A few weeks ago, one of my favorite authors for self-help, Gabrielle Bernstein, posted a video about staying on course for what you want. At the bottom of her post, she had the option to tweet about it and the tweet basically said: “Stay committed, don’t dabble.” This concept is something I’ve talked a lot about with those in my little circle of productivity, the group of women that I email and do writing sprints with. The truth is, I used to dabble a lot.
This was both in and out of writing. I’d start a book, or write in online communities and happily proclaim I was a writer, despite the fact that I had no goals with my writing and I rarely finished anything. I dabbled in writing. There were no stakes with my writing, I did not take it seriously. I dabbled in other things too, which took my time and attention away from the writing I did. Part of this was due to the fact that I struggled to say “No” to people. If someone wanted my time, attention and help, I would bend over backward and put my own projects aside for months on end. There are times I still say “Yes” when I should say “No.”
This leads us to what I really wanted to talk about, how to stay committed and avoid dabbling, for writers and artists.
1. Learn when to say “No.”
Successful people know when to say “No.” They have learned to say it with conviction. I do my best to think very consciously when people ask me to work on projects with them. I often get asked to proofread things for friends, or to help them with their own projects. I will say “Yes” only if there is a reciprocal relationship when it comes to helping with these friends, or if I believe editing their project will help me become a better writer. It sounds harsh, but it also isn’t fair for them to expect me to beta/edit chapters upon chapters without some kind of give/take. I also will take on a project here or there that I just really have an interest in. Some of my friends are brilliant writers and I aspire to be more like them, so helping them would also warrant a “Yes.”
2. Practice makes perfect. Take your practicing seriously.
If I had a dime for every time someone said, “Oh, I like to write. I could be a writer just like you if I had all the free time you have.” Though I may have a flexible schedule that allows me to devote a lot of time to writing, that would mean nothing if I was not devoted to the practice. I write nearly every day. I manage my own schedule and I stay committed to the work I want to do. I read books, I write, I read more books and I work to improve my writing. Publishing credits are not something a magical fairy bestows on you and leaves under your pillow as you sleep. You get the by writing often, sharing your work with others for eyed back, learning how to be a better writer, and then sending that work out into the world. If you have a day job, commit to a word goal or an amount of time you will write each night. There are writers who got published with small word count goals like 200-500 words a day. If you write every day, those words add up quickly to short stories and novels.
3. Set goals and deadlines.
Every short story I’ve submitted has a deadline of some sort. Usually, it’s a date by which you must submit your story. You can set your own deadlines and I suggest having them somewhere they are easily visible. I usually post my long-term goals up on my wall and keep daily and weekly goals in my bullet journal. Deadlines give you something to work towards and they encourage you to finish your projects.
4. Finish what you started.
This does not go for every project and you will get to a point where you can identify when it is time to set a project aside and work on something else. That being said, you still need to finish things. I have not been great about finishing some of the novels I’ve worked on, but I’ve finished many short stories and comic scripts, even if they all did not make it to publication. If a writer has 100 unfinished short stories, they aren’t likely going to be able to find a place to publish them, but if you keep finishing projects you can find a way to get them out to the world, either by finding a traditional publisher or through self-publishing. If nothing is finished, there’s nothing to publish.
If writing is truly something you want to do, stay committed. Don’t dabble. If you keep at it, I am sure you will find a way to get what you want to say out to the world