The Next Step: Keeping up Progress
Congrats, you’ve done it. You’ve gotten started. That’s the hardest part of the whole writing process. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier from here on out, but you’ve made it past the biggest hurdle.
Two options: you can call it quits and take comfort in having started something (better to have loved and lost then nev…I can’t even finish that platitude) OR, you continue. For those quitting at this juncture, no judgement at all, writing takes a huge commitment you have to be ready for - you can stop reading here. Have a great day! For those continuing, let’s press forward.
My best advice for pressing forward is to focus on what is immediately in front of you while occasionally glancing at the bigger picture slowly unfolding in the background. It’s easy to get intimidated by the enormity of this journey you’ve set out on. To remedy that, focus on the page you’re on. One page at a time. If that’s too much, focus on one paragraph at a time, or smaller yet, one sentence at a time. Word by word. Give yourself some grace and know that the words you put down now aren’t set in stone. Think of them as placeholders; the words on the page are simply placeholders for your ideas. Capturing your thoughts, ideas, and message is more important than any individual word choice. The words you use can be changed in the editing process.
Revisit your outline and make edits as needed. It might feel like a pain in the ass in the moment, but spend the time updating your outline as you go. Keeping an up-to-date outline is necessary for keeping you organized. It may not feel like it 20 pages in, but if your work gets into the triple digits, you’ll thank yourself for putting in the time to stay organized. Plus, this will help your editor down the road (and you want a happy editor). At this point, you are almost certainly not in the triple digits yet, and are just trying to get in the routine of making progress. It will be important to stick to a few fundamental tenets:
Keep a strong outline that is updated as you veer off of it
Start to establish writing routines (find a time, place, and whatever else you need to set the stage for good writing)
Focus more on your ideas rather than the exact wording
Do not worry about editing at this point
Any progress is good progress
Part of continuing your work and making consistent progress is creating a practice of sustainability. This involves creating those good writing habits and building your routines. If you’re in it for the long haul, don’t just white knuckle it until you’ve created something. That will lead to burn out and resentment. Find a rhythm that feels comfortable. Create a schedule, find a comfortable (or inspiring) place to write, and try your best to stick with those routines. I cannot tell you what your routines will be - that is completely up for you to decide. For me, it is helpful to have tea handy, to turn off any other distractions, and keep the lighting in the room fairly dim. I work best in the evenings so that is when I carve out time. Put in the time during this early stage to create that routine and just like your outline, you may need to edit it over time as needed. Think of it as a fluid thing that can and should change as you find what works for you. Once you've found it, it's a lot easier to keep. You’re not aiming for 100% compliance - as often as you’re able to is good enough.
Up Next: The Grind: Continuing Momentum