All That Matters is Doing the Work

Filed in Finding & Following Your Voice, The Writing Life by on May 11, 2011 • views: 324

Today was a good day. Why? Because after a couple days of being away, I spent two hours working on my novel.

I had to travel over the weekend. The pace and requirements of my schedule made it near impossible to focus on writing, and during the few hours that I could manage it, I had to complete projects for clients. It was a good weekend away—a chance to watch a student excel at a tough competition after working hard all year. But it was one of those rare times that I allowed a couple days to get away without devoting at least some time to my novel.

It left me feeling a bit out of sorts. It also started me down a dangerous path—that of continuing to avoid my personal project. Even after I got home, I made excuses. I was too tired. I had too much to do to catch up. The novel could wait one more day.

The good thing is I recognized the con-artist in my own mind. In the past I’ve listened to him and let one day of non-writing turn into two and then five and then 30. It’s terribly easy to do. If you’ve ever neglected your exercise routine for even one day, you know how much more difficult it is to get back into it the next day.

This time I knew what he was doing, so I bit the bullet and committed myself to the chair, and two hours later, had completed another chapter.

It didn’t matter whether or not it was perfect, or even whether or not it was good. What mattered was that I was back on track. I was devoting time to the calling of my inner voice. And that in itself made everything right.

Are you stalled in your progress toward your goals because you fear your work may not be good enough? Are you having a hard time getting started after some time away? Try to put all your concerns aside. It doesn’t matter! You will feel better if you simply do the work. If it didn’t go well yesterday, who cares? Start again today. If you haven’t worked on it for a long time, so what? Start again today.

“Think about your biggest accomplishment to date,” writes Isabel De Los Rios in The Diet Solution: Start Eating and Start Living. “What did it take for you to achieve that goal: months of overtime making yourself eligible for a job promotion? Countless hours helping your child learn a new skill? Years of practice to become successful at a sport or hobby? Accomplishment requires a great deal of work, commitment, and dedication.”

If your inner voice is urging you to pursue a goal—particularly if it’s been after you for months or even longer—you will experience relief and a newfound energy if you simply commit yourself to doing the work, every day, for at least a few minutes. (More if you can.) Force your inner censor to take a hike, and just work. Forget about how good it is. Just work. If you’re having a hard time committing yourself, try these tips:

  • Schedule a time each day to devote to your goal—at least 30 minutes—then don’t allow yourself to miss that appointment.
  • Invest some cash in yourself. Use some of your savings toward your goal, or pay yourself for the time you invest, even if it’s only $1/hour. Purchase tuition at an upcoming conference or invest in an educational course. Do something that puts your money on the line—it can be very motivating.
  • Share your commitment with a trusted friend or loved one—someone who will keep you on task, and check up on you to see if you’re following through.
  • Give yourself deadlines. Write them on the calendar. Set rewards for yourself when you meet them.
  • You know yourself—come up with motivational methods to get yourself going!

“Commitment is that do-whatever-it-takes quality that keeps our eye on the prize,” writes Fitz on his blog about personal finance. “With commitment, there is a sense of no turning back. Moreover, dedicating yourself to your goals will open up new possibilities that would not reveal themselves to someone with less focus.”

Just try it. Do the work tomorrow. See how you feel. My guess is that just doing something will give you renewed energy to do much more the next day. Stay with it, and your efforts will snowball. It’s just the way it works!

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