I've been trying to balance my writing schedule with my job, taking care of my family, and all of my other responsibilities. I've been failing.
During these past few weeks, I wrote almost every single day, but nothing seemed to come out right. Nothing I wrote was worth publishing.
I was losing it. It felt like my skills were diminishing. It felt like I was regressing. It felt awful.
I took my eye off the ball. I forgot the secret. The secret to becoming a great writer and the secret to anything else you want to achieve in life.
It's not hard work.
It's not passion.
It's not productivity.
The key to most anything you want in life, especially writing, is momentum.
These past few weeks I lost momentum.
I've been frazzled. I'd wake up every morning to write, but after being up with my daughter on and off all night, it felt like my brain was sucked out of my skull.
I wrote 1,000 words per day, but they were all worthless. I was too focused on my usual routine -- the routine I had when I had no kids.
I was writing without asking myself the important questions every writer should ask themselves.
Am I growing?
Is this better than the last piece I wrote?
Am I building on my previous work?
The routine I used to have was focused on momentum and improvement.
I lost sight of those goals and stuck to an arbitrary ritual without remembering why I started the ritual in the first place.
I should've scaled things back. Instead of trying to hit some arbitrary goal I should have re-focused and done more with less.
I could've woken up an hour later so I could have a clear(er) head. Instead of 1,000 words I could write 500.
I wouldn't have been able to write as much, but I could've still written on a daily basis and improved my skills by one percent each day.That strategy would've kept the momentum going.
Instead I was stubborn, tried to do too much, and everything unraveled as a result.
Here is why it's important to maintain momentum.
Writing has more to do with confidence than it does wordplay. You can have tight prose, but if it lacks conviction and doesn't move people, it's not good writing.
The writers I admire most make me feel something when I read them. You can only do that with confidence.
How do you build confidence? By maintaining momentum.
You maintain momentum by creating a habit that gives you strength with each session. By getting a little better each time.
Momentum = confidence = great work.
When you lack momentum, you'll doubt yourself each time you face the blank page. You haven't written enough, so you'll wonder whether or not you're good enough. You're not good enough, because you haven't written enough.
The only way to break this vicious cycle is by building and maintaining momentum.
Creativity is a Muscle
I used to be in great shape. I'm talking two guns n' a six pack. Now? My mid-section is more keg shaped.
When my girlfriend got pregnant she stopped working out, so I stopped working out (excuses, excuses!).
It took me a year to get in the type of shape I was in, but it only took a few short months to undo all of my hard work.
Now we're looking into getting a YMCA membership. Sisyphus would be proud of my effort.
Your physical muscles atrophy quickly when you stop exercising. Your creativity muscles can atrophy too.
Think about how hard it is for people to get themselves back into a steady workout routine after living unhealthily. The same thing can be said for building a writing habit.
I haven't felt this insecure about my writing in a while, because I hadn't experience this much of a lull in momentum in a while. For the first time in a long time I've been having serious doubts about my skills.
It's because my creative muscles are weak.
I have to start building again.
When you're on the path to increasing your creativity remember it's like a muscle. If you don't use it, you lose it.
People with Momentum Don't Quit
Growth is exciting. No one ever quits when they're on a streak. Quitting only happens during stagnant periods. People who write a couple of times per month quit. People who write every day don't.
Quitting can happen with a hiccup in momentum. You're riding high, but one day something gets in your way of building. You figure one day off won't hurt you. And it won't.
But if one turns to two and two turns to three and three turns to a week, all of the sudden you're at risk.
My girlfriend asks me why I'm always writing, always learning, always pushing. It's because I'm scared to death of losing my momentum completely.
I've seen it happen to people. People who had talent. Once their momentum halted completely, they were finished. I know how easy it is to let dreams slip through your fingers.
It almost happened to me.
I was driving home from a friend's bachelor party this weekend. I was hungover, tired, and frustrated. I thought taking the week off to enjoy myself would make me feel better. It didn't.
The struggles from previous weeks combined with taking time away from writing only made things worse.
It had been four or five days since I'd written anything.
I seriously contemplated quitting for good. Only briefly, but contemplated nonetheless.
I thought about the long road ahead of me. I thought about how much effort it was going to take to live out my dream. I thought about the energy it would require me to get out of this rut.
You don't have those type of thoughts when you have momentum. Sure, you have doubts, but you're in motion. Motion is good for you. Motion keeps you energized.
When I'm gaining momentum, the thought of quitting never crosses my mind.
Time to get back.
The Snowball Effect
The rich get richer. The successful continue to become even more successful. The habitual writer grows in skill with leaps and bounds.
Momentum creates a snowball effect and leads to creative breakthroughs.
Consistency and momentum are different. People go to jobs they hate consistently, but don't gain any momentum in their careers or lives.
Doing something repeatedly doesn't guarantee a successful outcome. The intent is just as important as the action.
You can write consistently without maintaining momentum. There are plenty of writers like that. They consistently write posts with 10 bland list items on them, but they're not growing.
You build momentum by adding a bit of creative resistance to your writing each time. You add a vulnerable sentence you wouldn't normally include. You try a new idea that might not work.
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