I’m a sucker for a good metaphor. As writers, I’m sure all of you are too. Marathons are great metaphors for pretty much any long term goal you might have.
I got it into my head that I wanted to run a marathon
A real one. With my feet.
When you decide you want to take on something as massively challenging as this, you look for advice from people who have done it. Luckily for me, my best friend had completed her first marathon the year before and was full of information she was ready and willing to share with me. She even pointed me toward a training plan that she had found useful.
Routine and consistency are the keys to success when it comes to accomplishing long-term goals
Whether it’s a marathon or, say, becoming a writer, coming up with a plan and sticking to it is the only way to get there. It’s also one of the hardest things to do. There is a sea of blogs and articles written by people who, for all intents and purposes, are the thing you’re trying to be—a successful writer—dedicated to the topic of the importance of establishing a routine in your writing practice. They pretty much all boil down to one main point: You want to be a writer? Write. A lot.
The marathon training plan we’re following was put together by someone who has done the thing I’m trying to do—run a marathon. You know what it doesn’t say? “You want to run a marathon? Run. A lot.”
Why I don’t like the “just write” approach
How helpful is that advice to anyone really? What does that mean?
Sure, writing every day even for as little as five minutes means that at least you’re writing, but what are you really accomplishing? Do you know how long it would take to be able to run a marathon if you only ran five minutes a day?
Establishing a writing practice is like training for a marathon: it should be designed to push you to reach your goal, but it shouldn’t be the way you do things forever.Establishing a writing practice requires training, like a marathon. Click To Tweet
Steps for Setting Your Best Writing Schedule
For starters, there is an end to the training: race day. Step One: Pick one for yourself.
How long do you think you’ll need to establish a steady habit? Studies say anywhere between thirty days and three months, but you know yourself better than any book or productivity guru.
Do you think you could do it in a month? Okay, Wonder Woman, go for it! Maybe you’ll need closer to three, six, maybe even a year? That’s cool too. But be specific about when you’re training is going to end.
Based on this end date and your typical schedule, Step Two: Design a plan that you’ll be able to stick to for the duration of your training.
My Current Training Plan
I was meeting up with writer friends on Monday nights and fully intend on getting back to that. This night is my “long run,” as it were. I sit and I write from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. (We do a fair amount of chatting as well, but overall it’s productive time.)
I have also set aside three thirty-minute “short runs” on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. These are the days when my schedule is most flexible. If I write for longer on these days, fabulous! But I give myself at least thirty minutes to get something down.
Sunday is my “cross training” day, the day I do something writing adjacent to help spur my creativity.
I’ve even made this plan official by putting it in my calendar. It has its own color and everything. I don’t know about you, but I have a much harder time ignoring things when they’re in my calendar.
“Cross Training” to Help Your Writing
As far as “cross training” goes, I might do a bit of research if my current project calls for it, but most I read. A lot. Most writers I know are also voracious readers. Other useful activities include: listening to an audiobook or podcast while taking a nice, long walk, listening to music, or maybe going to an art gallery or museum. Basically anything that stimulates your creativity support muscle: your inspiration. Like actual cross training, giving related muscles some exercise ultimately makes each training session easier.
Other useful activities include: listening to an audiobook or podcast while taking a nice, long walk, listening to music, or maybe going to an art gallery or museum. Basically, anything that stimulates your creativity support muscle: your inspiration. Like actual cross training, giving related muscles some exercise ultimately makes each training session easier.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
The entire focus of your training plan should be to give you the tools and prepare you to reach your ultimate goal. For me, the ultimate goal of my training is to have the skill to put words on paper anytime I want to for the rest of my life. Strengthening my ability to ignite my creative muscle on command is therefore an important part of my plan. Maybe your goal is to write a novel? You may have a shorter training period, in which you focus on laying the groundwork, like research, character backgrounds, and plot outlines. Maybe your “long runs” are first drafts of chapters, or short stories that take place in your world or feature your characters.
Maybe your goal is to write a novel? You may have a shorter training period, in which you focus on laying the groundwork, like research, character backgrounds, and plot outlines. Maybe your “long runs” are first drafts of chapters or short stories that take place in your world or feature your characters.
This is just another way to approach creating a thriving writing practice. It won’t work for everyone, but I’ve never heard anyone recommend coming it at it this way. The best part is that it is completely customizable to your goals and schedule.
What are some of your ideas for what a successful training plan might look like for you?
Let’s chat about it this Wednesday at 6 p.m. PST on Periscope! Join me and an amazing group of writers for our weekly #writerlyWednesday chat where we’ll be discussing the ways we’ve established our own writing practices.
PS. You’ll notice the title of this post says “Part One,” that’s right there will be more. I told you, I like metaphors.
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