According to my local radio, 47% of us forget to floss our teeth daily. 47%? That means more than half the population is lacerating our gums with mint-flavoured string every single morning. I don’t believe it. (Straw poll – leave a comment if you floss every day, proclaiming the fact loud and proud. I’ll send you a bag of sweets to bring you down to my level!) Personally, I discovered a long time ago that if I aim to floss daily, as recommended by my dentist, I just never do it. Maybe once or twice a year, just before an appointment with him.
But here’s the thing (and also the point at which this blog post becomes about writing again, rather than oral hygiene), if I set myself a more achievable goal, like flossing once a week, suddenly I hit the target. I even occasionally over-achieve and do it twice in 7 days! Crazy stuff.
With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, lots of writers are setting themselves ambitious goals right now. 1667 words in a day is actually not as much as it sounds, but doing that every single day, on top of your day job, life and normal writing commitments, for a whole month, is a challenge for many people. Winners of NaNo are right to be proud of themselves. Those who use it as a springboard to kick-start their writing for the rest of the year, even more so.
I enjoy NaNo and I hope to keep doing it for the foreseeable future, but for the rest of the year, I’ve discovered I work much better with achievable goals than crazy ones. When I started this blog, I promised myself one post a week. Now I’m up to three, with occasional daily projects like Voice Week, the 12 Days of Christmas and my recent series on Novel-Planning. And I still enjoy it, I still find topics to write about, and (most amazingly of all) I still find people reading them all!
Starting small works for me – give me a to do list with 5 things on it and I’ll do them all, by lunchtime. Double it to 10 and I’ll achieve 3 across the entire day.
So what I need to do now is work out how to apply this self-knowledge to my long-term writing goals, and in particular to the editing process which a couple of my longer pieces are waiting to undergo. Suggestions are welcome. I’m also interested: how does goal-setting work for you? Do you work better under the pressure of too much to do? Or are you a small-starter like me?
And how many times a week do you floss your teeth?