The Progress Principle Applied To Writing

manufacturing_productivityIn my post yesterday regarding word count targets, I mentioned a cheeky little theory called the Progress Principle. It’s been discovered by a psychologist called Teresa Amabile and it refers to levels of motivation during a project.

As you know, I’m always looking for better ways of working and feeling good about working is number one on my list. Your emotions are so important when it comes to creating anything and if you can’t control these emotions when you need to work then you might as well not bother. This is how I feel anyway.

Applying the Progress Principle to writing a novel is obvious, but let me explain the principle in a bit more detail first. It’s all about quick wins. It’s about setting realistic and achievable targets which in turn will draw you nearer and nearer to your ultimate goal.

Have you ever written more when you get to the very end of a novel? How about even reading, do you tend to have a monster reading session when you get to the end of a good book? It’s about motivation. You’re motivation is increased the nearer you get to completion.

You also experience motivation at the beginning of a project because of the new ideas bubbling over inside. The problem is the middle bit. This is where motivation wanes and self-doubt kicks in, destroying motivation altogether.

The Progress Principle states that setting and achieving realistic targets all along the journey builds momentum and before you know it, you’ve completed it.

So, when you’re writing a novel it’s important to break down your productivity into parts and build targets around those parts. For me, I have a daily word count target which I stick to and celebrate each day when I’ve achieved it. I don’t mean I throw a party every time I write 2,000 words but I allow myself to stop working and enjoy the rest of the day once I’ve completed what I needed to do.

By doing this, the only motivation you need is enough to write 2,000 words a day (or whatever target you have). Don’t even worry about the end game but if you need to run the numbers before you can sleep at night, for a 90,000 word novel it equates to 45 days, or 6.5 weeks. That’s quick, and you’ll achieve it if you maintain your progress.

Just concentrate on your day’s target and the rest will fall into place.

Until next time…

3 responses to “The Progress Principle Applied To Writing

  1. I could not agree more! I wish I could write the whole day but with a 10 hours/day normal job on the side I can really only write in the train and that’s maximum 2.5 hours a day… And so scrivener helps enormously in that respect as it calculates daily targets automatically and this motivates me enormously and helps being productive during the amount of writing time at my disposal…

  2. I have just started using Scrivener and I am still learning. I have not yet started using daily goals but I foresee using it in the future.

    Unfortunately the PC that my Ruth stories and Scrivener was on destroyed its HDD. I am waiting on a Dell tech to replace the HDD (this will be HDD #4). I am hoping that my 1 TB Western Digital back up drive was able to copy all of my Scrivener files so that I have not lost all of my work.

  3. Pingback: Progress Is Good (aka Full Steam Ahead) | Michael J Holley - Writer

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