnes&Noble to use them? No. You don’t. You also don’t need to watch any YouTube videos about them, because I already did that for you. Spoiler: They are all way too “self-help-y”.

Micro goals take advantage of human nature and our natural psychology to form habits. When we’re in a rut, or find something new, our natural inclination is to get super excited and do it a lot. Then over time we “plateau”, lose interest because it’s not as shiny, and eventually let other things take priority.

Earlier this year I went whole-hog into finishing my manuscript. It left me creatively drained, and I have been letting writing take a back seat to everything else that isn’t writing. Where the micro goals come in is rather than me saying “edit 10,000 words a day”, I set a goal to “edit 10 words a day”. The goals are so ridiculously small that they cannot fail. I can edit ten words in less than five minutes. I simply have no excuse not to open my MS on my phone and edit for the day. The trick is the consistency.

It’s been weeks now, and some days I’ve edited ten words, but other days when I have time I’ve edited quite a few more. Even a whole chapter one weekend. But the key is I’m back to working on my novel in some capacity every single day. No exceptions.

I’m not claiming they are a cure-all, but using micro goals to set a habit (or get back into one) has been effective for me. It gives you a small feeling of accomplishment each day, which helps alleviate getting down on yourself about not working on your writing, which as we all know can just make you write even less.

If you’re in your own “slog” you may want to give them a shot. Just make sure whatever micro goal you set, it is too small to fail, and ideally takes under five minutes a day to accomplish. Maybe they can work for you too.

Are you in “the slog” on a writing, or other creative, project? Has this crazy year sapped your creativity? Let me and the rest of my community know in the comments if there’s anything that has helped you to stay creative during these strange times.