My top tips on how to give yourself a break, gleaned of course, from three decades of self-flagellation.
I have a real problem with goal setting and accountability. It’s not that I don’t set goals or that I’m not accountable, it’s that I set goals that are too ambitious and beat myself bloody when I don’t meet them.
Which, if you’re hugging a bottle of wine in the middle of the night because you haven’t finished editing your novel yet (mostly because you’ve been trying to look after a three-year-old and keep your family and your workaholism fed through your freelance work) is, oh I don’t know, a wee bit crazy. Not to mention counterproductive. (Or so I’m told.)
So, if you, like me, are an overachieving freak (and you’re self-employed, so of course you are) and like to beat yourself up because you haven’t written the 5,000 words you promised you would write today, here are my tips on how to give yourself a break, gleaned of course, from three decades of self-flagellation.
1. Give yourself a break!
2. Lower your standards
(Did I just hear a collective gasp?)
I’m not saying turn in shoddy work or, god forbid, not edit that tweet twice. That’s just who you are as a writer, and I can’t ask you to change that.
But perhaps you don’t need to revise that first chapter forty times until you’ve finished the entire first draft. Maybe instead of writing the perfect first draft of a novel, you can just write a novel and leave the perfection for when you’re editing?
3. Set “Do” goals, not “Be” goals
“Be a bestselling author,” means nothing.
“Send information about my book to five new media outlets daily,” while an ambitious goal, is achievable and measurable.
4. Are your goals achievable?
My goals are not only too ambitious, but unachievable. I’m going to put a deposit on a house in London with the money from my Booker prize and be a New York Times bestselling author by the end of this year. I, of course, haven’t yet finished the novel that took 3 years to get to the first draft stage or have a nonfiction book deal because I haven’t sent the sample chapters out to agents. (Five points to you for picking up on the self-loathing in that sentence.) But it’s okay, because I have dreams, yo!
Seriously though, I need to get real, and so do you.
Dreams are wonderful to have and I have lots, many of which I do really hope to achieve. But this year, my only goals need to be to hit my six-figure income target, finish my novel, and double my subscriber base. Not too ambitious and totally realistic.
If I get all that done, I should be proud of myself, not giving myself thirty lashes for not having done more.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Founder and Editor, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more. She is the founder of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators. Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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