By Bekki HillNew Year is often the time when we decide to start a new project or find renewed enthusiasm to work on a project. However our initial surge of enthusiasm can fade quickly. Here are five ways to help ensure that a new start is based on strong foundations which build in motivation and reduce your chances of getting stuck, bogged down, giving up or procrastinating.
Make Sure You’re Working on the Right Project
It can be easy to get caught up in the initial enthusiasm for an idea only to realise later that you’d rather be working on something else. Consider the following before you start:
- Does the project really interest and excite you?
- What other ideas/projects do you have filed away on the back burner?
- Is this project taking you towards becoming the writer/Illustrator you want to be?
- Is there something you would rather be working on or that it will be better for you to be working on?
Check You’re Not Biting off More than You Can Chew
Although it is important not to allow life events to become procrastination tools, it’s equally important to make sure we don’t place expectations on ourselves that are impossible to fulfil. Consider where life is likely to take you over the next few months. Are there any big changes or challenges coming up? Consider both what you’ll be welcoming into your life as well as what you’d rather not have to deal with. If you recognise there will be significant changes or challenges, ask yourself:
- How much will these intrude on my time?
- How much will these intrude on my mental space?
- Is this the right project to be starting at this point?
- Do I need to modify my expectations of how quickly I will complete this project?
- Would I be better off working on a less demanding project?
Make a Good Start
Different people work in different ways, so how you start working on a project, or even what you consider to be the ‘start’ of a project, will depend on who you are. However, the sort of questions it can be helpful to ask early on in a project are:
- Is there a better story I could be telling here?
- Is my story being told from the right perspective?
- Have I chosen the right central character(s)
- Are all the characters essential?
- Do I know how my story ends?
- Do I need to know how my story ends?
- Do I need to do more research, character development or plotting?
Of course you will always need to go back and make changes to your initial drafts and ideas, but checking that you are making a good start can reduce the number of blind alleyways you might otherwise run up.
Set Daily Targets
If we don't give our brain a target to aim for it's easy to lose focus and procrastinate. If our target is a long way off, we will also find it easy to lose focus and procrastinate. Setting a daily objective, such as the number of hours you will draw/write each day, gives you an immediate focus. It also means you quickly know when you miss or have set an unrealistic target.
Develop a Habit
In his book, On Writing, Stephen King says that when you are writing a story, you should write every day. In this he includes weekends, bank holidays, birthdays and any other day us mere mortals might think we can take off. This is, of course, sound advice (and just as applicable that illustrators should draw every day), but not just because we make daily progress. Writing or illustrating every day means we turn it into a habit and once a habit is formed it’s much harder to break our stride.
In reality it may be impossible for you to work on a project every day. You can however still develop a habit. Consider the pattern of your day-to-day and week-to-week life and how it would be best to work regularly on your project. For example you may have young school age children who make working weekends out of the question, however you can still develop a weekday habit.
Bekki Hill is a Writing and Creativity Coach who assists writers to increase creativity, boost motivation and overcome blocks. She is the author of Coach Yourself to Writing Success and NLP for Writers. Bekki has published short stories and magazine features and for eight years wrote a column for Mslexia. Bekki lives in Devon with her dog and her husband. Find Bekki here