“If Content is King, Consistency is Queen”.
This phrase has become really popular lately and you probably have come across it many times.
When it comes to writing, I can tell from my own experience that consistency is indeed a very important factor in achieving success.
I have to admit, I have never been good at self-discipline. A lot of my attempts to do/learn certain things on my own, at home, without a strict teacher standing over my head with a ruler, have failed. Too many times. I lost count of things I wanted to pick up and master, but eventually would give up because I was not disciplined enough. All those fitness classes I used to start, only to come up with a thousand very valid excuses to not show up the next time…
When I realized that about myself, I started looking for ways to change it. If I was to pick a new gym/yoga class, I’d look for options that left me with the minimum opportunities to find an excuse to quit. It finally resulted in great success, when I signed up for a body flex class in a yoga studio that was across the street from where my mom lived. I told myself – “you know what, now you can’t complain that it’s too far or there’s no parking there. You go there every other day anyway, and you always find a place to park, so shut up and go change into your yoga pants”.
And guess what – it worked. It resulted in me successfully joining the group, finding an amazing trainer, losing quite a bit of weight and a couple dress sizes in just two months, finding out that I actually do have abs (so what I used to experience in other gyms before weren’t phantom pains), but most importantly, developing a habit. A habit that stayed with me for years. Motivated by how successful my experience was, I later started working out at home, every day, on my own, without the need for any additional ‘kicks’ from anyone. I also inspired a few of my friends and even taught a body flex class at home.
Apart from finally getting into the shape I used to dream about, I learned something really important about myself. I learned that I wasn’t that lazy after all. And that I actually knew what self-discipline was. And that it wasn’t that hard to create a healthy habit, with some effort and the right motivation.
Which leads us to the next important factor – Motivation. Consistency is fuelled by motivation. It’s much easier to invest consistent effort into something when you know exactly why you are doing this. What it gives you. What it makes you feel.
Using the example of my “miraculous” weight loss, here’s how it worked for me. First, I gave myself a kick to start the class. For a month, I would go there only twice a week, for a 40 minute workout.
And then it started bringing results. I liked those results. I liked the way it felt, the way I looked, the way my trainer was saying how I’m one of her best students (yes, I’m like that, some praise can really do wonders for my productivity). So next month I decided I’d start going three times a week. And also do some exercise at home. Just a little bit, sometimes.
Later, when the circumstances changed and I couldn’t attend those classes anymore, I continued at home – but I started exercising every day, 40 minutes a day.
I proved to myself that I could be consistent and disciplined.
And it felt good.
A few years later, I decided to pursue my life-long dream and start writing (yes, we’re finally going back to the writing part!)
When I wrote down a rough outline of my novel, my younger son was less than 6 months old. I’m mentioning that just to give you an idea of how many excuses (those very valid excuses, of course) I could come up with to not continue writing. I mean, I had a baby on my hands. That usually means “zero free time to do anything at all.” Or so it may seem.
On top of that, I had so many fears and doubts getting in the way, from “I’m not good enough” and “There’s too many writers out there already” to “I can’t write in English, it’s not my native language.”
But I continued.
I started uploading my chapters on Wattpad weekly, which gave me a schedule that I needed to stay disciplined. Not that there were hundreds (or even a handful) of people waiting impatiently to read my new chapters. I just set those deadlines for myself and was following them.
And I still wasn’t consistent.
Why? Because I was operating on deadlines. Tuesday was the “publishing day” that I set for myself. And eventually I got into the habit of writing the next chapters… yup, exactly, on Monday evenings. Then I wouldn’t write for the whole week again. Then something would come up (you know, life) and I wouldn’t write for another week. But I’d try to write two chapters to make up for what I’d missed.
The problem was, I was losing the flow and I was starting to feel guilty. Now, guilt is the enemy #1 to your productivity. Trust me, I know that from personal experience. This whole thing ended up with me skipping more and more Tuesdays, getting caught up in a million other things, feeling too guilty to even try to go back and pick up my writing again.
Besides, this once-a-week writing schedule was detrimental to my story in general, because I would easily forget where I was when I finished the last chapters, so I had to go back and check some facts, etc. It was slowing me down and definitely not contributing to the quality of my writing.
I took a break of a month or so from writing. I was feeling guilty, demotivated and deflated. Until one of my writer friends gave me a nudge to continue. She was experiencing somewhat similar issues, her book was stalling and she was unhappy about it. So we decided to keep each other in check. We’d message each other every day asking “So, how many words did you write yesterday?”
That changed everything. I started writing every day. A little bit, as much as I could squeeze in. I’d write on my phone, late at night, when everyone was asleep. I’d write on a bench in a park while on the walk with my son. Sometimes, I’d just write down quick ideas in notes on where to take the next chapter. Sometimes, I would write over a thousand words at once, finishing at 2 a.m. Sometimes, I would drop my phone because my fingers were numb and couldn’t hold it anymore (not kidding, by the way).
I was writing down my word count every day. That worked as a great motivation to continue. I’d look at the note in my phone with dates and numbers in it, and think – “I’m doing good! Considering that I have a one-year-old and a never-ending list of things to do around the house…”
Consistent writing, combined with accountability and support from my writing buddy, resulted in me finishing my first draft in a couple months. What I originally thought would be a 50000 words book (I honestly didn’t plan/hope to write more than that when I was starting it) turned into a 82000 book (it’s over 90K now, after the first round of revisions).
If I had more time during the day, I would’ve finished even sooner. But it’s not about the what-if-s. It’s about what you can do with what you have. And believe me, almost always we are capable of doing much, much more than what we think.
Sometimes it only takes 15 minutes a day. 15 minutes less of scrolling through Facebook, 15 minutes less of sleeping, 15 minutes less of being too hard on yourself for not doing enough… Just find those 15 minutes, and then do it again the next day. Rinse and repeat. Before you know it, you’ll have a new habit formed and a new motivation to keep you going!