Lower Your Standards

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I am currently doing Nanowrimo in a cheating sort of way.

Cheating because the rules of Nanowrimo say that you can't have written any of your novel before November 1st, and I'd written, oh, 60 pages.  But I wanted to use the energy of the event to galvanize my writing and get back to a regular writing schedule.

So I set a goal for myself to write 2,000 words every day and I met that goal every day in November until Sunday.

When my writing screeched to a halt.

I knew exactly why the flow stopped.  It was because I only had a couple day's worth of work until I didn't know where I was going in the book.  Up until this time, I could let the words roll because I knew what scene happened next.

Now, after a few more sessions, I'd be stuck.

And I let the fear of that moment stop me.

But I really didn't want to lose my momentum.  So I did what any self-respecting writer would do.  I lowered my standards.

First, I told myself that I only had to write 1,000 words a day.  Then I reminded myself that I could write as badly as I wanted.  Not only could, but should, write what Anne Lamott calls a Shitty First Draft. 

Lowering my standards did the trick.  Writing 1,000 bad words a day is at least making progress, and that was the point of participating in Nanowrimo in the first place.

Today my assignment is to figure out what comes next.  I have ideas, they just aren't in any logical order.  And even if I lower my standards to only spending 15 minutes on this project, I'll have met my expectations.

I'm telling you, lowering your standards is amazing.  It will help you get the writing done.  If there's one thing I know for sure, to borrow a phrase from Oprah, it's that we're all way too hard on ourselves anyway.  Lowering your standards is one way to subvert this.

Have you ever successfully lowered your standards around writing?

**By the way, sometimes even lowering your standards doesn't help.  If you're well and truly stuck in your writing, I can help.  Check out my services page for more information.

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14 Responses to Lower Your Standards

  1. Patty/Living Deep Studio 11/13/2012 at 11:47 #

    Love this, Charlotte. I think this applies to so many areas of life. There are a lot of messages out there proclaiming we’re brilliant or should be. Just saw a few this morning, in fact. Lots of days I don’t want to be brilliant! I just want to live a good, satisfying life. And lowering our standards helps us bypass this perfection monster. I’m not writing a book like you but I am doing art every day month, kind of like nanowrimo with art. For sure I’m not doing it every day. I had a pang at the beginning thinking I needed to “keep up” or was “getting behind” but yeah, that did cause me to screech to a halt. The other way I like to lower my standards is give myself permission to suck at things. When I can do that it always gives me clarity and usually leads to a lot of forward movement and risk-taking.

  2. Zan Marie 11/13/2012 at 13:16 #

    LOL! I read the title of this post and _had_ to read it. I understand all too well the lower your standards idea. That’s why I’m happy with _any_ words at all on many days. Write On…no matter who rough. ; )

  3. Charlotte Dixon 11/13/2012 at 13:31 #

    I love that you're doing art nearly every day, Patty.  And I heartily agree–it's great to allow ourselves to suck at something.  I was just thinking about that this morning, doing the crossword puzzle.  I may not be a crackerjack puzzle solver, but I sure enjoy them–even the days when I don't finish them!

  4. Charlotte Dixon 11/13/2012 at 13:36 #

    I'm glad the headline made you want to read the post, Zan Marie!  And I agree, write on, through all distractions and worries!

  5. Patty/Living Deep Studio 11/13/2012 at 20:25 #

    p.s. I tweeted your post and my husband saw it on my twitter feed. He is definitely a struggling perfectionist writer, and he walked in the door tonight and said, “I got a lot out of that article about lowering your standards.” Thought you’d like knowing that!

  6. Charlotte Dixon 11/13/2012 at 20:28 #

    That's so cool! I love hearing that, thank you!

  7. Patrick Ross 11/14/2012 at 03:39 #

    Well done, Charlotte! Another way of putting that would be to set more attainable goals, and hit them sequentially, so instead of being frozen you keep moving forward. I was addicted briefly to Angry Birds, which is dozens of little mini-games that are challenging but capable of being mastered with modest effort. I think part of the reason it’s addictive is that you feel a rush completing one game, and say, “You know, I can probably take on one more.” Glad it’s going well for you.

  8. J.D. 11/14/2012 at 04:25 #

    Lowering standards is not so shocking to me. I’ve done it periodically since my junior prom. Lowering the bar can be a challenge. After a look in the mirror, my standards were not all that high. Ahhh, but such a move that will sometimes make you feel like a genius. Not only does it get the essentials out of the way, sometimes you surprise yourself and find a diamond where you thought there were only lumps of coal.

  9. Charlotte Dixon 11/14/2012 at 06:37 #

    When my son was growing up, the one thing I liked about his video game habit was that it showed him he could get better at something, one increment at a time.  I've never played Angry Birds, but I can relate!  And yes, setting more attainable goals is another way to put it.

  10. Charlotte Dixon 11/14/2012 at 06:38 #

    You're so funny, J.D.  I love your comments and this one is no different.  Diamonds in coal, indeed.

  11. Carole Jane Treggett 11/14/2012 at 09:51 #

    Hi Charlotte,
    I really appreciate this post, too. It’s a real challenge not to get tangled up in over thinking but to allow myself to just write ‘the shitty first draft’and delay editing and worrying about whether it makes any sense or any of it is salvageable for later.

    I’ve taken your cue yet again (thank you!), as I sit down and say to myself, “I’ll just start. Whatever amount of words flow out today, so be it. At least I showed up.” I’ve found it helpful to have a specific word count goal to work towards each day, but for the first time I’m allowing myself to just enjoy the experience of writing. For the most part, I am indeed;it’s really flowing. I’m so pleased to discover that it doesn’t have to always feel like pulling teeth LOL.

    By the way,it’s really encouraging to me that you are participating in Nanowrimo :)

  12. Charlotte Dixon 11/14/2012 at 10:21 #

    Carole Jane, I'm so glad that things are flowing for you!  It's so funny, I was reading over my pages from this month and they really are a mess, complete with notes to myself like, "this doesn't work" or one of my favorites "make this work."  (I'll be annoyed with myself in the future, but for now it's okay to wrote those notes.)  Once you give into it, there is something very freeing about lowering your standards!

  13. Debbie Maxwell Allen 11/14/2012 at 14:39 #

    I’ve done this, too. It feels like you’re getting away with something, though you’re really getting something done–albeit a little slower.


  14. Charlotte Dixon 11/14/2012 at 16:48 #

    "It feels like you're getting away with something."  Love that!  It's so true.

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