Whatever it is you want to do, you can be sure of this: there will be a thousand things that will get in the way.
I have found this to be true in pursuit of writing my book. I work a forty hour work week, am actively involved in a church plant and mentoring group, try to keep a regular blog schedule, maintain a consistent workout schedule, and freelance some writing and marketing work on the side.
About six months ago, I decided to stop talking about writing a book and actually start writing it. I moved things in my schedule around, woke up earlier, went to bed later, and pretty much did whatever I could to fit in the extra time.
And at first, it was exciting. I was actually doing it, and there was a bit of an adrenaline rush from the newness and possibility of it all. I had brainstormed a creative concept, one that I felt was strong and lacking in the market, and one that I felt extremely passionate about.
But after a couple of months, I stopped.
I was burnt out, tired, and feeling the most uncreative that I’ve ever felt in my life. Writing had somehow moved from an adventure to a chore, and I decided I needed to take some time off.
I’ve never regained the momentum that I had when I started.
I could offer a lot of excuses as to why I quit, and they would sound pretty convincing. I was busy and overextended, and could have easily hid behind my schedule. But there is really only one reason that I quit pursuing my dream:
I quit because I didn’t have a plan.
In the beginning, my dream was nebulous and vague. The sheer excitement of starting kept fueling my drive. But the newness of things soon wears out. The ideas and creative brainstorming soon run dry. The words too soon feel trite, overused, and unworthy.
The best art requires much of us; it demands sacrifices, talent, and risk. Whatever your art and your canvas, know that your dream will be demanding. If you want to get serious about making it a reality, it’s imperative that you have a plan for when the newness and excitement wear thin.
I have found that to be at my creative best, I must be intentional about the environment that I’m cultivating in my life.
I need fuel: a steady dose of motivation, guidance, dialogue, and critical thinking that pushes me to think in new and different ways. To achieve this, I follow blogs (great starts are Rachel Held Evans, and Carlos Whittaker’s blogs) and scour the web (check out the Huffington Post, Politico, and Relevant). I watch shows that force me to think (one of my favorites is The Newsroom), discusses culture in a witty way (I highly recommend Colbert) or chronicle past achievements (I highly recommend History’s new, The Men Who Built America). I try to often strike up conversations with strangers, and encourage people who feel “stuck.” And, of course, I follow what’s trending on twitter.
I need space: a couch is my worst enemy. I need a designated and familiar place to write. I actually have a few such places, which I like to rotate between so that my environment doesn’t grow tired and stale. Getting off the couch gives me more motivation to be intentional about my writing, and less likely to procrastinate. Coffee shops are my best friend, because they allow me a space to work, and a space for some dialogue and conversation.
I need accountability: I need a plan, something that is written down, and someone to keep me accountable to it. I’ve found a place online that is extremely helpful for this purpose (MySubplot, created by the author Donald Miller). To date, it’s the best tool I’ve found for organizing your goals and helping you achieve them. I’ve also undertook a new writing schedule, which you can see a simple version of below. This schedule helps keep me on pace for what I want to accomplish.
So, I’m recommitting to the book and to my goals as a writer. I will be published, and I will write this book. I hope to share my journey with you along the way; sharing insight and inspiration along the way, as well as the frustrations and doubt. Writing a book isn’t always a happy adventure, it’s often a daunting and impractical pursuit, much like your dream.
I have to do this. I think it’s what I’ve been made to do. And maybe my journey will inspire you to take a journey of your own.
Comment below and tell me; How do you stay committed to your dream?