I had one of those enlightening moments recently that highlighted the power of expectation. I began a new level of Japanese classes and have a new teacher. This is one of the intermediate level courses and she’s a lot tougher than what I’m used to, but I’m excited about it because I know I’m going to be learning a lot.
This is one of our latest assignments. If any of you study Japanese, you might see I’m trying to grasp the “te” form conjugations. If not, I’m just posting this to try and inspire you to challenge yourself. If I can do this, you can do anything! Seriously!
We’ve been warming up to our new teacher and are only through our second lesson. I’ve noticed, though, that she rarely praises correct answers. Instead, she gives an approving nod, as if we’ve “met expectations,” and now can move onto the next topic of learning.
It was actually a little jolting at first. You get asked a difficult question, are told to answer in a language you barely know, and when you answer correctly, the American reaction is to poke your hand out and wait for a sticker. Well, let’s just say there was no sticker.
I’m not commenting on teaching style, but rather a cultural difference and what we can learn from this and apply to our writing. The reasons my teacher hasn’t given praise are because the over exuberant praise just for “meeting expectations” isn’t going to help anyone meet their goals. She knows that and has been taught to give praise where praise is deserved–likely after exams after we’ve worked hard and achieved targets.
Any part of our lives can be looked at this way, but especially writing. Challenging yourself and giving yourself high enough expectations are important. I know some blogs recommend rewarding yourself even when you do the most mundane of things, like read a page in a book, or write 150 words. I’m sure that works, but like with anything, it can also be overdone.
Writing deserves to be taken seriously and be given challenging (but realistic) expectations. For example, don’t just be satisfied that you’ve written 150 words. Push yourself and commit to writing 500 words, and not just once, but every day, and reward yourself when you finish the first draft of your novel. If you write 500 words EVERY DAY, not just today, not just once in a while, but every single day, you’ll have a full sized novel in about 6 months. That’s really not that bad. Of course, it’ll have to be edited, and you’ll need to give yourself high expectations for the revisions as well, but you’ll have achieved an incredible goal regardless. “Finishing” a draft is a monumental task and even experienced writers tend to get distracted with their writing projects, effectively not finishing anything for long periods of time.
Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort zone. Write a short story, even if you think you’re no good at it, and submit it to a pro-level magazines. Don’t settle for token magazines all the time. Give yourself a real challenge and even if you don’t get an acceptance, you WILL learn something. You might get personal feedback, or just be empowered by the experience and be able to continue to push yourself to meet lofty and impressive writing goals.
Everyone will have different methods that work for them, but I see too many authors afraid to make serious goals and stall themselves before they even begin. Success starts with believing in yourself, challenging yourself, and giving yourself enough credit that you can and will do it!