Not exactly a wild and crazy plan for a six-year old, true. But unlike her pedal-pushing peers, my daughter possessed a plan. She marched to the calendar and counted how many days she had left. Her goal was to perform this manoeuvre for a neighborhood bike parade set for July 1st. To succeed, she determined she would need to practice every night after dinner. Then she did -- rain, shine, or other more attractive play-dates notwithstanding.
I'm an organized and determined person, but I must say, I've learned a lot from watching my frighteningly resolute daughter. Goals matter. And as writers, it’s a good idea for us to embrace some writing goals. They needn’t be difficult! Here are three suggestions for simple, diligent, repetitive actions that will help you improve your writing in 2012.
Resolve to run all your writing through readability statistics. You can find powerful, no-cost readability software hidden in every version of Word. (To find and activate it, get instructions from your “help” menu.) Alternatively, you can also use a free online service [hotlink to: http://www.it.rit.edu/~jxs/services/TestReadability.html] that requires copying and pasting your article. The key thing to know about readability is that you should be aiming for a Flesch Reading Ease score of 60% or greater and a Grade 9 level or lower. Yes, I know the latter sounds counter-intuitive but this doesn’t mean your audience is poorly educated. It simply means they’re busy and they don’t have the time of attention for complex writing. I’ve been writing for more than 30 years and I still run everything I write through readability stats. (This piece earned 64% in reading ease and a grade 8 in readability.)
Resolve to write more in "stolen moments" and not wait for 60-minute blocks of time. Too many people procrastinate by refusing to write unless they have a big chunk of free time staring them in the face. This is a mistake! Instead, embrace the power of writing in dribs and drabs. Ask yourself, at least three times a day, "Could I write for 10 minutes right now?" If the answer is yes, do it!
Resolve to do a better job of keeping writing and editing separate. This can be a challenge for many people. Some of us are just hard-wired to prefer editing to writing. Tinkering with what you have written seems so much more enjoyable that squeezing out the first draft. The trouble is, writing and editing at the same time will inevitably make you a slow writer. To solve this problem, try two strategies: 1) write more often in the early morning (before your editing brain fully wakes up) and 2) cover or turn off your computer screen while writing, so you can't see what you’ve written.
Doing these three simple tasks every day and watch your writing productivity soar!