The holidays are a time for slowing down and reflecting on the past year. They're also a time for thinking about the year to come. Whether or not you set resolutions, no doubt you've got ideas about what you'd like to accomplish in 2017 and the bad habits you want to leave behind in 2016.
If you're like me, you probably never check off quite as many things as you'd like on your to-do list for the year, and you never quite integrate those new habits you know you should. And so you approach the New Year cautiously hopeful, knowing you're not going to miraculously be a new person but promising yourself you're going to try to keep heading in the right direction anyway.
But what if this year could be different? What if you could make bigger strides than ever before? What if you could quit breaking those promises to yourself, and keep your motivation up long enough to finally bring your dreams within reach?
KNOW YOUR "WHY"
In the many years I've been writing and working toward my goals, there's one productivity tactic that has made all the difference between the years I've made great progress and the ones I haven't, and that tactic has been to continually improve my self-awareness. The more I understand what motivates me, what I feel my purpose is, and what I want to offer the world, the more effective I am on a day-to-day basis. Because true productivity doesn't start on the outside, with scheduling habits and motivating blog posts--though those things can help from time to time--it starts from deep within you, where your fire resides. It starts from that pull that makes you want to write and publish in the first place.
Have you taken the time lately to ask yourself why you're writing, why you're striving for publication, or why you're setting these goals for yourself? Now is the perfect time to do it. Sometime over these next couple of weeks, sneak away with a journal and a cup of coffee, and before you set any more goals or resolutions that may slip through your fingers yet again, ask yourself that telling question. And don't settle for the first answer. Just like when we are seeking our characters' motivation, we must ask ourselves why over and over again, until you feel a stirring inside you--that "aha" moment that we all live for when we're writing fiction.
You need those in your real life too.
That's your fire.
STAY CONNECTED TO YOUR MOTIVATION
The reason most people struggle with making real changes, and real progress each year is because they quickly lose connection to that fire. Daily routines can sap your energy, the curve balls life throws at you can knock you off track, and your own insecurities can make you forget your "why." Even when you are working toward your goals, you can get overly focused on the "what" and pretty soon, when things aren't going the way you'd hope, you fall into despair, wondering why you ever wanted to follow this path in the first place.
But the power of remembering your 'why' - of remembering that fire, is in harnessing it. If you wait until you're discouraged to remember your purpose, you may get back on track, but it's only in staying connected to that fire when times are good that you get ahead.
Once you know your "why", find a way to keep it in the forefront of your mind. Post it in your work space, written down, or as a quote or picture. Journal about it frequently, especially when you feel your motivation start to wane. Schedule frequent dates with yourself to re-examine your goals and make sure they are still in line with your "why."
FLAME IT - PROGRESS BEGETS PROGRESS
Even though I don't follow the "write every day" rule (I write Monday through Friday, which is enough for me), there's a good reason it's touted all over the writing community. If you understand the intention behind it, you can see that the real goal behind this tactic is to keep up the momentum. You've probably felt the effects yourself, when you've had particularly productive streaks. Progress begets progress, and it's this momentum that fans your flame.
If you allow your dream to fall dormant, even for a little while, the flame starts to weaken, and if you fall off your resolutions by the end of January, as many people tend to do, it becomes mere embers. Yes, it's always there, ready for you to fuel it again, but if you want this year to be different, keep it roaring. Keep working. Take small steps when you have to, but always keep moving in the direction of your dreams.
(If having visual proof of your progress inspires you, check out my 2017 Writing & Revision Tracker here.)
As we sidle into another year, it can be easy to come into it jaded and negative. What's really going to change? Here's the thing, though: you can. You can grow a little bit more every year. You can get closer to your goals every single day. And being intimately connected with the reason behind your goals makes the journey a little easier, because instead of having to push yourself toward your dream for another year, you can be pulled by that inner fire, that inner purpose, which requires a lot less effort.
So what lights a fire under you? What is your "why?"
Jamie Raintree is an author and a writing business teacher. She is also a mother of two girls, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, will be released on October 3, 2017 by Graydon House. Subscribe to her newsletter for more writing tips, workshops, and book news. To find out more, visit her website.
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Perfect reminder, Jamie. Thank you!!
I love the idea of writing down the "why" behind a goal, not just the steps to take to reach the goal. I don't have problems pushing forward with my professional goals, it's the personal ones I keep shoving under the rug. Oh boy is is a lumpy rug. 🙂
And those are probably the most important! It's hard to have a thriving career when you aren't taking care of yourself. I would love to hear your plans for the new year!
Perfect timing of this post for me. Can't thank you enough. I have gone off track and realize after reading your post that the emptiness I feel inside comes from putting writing on the back burner. I am taking your advice and reminding myself why I like to write and how good it makes me feel.
I ALWAYS seem to forget that this is the number one reason I'll start falling apart. I have to be writing or I am not me, and I do forget that when life gets chaotic--probably when i should be writing the most! I hope you're able to bring writing to the front burner this year! Happy 2017!
"Love is the deepest language of the soul. In and through the warmth of love is creativity found. Through love and creativity, the soul shelters us from the seeming nothingness that surrounds our lives. We cannot fill up our emptiness with objects, possessions, or meaningless interaction with people. We have to go deeper, into the emptiness, to find that beneath the nothingness lies the flame of love that warms and guides us." - John O'Donohue
I stumbled across this right after I read your wonderful piece, Jamie. I'll take that as a cosmic hint. After all, we have to be rooted in love to find our passion for this journey, right? Merry Christmas, my friend.
Love that!!! Glad you posted it, Vaughn.
You always chime in with such wonderful insights, Vaughn. Thanks for another perfectly placed quote -- and a very merry one to you as well.
Agreed! And so beautiful. Thank you for sharing that, Vaughn! I hope you have an amazing 2017 filled with even more love!
I'm not one who normally makes lists or spreadsheets for things. Maybe it's years of having to maintain a "grade book," so I'm not interested in doing one for myself! But your video on your tracker spreadsheet seems pretty attractive as I juggle working on four projects simultaneously. Thanks!
I'm so glad to hear that! Give it a shot! You never know--it might just give you the extra motivation you need. I'm always of the mind that if what I'm doing isn't keeping me as productive as I wish I was, I've gotta try new things. Plus, newness it itself is motivating and exciting for me.
I hope 2017 will be filled with new and exciting things for you, Fae! Happy Holidays!
I realized the other day I haven't touched my journal in weeks and now you've given me a Very Good Reason to pull that baby out and connect to my "Why". I know that my why has to do with connection. Connection to the people I love and admire (including you), my community, and myself. I think I need to take the time to go a little deeper with this. Thank you. Wishing you a lovely Christmas and New Year.
I HATE it when I forget what an important tool my journal is for me. That's another one of my (many) goals for 2017--to stop forgetting that. As writers, we know very well how the pen-paper-brain connection works so journaling is an especially important tool for us!
I agree--connection is one of the biggest motivators for me too. And I'm so grateful to have been able to connect with you! Happy Holidays to you and your family, T!
I had the privilege of interviewing Patricia Cornwell for Writer's Digest a few years ago, and her advice always stood out to me as among the all-time best: "Treat your writing like a relationship, and not a job." This is as important when it comes to the discipline aspect -- even if you aren't churning out words every day, simply checking in with your work (the way you'd call a spouse to say goodnight when you're out of town), or keeping it in your mind -- as it is with the passion aspect you've articulated so well here. Thanks for the great post!
What a great way to think of it.
That's a brilliant perspective, Jessica - thanks for that. When things get hard in this industry (or, should I say, hardER), I continue to work, but I lose the 'why'.
This is the answer to that.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Oh my gosh, i love this perspective. What a heart-centered approach, which always works better for me. Thank you for sharing that inspiration! I'm going to ponder this one with my journal as well. 🙂
A very inspiring sentiment, but also accurate Jaime. I'm a psychologist by day and whenever I set ANY goals with a client we connect with the 'why' - we explore what underscores whatever it is they're working towards, what value it represents. It's a very powerful tool, good on you for reminding us of why its so important. Have a wonderful holiday season 🙂
I always love to hear that the psychology matches up with what works well for me! And what a gift to your patients that you understand that so deeply. I hope you're doing the same for yourself! Happy Holidays, Tamar!
This year is perfect timing for me to keep the fire burning. I'm starting a new series so I'm very excited about that and have a promotion campaign to plan for my next release. It will keep me writing over the holidays.
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Perfect timing. My writing is an ember burning in me that is about to light a bonfire. I feel like 2017 will be my year. I'm approaching it with a solid plan. I had some success in 2016 (earned a little over $5K on my writing, which was a HUGE step forward for me), and I'm ready to build on that success. My why is that my writing is the key to financial stability for my family. And, frankly, I love the recognition. 🙂 Happy writing!