Tuesday, May 8, 2018

1000 Words a Day. Except...

I have often said (bragged, some would assert) that I write 1,000 words every day. And that's almost completely true. I write 1,000 words every day--including weekends and holidays--when I'm working on a project. If I finish one I don't feel obligated to start another the next day. Sometimes I'll take a week off.

But not writing makes me anxious and cranky so the breaks don't last very long. One exception: I'm going on vacation at the end of this week and don't intend to write while I'm away. It'll be my longest break in probably five years at least.

That's not what I'm posting about today, though. What you read above was mostly a digression.

The thing about writing 1,000 words a day is that it seems like a goal but it can easily become a limit. Before I imposed that minimum on myself I would sometimes write all day long and produce who knows how many words. Other days I wouldn't write at all. The 1,000-word thing was meant to provide some order when I had a number of book contracts that all needed to be fulfilled and I wanted to be sure I wasn't falling badly behind.

So writing 1,000 words a day became very useful. In years when I was writing four books almost nonstop, it was essential to know where I was on any given day in terms of my obligations and when I would have to start the next project to get it finished on time. I have never missed a deadline and I am proud of that.

The problem, though, was that after it became a habit, writing 1,000 words a day became the goal and therefore the end point. So I would aim at writing exactly 1,000 words on any given day and stop sometimes in the middle of a sentence when I hit that mark.

Now I rarely write more than 1,000 words a day. Sometimes, when I have fewer obligations elsewhere, (or if I was forced to miss one day and have to catch up) I will go 2,000 words, but I never stop on a random number. It's writing in the thousands, usually one and occasionally two. A couple of weeks ago I wrote 3,000 words in a day and thought I had accomplished something on the level of  inventing gravity.

What I'm saying is: Don't set a goal and then let it rule your day. I'm working on writing at least 1,000 words a day but not caring if the number that I finish with at night is random. To keep writing until I don't feel like it or don't have the time anymore. But it's not easy because I've settled into this routine and it feels weird to break it. I'll get to a point where I can do what I aim to do, but it's not easy and it's not going to happen quickly. Maybe after the vacation I'll be ready to start on a different routine.

Your takeaway should be: Do as I say, not as I do.