The key to reaching most goals is pretty simple to understand but difficult to execute, and that is Willpower. Whether you’re writing a novel or trying to diet or exercise, or you want to be a better spouse or student or son or daughter, Willpower is the key. But it feels like this magic-sauce is always in such short supply.
There’s an excellent book on willpower that I recommend every human being to check out. It’ll change your life in whatever ways you want to change your life. But this is the first step in self-improvement or reaching any goal: examining yourself and seeing what weaknesses you want to work on.
I was born a mess, so I’ve been trying to smooth the rough edges for a very long time. Much of what I stumbled upon through trial and error I later discovered to be tried and true techniques. But this isn’t about all of that nonsense, it is about a very simple technique that will help you out if you are writing a novel or dieting, exercising, any number of things. It’s all about Assuming the Position.
The most difficult part of any repetitive task that we would really like to avoid doing is getting started. It’s tough to force yourself to go for a run when you’d rather watch TV. Or force yourself to work on your novel when you’d rather play around on Facebook. So the trick is not to tell yourself that you’re going to do these things. The trick is to do something much simpler, which is to place yourself into position to do these things.
Writing can be painful. Opening up your work in progress and getting it on your screen is not painful. But we avoid doing the latter because we dread doing the former. Stop thinking about the writing. Just open up your work in progress. Let it sit in front of you. Maybe you read what you’ve already written and you decide to make a sentence snappier. Maybe you think of a later scene you want to jot down. It doesn’t matter. Just open your document and be with it. Don’t think too far past that.
There’s an old saying that writers hate writing, what they love is having written. The same is true of me when it comes to dieting and exercise. I don’t like giving up donuts, but I enjoy the way I feel when I haven’t eaten them. I don’t like doing situps or pushups or any kind of exercise, but I like having exercised. So I approach these things like I approach my writing. I lay down on the floor. I’m not thinking of doing situps, I’m just thinking that it takes no effort at all to Assume the Position.
And then, once I’m there, or once I’m staring at my open manuscript, or once I’m hovering over the salad bar, I think to myself: Damn. I’m here. I got this far. I don’t know when I’ll motivate myself to get this close again. Or when I’ll find the time. So I might as well…
It works wonders for me. I know it’s a hokey thing to blog about, but I’m taking the chance that it might work for someone else out there. Keep it up, NaNo’ers!