50 Words at a Time

I have an hour set aside every day for writing and I have to fight to keep it free.  That's something that non-writers just don't get.  "Can't you just write for a half hour now, do this with me, and write for a half hour later?"  No, I can't.  I need uninterrupted writing time in order to get the brain flowing so that the resulting words are good, usable words.

It's like running.  You can't just get warmed up, jog for fifteen minutes and cool down two to three times a day and expect it to yield the same results as jogging for an hour straight.  You need to get in the groove and stay in the groove for a prolonged period of time.

So yes, my writing hour is an entire hour but it's also only an hour.  I might have some free time later in the day, I might not.  It doesn't matter so much to me so long as I get that scheduled hour in.  Later on I might fight the battle of how many writing sessions I get into one day.  But for now the hour seems to be enough to placate my inner, frustrated artist.

Which means that much of my writing challenges come from what I can do in that hour not the number of hours I type.  This has led to some interesting psychological battles with myself (split personality here I come).  At first when I tried the self-imposed writing hour I told myself I just had to get something down.

Then I realized I was being ridiculous.  With no word count looming over my head it meant I was giving myself permission to walk away after fifteen words.  In terms of writing output (the entire point of a schedule) I was better off doing what I was doing before the schedule.  At least when writing when the spirit moved I would have inspired sessions of writing 800+ words.

So I realized that I needed a word count minimum for said writing sessions.  It wasn't so much about the hour as it was getting words down on the page.  I could contemplate my story all I liked but if I didn't actually put something down to paper it was fruitless labor.

I started small.  I told myself that I had to write at least 300 words before my writing session was over and those 300 words needed to be finished within an hour.  It took me a surprisingly long time to really embrace these deadlines.  I would always get the 300 words down but sometimes it would take me the full hour to do so.  I'd check my email, check Facebook, check sales... check anything but my work in progress.  Training yourself to not only focus but be creative on demand is no easy task.

The word count minimum eventually had an effect, however.  It took months but I finally started to notice that I was not only reaching that goal more quickly but also going way past it on a regular basis.  So I upped the minimum by fifty words.  I figured 350 words shouldn't change all that much, right?

Wrong.

I was back to struggling with myself.  Most of the hour was wasted with various forms of procrastination.  My creative self in full rebellion against my business/publisher self.  It took awhile before I was back at a point where my minimum felt easily achievable.  But you know what's interesting?  It didn't take as long to get used to.

I'm now at a 450 word minimum.  Each time I raise my self imposed goal it takes less time for my brain to embrace the increased writing output.  I was seriously on 300 words for more than six months.  The 450 goal happened a few weeks ago and I could see myself easily going to 500 in the not-too-distant future.

I think the reason why it's working for me is because I've allowed myself to slowly adapt.  If I had set the standard too high right off the bat I would have probably frustrated myself.  Any enjoyment I glean from writing (oh yeah... this is supposed to be fun...) would have been sucked away by impossible standards.

My ultimate goal is to hit 800-1,000 words in my hour-long writing session.  Just seven more sets of fifty to go...

Comments

  1. Great post! I was thinking that 300 words seem so few but if I could do 300 every night that is still progress. (That's the tough part, sticking to it every night, in between reading, reviewing and life). What stuck out in your post was the comparison to running. I am also a queen of procrastination!

    Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

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    1. 'I could contemplate my story all I liked but if I didn't actually put something down to paper it was fruitless labor.' This part is also very very true :)

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    2. Yeah the 300 words really adds up if you look at the entire week and then the entire month. And what's even better is that the story is always fresh in my brain so it's an "effortless" 300 words compared to going weeks without writing and then forcing 1,200 words out of my brain at once.

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