“Part of what helps me stick with my writing is the chance to reset my commitments every week when I check-in with my writing buddies. If I fall off the wagon (in other words if I don’t do everything I committed to doing), I get back much sooner. It’s easier to get back into the groove because I’m only signing up for the coming week – not the rest of my life.” — Pam McAlister
In my Writing Habit class, I and my students make a weekly commitment for each of the Recommended Practices (Process, Product Time and Self-care). Each week’s check-in gives us an opportunity to notice, acknowledge and celebrate our successes and/or to notice and acknowledge what’s not working.
Part of the beauty of weekly commitments and check-ins is that they help us see when something needs adjustment. Without check-ins, a lot of writers have a vague sense of dissatisfaction for weeks, even months before they realize “You know, it’s been a long time since I did anything with my writing…”
Weekly check-ins give you as many “do overs” as you need as you figure out what works for you and your writing life. When the week ends, you compare your commitments to what you actually did, consider how you feel in the moment, and then you look forward.
Step 1. State what you said you would do for Process, Product Time and Self-care last week.
Step 2. State what you actually did for Process, Product Time and Self-care last week. No long stories, no explanations, evaluations or judgment (positive or negative). Just the facts.
Step 3. Notice how you feel. Talk about your emotions, not your thoughts. (“I feel a did a good job” is what you think; “I’m proud” or “I feel content” or “I’m disappointed” is how you feel.)
Step 4a. If you did what you said you’d do, allow yourself to feel good about it, celebrate, reward yourself and continue building your momentum.
Step 4b. If you didn’t do what you said you’d do, you are now aware that something needs adjustment:
- Maybe your commitments are too big for where you are as a writer right now and you need to change them. (It’s better to commit to less and be successful than to commit to too much and feel like a failure. Give yourself small success you can build on by gradually increasing your commitments.)
- Maybe you’re still establishing your writing habits and you need to give yourself more supportive structures (reminders on your calendar, bathroom mirror or computer, phone calls or email reminders from a writing friend, etc.) as you keep practicing.
- Maybe your commitments conflict with the way your life is currently structured and scheduled. If so, you either need to change your commitments or change your lifestyle. Don’t keep promising yourself you’ll do something you won’t – you destroy your trust in yourself and entrench your resistance.
- Maybe something unexpected happened and the commitments that usually work couldn’t be reconciled with the unexpected. In this case, you don’t need to change anything (unless the “unexpected” keeps happening).
Step 5. Make new commitments for the coming week – these might be a repeat or an adjustment of the previous week’s commitments based on what you discover in Steps 3 and 4 and what you anticipate for the coming week. For example, I don’t commit to Product Time when I know I’m going on vacation.
Step 6. Do what you said you’d do.
In theory, you make your commitment doable and you do your commitment. In practice, a weekly check-in helps you recognize what a doable commitment looks like.