Motivation vs. Habit by Carol Malone

Summer HeartsPlease welcome novelist Carol Malone, newsletter editor for the Ventura County Writers Club in Ventura, California. Each month she crafts articles to inspire writers in her local area, and today she’s sharing her article on “Motivation vs Habit.” Enjoy!   


Does the word “goal” send you into a panic? It does me.

A man whose blog I follow religiously told of a motto hung above the door of his gym. It read, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit keeps you going.” I believe Jim Ryan was attributed with saying that. Great thought, don’t you think?

I’m constantly thinking about goals and how I can push myself enough to want to set a goal, determine what I want to do, and devise a plan to achieve what I desire. This is a biggie for me.

I’m not a goal setter. In fact, the word goal sets my teeth to grinding.

Ask my husband if you don’t believe me. There was a time long ago in my early young adult development when I took a one-night class about setting goals. It looks so easy, simple, and something I thought I could do. But as I set my goals and proceeded to hope they would come to pass, I didn’t have a plan or procedure for success. So I failed to accomplish my goals. From then on, “goal,” became a four letter word—something to be avoided. So I’ve drifted through life avoiding setting goals and if I accomplished anything spectacular, it was by pure chance or luck.

I started this year by thinking about goals, specifically in terms of writing goals. Through the encouragement of a great book coach, our Writers Fun Zone host and award-winning novelist, Beth Barany, I finally sat down and thought about what I’d accomplished last year and how I want to finally tackle my misconceptions about goal setting. Could I conquer my fear of goals and actually succeed at something with an definite plan? This was the big hope of my life, because up until this year, my great deeds were a surprise to me and not something premeditated.

As a writer, I’m sure you’ve thought about what you want to accomplish and have planned similar goals. Some of my writing goals for the year of 2015 included things like:

  1. Reviewing all the workshop/classes on writing I took in 2014 and apply that knowledge to my manuscripts.
  2. Publish a short story in a pulp-style magazine.
  3. Finish the sequel to my published 50’s LA romantic suspense.
  4. Write another in the Fight Card Romance series.
  5. Rework, revamp, and re-romance a contemporary romance I wrote of Nano in 2013.
  6. Continue on my journey to become a paid professional book coach/editor.

All good goals, right? I thought so. I believe y’all have similar goals. But like you, I didn’t want my yearly goals to fall by the way side and not put some effort into the plan and execution. I’ve done that all too often, as you might have experienced when setting good goals. At times we set some rather unrealistic and unobtainable goals and then failure makes us feel terrible, so we just stop trying.

If I wanted those six goals to become reality, I needed to make a plan, find my motivation, and yes, make a schedule I could easily follow that hopefully, would turn into a habit. Habits have both good and bad connotations. We try to break bad habits and we try to form good habits. So why would we want to have a habit, and how do we cultivate a good one?

For you and for me, I suggest baby steps.

If you’re not writing consistently, what is a small goal, or step you could take to make use your small amount of kick-starting motivation and turn your desire it into a habit? Start small, remember. What can you do daily—and make it a priority—because a priority is a singular entity, it’s not a bunch of things to concentrate on at any given time.

Writing a 100,000 word novel isn’t something you decided to do today and whip it out tomorrow. But if you want to make writing a 100,000 word novel a habit, you have to bundle that motivation to write in the first place and say, “I’m going to write 100 words today, or 20 minutes today.” Set an alarm clock, structure it into your day, make it as important as brushing your teeth.

Did you know if you wrote only 100 words per day, you’d have 36,500 words, or a novella by the end of the year. Imagine increasing the number of words written after three months, to 500 words per day for another three months, then to 1000 words, and finally 2000 words for the last three months of the year. That’s a 105,300 word novel. Gone With the Wind, here we come!

Writing is much like exercising, eating, going to work, or sleeping. It’s best done at the same time every day. We don’t even think about those things most of the time, do we? We just do them—they are a habit.

To end his discourse, another of my inspirational mentor of mine, David Farland said, “…here’s the key to become a writer: use your motivation to create a writing habit. Long after you’ve run out of motivation, you’ll still be writing.

We can sit around and hope we’ll be come best-selling novelists, or we can grit our teeth—literally in my case—focus our thoughts on the prize, make a plan, make it a priority, schedule it like brushing teeth, and move forward. Reward for those baby steps isn’t something I’ve spoken about here, but I highly recommend you reward your efforts no matter how small. Perhaps a walk through the mall and a new pair of new dangly earrings or that special tie. What about a new eBook? Perhaps a walk along the beach or a trip to the nearby park or lake for a stroll? What will happen in our rewarding times is more inspiration. Then we come home and write some more.

Here’s hoping you and I can get over our fear of the dreaded “goals” and work at them until they become good habits.

[Editor’s note: Carol, I know you can! And readers, you can too! We create good habits bit by bit, day after day, step by step. Be gentle with yourself and show up!]



Carol MaloneCarol Malone writes stories that intrigue, amuse, and warm the heart. Scramble into a front row seat and take an action-packed thrill ride with one of Carol’s stories. She’s successfully combined three of her passions — romance, sports, and writing in her highly-rated novel, Fight Card Romance: Ladies Night, and in Fight Card Romance: Ladies Night Christmas, a short story sequel. Her newest story, “Summer Holiday,” a sweet summer novella in the compilation, Summer Hearts: 6 Summer Tales of Sweet Romance, was just released.

When not hammering out new tales, Carol is reading, watching TV, or hanging with her author husband on the coast of California. She loves her readers and invites you to come to her website to chat about sports and amour. You can also connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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