I’ve been working on a lot of things lately. I’ve been re-evaluating a whole lot of stuff in my life. There’s been some trouble, some drama with some good stuff thrown into the mix.
Writing, of course, is always at the forefront of these things. It ranks right under family and work under priorities.
I don’t want to talk about the drama and such. That’s not what this blog’s about. Safe to say, it’s done, dealt with and things are improving.
What I want to talk is about writing. Specifically my writing routine.
I’m very proud to announce that I’ve written every single day for 40 consecutive days.
It’s showing no signs of stopping either.
I went through a very long dry spell (again). It’s one of the reasons the blog hasn’t been updated. There’s been nothing of note to tell.
I decided that I’m too easily sidetracked by life. I needed to retrain myself to write regularily, to treat it as a professional obligation. After all, I have no issues showing up to work every day. That’s what writing is if you want to be a professional.
The first step is to be professional.
Here’s the thing, no one is a professional right off the bat. No one has perfect habits just because they decide to have them. It takes effort. It takes a lot of trial and error. You have to start to crawl, then walk, then run, then fly.
This post by Mur Lafferty is what got me started. I would point out the paragraph that refers to this. The Magic Spreadsheet is something that resonated with me. Basically, you get points for writing. You also get more points if you write every day. The longer your writing streak is, the more points you get. It’s silly I know, but it got me thinking about how I write.
I admire Mur a lot and reading about her struggles gives me hope that my own aren’t insurmountable. She mentions her writing goal is 800 words a day. That doesn’t sound like much does it? Well, I’ve given myself that goal and failed in the past.
I poked around inside the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet minimum to get a point for the day is 250 words.
250 words. It really doesn’t sound like much. It’s nothing really. We’re talking about 10 minutes of writing on a good day. It’s a joke.
Here’s what’s not a joke:
If you write 250 words a day for a year, you will have a 365 page novel. That’s just 250 words a day.
The wheels in my head started turning. I took a long look at what I was doing (nothing) versus “the joke” (250 words a day). I decided to give it a try. I put aside my Space Pirates project because it had lingered too long and had too many problems to continue. The key for me was to get writing again.
Here’s what I did:
1 – I started a new project (more on that later)
2 – I set up the Magic Spreadsheet.
3 – I set the daily goal for myself to be 250 words a day. No excuses. Just 250 words a day. To make it easier, I also included the word count I put into my notes (I no longer do that, but it gave me a needed boost at the beginning).
4 – I told someone what I was doing (my wife in this case, and my writing group). It’s important to have someone hold you accountable at the beginning. I’m lucky, my wife is incredibly supportive and I have a great writing group.
5 – I wrote 250 words and I stopped myself there. (I didn’t have to, but I did.)
6 – Planned for my next day’s writing session.
It sounds simple. It worked. I’m on day 40.
Here’s what I notice 40 days in:
- The first week was the hardest. After that, the effort needed to start writing (which was always my downfall) began to lessen. I don’t even think about it now. At the end of the day, I pull out my laptop and write even if I made my quota earlier because the habit is there.
- The excuses I have for not writing are still there (they are excuses, not reasons). I still have the shithead in my brain screaming at me: “I’m too stressed to write.”, “I suck, why bother?”, “I’m too tired!” etc. However, something magical is happening. These excuses are no longer excuses not to write, they’re the excuses for why I didn’t write more than 250 words! Even if I give in, I’ve written today. That’s huge! I don’t know how it happened but it did.
- I need an outline, but not knowing where my story is going is LESS of a block than before. I find that writing “just” 250 words when I don’t know for sure where I should be going is enough to kickstart something and get the flow going.
- I almost NEVER write “just” 250 words. The average on my sheet is around 400 words. I will always write more.
- Knowing that I “only” have to write 250 words makes it very easy to sit down and write. This is the biggest help to my writing.
40 days in, I’m comfortable with my writing routine. This is good. Now, it’s time to push a little and get a little better. Here are some things I’m considering:
- Adding a 250 word quota on another WIP that I want to finish
- Keeping the 250 word a day quota, but it only counts on my current WIP, while also writing on other works (but not having THOSE words count…in sense making a 250 words + goal for the day
- Simply upping the quota to a higher count like 400 words. I find this dangerous if I increase the minimum too high too fast. I may boost it to 300 and see how that feels. The idea is to keep making it easy to sit down and write.
I think in the long run, this is a good thing. The word count WILL increase and I will be well on my way. I will reach the triple digits in the writing streak. That’s a personal goal that seems very reachable now.
I hope these thoughts will give you some ideas of your own. Remember, the best writing advice to anyone who wants to be a writer is: Write! Writing every day, consistently, is one of the best ways to get better, get working and get professional.
I’m forty days in now.