Earlier, I revealed a secret about achieving goals — namely that, if one concentrates more and more on the specifics of a goal, naming each part of it in detail, then the tendency is for a person to persist more hardily towards accomplishing that goal.
For writers, the goal of ‘Writing a novel’ needs to be broken down over time into sub-goals for it to stand much chance of being achieved. But there is another way to increase the likelihood of reaching one’s targets, and that is to do with magnifying ‘want.' If you can increase desire, then obstacles tend to shrink and persistence grows stronger.
It’s easy to antagonise someone who wants to make a successful career as a writer. Just tell him or her that they don’t want to be a writer enough. They are likely to scream and shout in protest: ‘Of course I want it enough!’ they will cry. ‘If you only knew how much I want it, you wouldn’t dare to say such a thing!’
And yet they are often stuck in routines and habits which are getting in the way of them generating enough work to ever be a success as a writer. Not all writers, of course — but some, if questioned, will eventually reveal that they spend 20 hours each week watching television or browsing social media when they could have been writing. Or they spend too long doing something else. Obviously, other ‘wants’ got in the way.
They get annoyed with you largely because they are being asked the wrong question. The usual question goes something like this: On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 meaning you are so excited and passionate about your success that you can't sleep), how much do you want to make a success of being a writer? Having no reference points other than that question, they naturally hit the ’10’ button and defy you to challenge them.
It’s important to add some context to that question to get a genuinely useful answer.
Instead of asking ‘How important is it for you to reach your goals?’ ask ‘How important is it for you to reach your goals in relation to other goals you want to achieve?’ For example, they might want to be a writer desperately, but running parallel to that they also have a desperation to pay all their bills, to keep a family running, to pay a mortgage or rent, and so forth. You might ask ‘How badly do you want to increase your income from writing?’ or ‘How much do you want to improve your future acceptance rates?’ but only as long as the question pays attention to the wider context: how much in relation to what?
If a writer isn’t producing a viable amount of reasonable quality work over any given period of time, you have to wonder if he or she really WANTS the goal of success as a writer -- and you can assess that by examining the wider picture.
Just as you can go into detail regarding what ‘success’ means in terms of books published, income from writing and so forth, you also need to look at the level of desire for that named goal. In fact, many writers succeed, not because they are great writers, but because they REALLY WANT to succeed. They put out whatever is necessary to reach their goals, and re-arrange their lives accordingly.
Whereas many writers do not really want the results of their writing badly enough to make it happen. And instead of finding ways to get what they want, they find excuses or let obstacles get in the way. For example, they watch TV ‘for inspiration’, or wait for ‘the right moment’ or put writing off until ‘the mood strikes’.
Certainly, many writers are not willing to change their lives around to make writing happen, and so permit old and unproductive routines to trip them up.
What should a writer in this position do? Here are some possible steps:
1. Name exactly what it is he or she is trying to accomplish — does the writer want to be self-sufficient based on income from writing? Or just to be able to pay certain bills? Or does he or she simply want to acquire a particular reputation? It is much easier to want something specific than a general or vague thing like ‘success’.
Get specific. For example, a writer might want to generate 30 short stories a month, 5 novels in a year and at least one publishing deal per annum. Another might want to complete 20 stories and start 3 new books. Another might want her novel completed and an author platform established prior to contacting a traditional publisher.
2. WANT the result. Increasing your want for a particular result will increase your chances of getting it. How do you do that?
Get emotional about it. The statement ‘I'd like a successful career’ isn’t very emotionally motivating. Instead, use the tools of writing to build a better picture:
I feel that success in my writing career is so vital to me that I'll do whatever I must do to be one of the best in the world. I will work 10-12 hours per day. I will learn all I can from books and courses, and get as much help as I can from experts; I will eat, sleep and breathe my goal. I will obtain agreements from all my family, get their support and then will use all my strength, time, knowledge, faith, confidence and resources to make this go right. I will become the best in my genre and accomplish my goal no matter what it takes!
If you’ve named a specific goal but can't make yourself want it enough, chances are something is wrong. Maybe something is out of alignment in your life. Drugs, alcohol, bad relationships, unethical behaviour, or being in the presence of negative or destructive people can really cut across and nullify desire for good goals. Better self discipline, a brighter approach, more education and enlightenment, better people around you, a more constructive attitude toward yourself or a better living and working environment can all help.
Once you tackle all this, you will find a way to passionately and intensively progress towards your goals.