The First Step
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Laozi, Ancient Chinese PhilosopherWhat is it that you want to do?
At my church, we've been discussing the topic of faith, and how to grow stronger in our faith. Granted, not everyone in this world is religious, nor is everyone reading this wanting to grow in their faith, but we do want to change our lives for the better.
Each of us wants to become a person different than what we were yesterday whether that means more kind, more creative, more independent or something else. For me, becoming a better writer usually tops my list. I want to create the novels people love, and write the things which inspire others to write.
One of the things I look forward to is having someone come up to tell me that reading one of my books changed their lives - how they looked at things, or encouraged them to be a writer. Do I want to make millions of my books - sure, why not; but reality does indicate I won't. I can, however touch people's lives through my writing, and that takes steps.
What's your small step? Is it signing up for NaNoWriMo? Is it dusting off an old story? Do you have any idea what it can be? For writers and artists, small steps often seem the hardest part, not unlike priming a pump. We keep working at it, almost ready to give up then the smallest trickle of water comes before a rushing gush.
Here are five things to remember for small steps:
- KISS - Keep it simple, stupid. The hardest part of small steps is we often want to make it into an elaborate task - I will get up and run for thirty minutes followed by a healthy breakfast. My small step to exercising usually involves getting up. Same thing goes for writing.
- Routine - make it a part of your everyday task. My routine is to wake up a quarter after five and put in a hour and a half of writing at least during the weekdays - weekends are negotiable.
- Think Small - similar to the first step, but focused on the goal - think of the smallest, yet most powerful impact you can make. For example, to lose weight, you might switch your double latte to coffee with a single serving of sugar and cream. You still have the punch of caffeine without all the calories.
- Think Big - in goal setting, you need the big picture - losing a hundred pounds; writing a novel; publishing said novel; having an art show - all these are the big picture items to which you focus your small steps. Make certain you make big thing you want to accomplish tangible. Have it "I want to write [Title of Your Choice] instead of "I want to write a novel."
- Keep At It - experts say it takes about six weeks for a habit to form. During those six weeks you will want to give up, give in and give it all away, but keep at it. Decide everyday that today you will do your small step and tomorrow's task will arrive when it wants to.
Now that you have an idea of what to do, just what can you do? To help aide in the well priming, here are ten ideas for a small step - not all involve writing:
- Short shorts - write a short story in 200 words or less. Once you get into the hang of it, stories begin to populate.
- Daily project - draw or photograph whatever is on your table or outside your window. It will challenge you to look at the same thing in different ways or it might encourage you to create still lives.
- Edit a page - after writing comes editing. You might already have a novel finished, but to take it to the publishing stage, you need to edit.
- Doodle - set a time amount and doodle. It doesn't have to be long, maybe five minutes, but let your brain relax.
- 5-minute Plays - write a five minute play (about five pages in play formatting) between two characters. This is a good way to develop character dialogue as well.
- Style Shift - whatever is your normal style of drawing, painting or whatever, try another style. It doesn't have to be permanent, just change it up once in awhile.
- Photographic Starts - collect images which inspire you. They don't always have to be "inspirational" as in Christian fiction (still not quite certain what inspirational means). I have a Pinterest board dedicated to Story Inspiration where I put all the interesting things which strike my fancy. Some ideas are for now, and some for later.
- Musical Inspiration - take a piece of instrumental music and write a story; paint an image or create something to go along with the music.
- Journal - keep a journal with your ideas in it. Some of the previous items can be incorporated into the journal. It doesn't have to be physical, but can be an Instagram, Twitter or some other avenue. Think about tweeting a short short every morning or taking the daily photograph for Instagram.
- Read - in the daily rush, it's hard to remember to slow down, and reading is one way to do that, but it doesn't have to be a book. Find an article about your field and read about it. I have newsfeeds set up on my computer focused on news from around the world as well as other topics I find interesting from novels to steampunk.
Each of us is granted twenty-four hours a day, and we can use that as we see fit. I see pins trying to guilt a person into writing or make them feel as though they haven't accomplished anything if they don't turn out so many pages a day, and the truth is - we won't always do what it is we're supposed to do. Life gets in the way; sickness comes; we're tired.
I've struggled with losing weight to gain it back and lose it again; I have a health issue which makes it hard to lose weight and often makes me tired. I know this is part of my body's normality and I live within those means. For me, those small steps are how I make it through the day - one small step after another.
For some of us, we have the creativity part down so long as we maintain it. Our small steps come elsewhere. For us, it might be submitting the novel; starting an online store or even signing up for a fair. Those small steps are equally important, but not necessarily routine. It involves shifting our minds from hobby to business, and that step is something you need to decide if its what you want to do.
What's your small step?