The seasons are changing and spring is upon us. With spring comes the desire for cleaning, weeding, changing, and reorganizing. Writers fall into this mode as well. Writers may desire to try a new genre, begin a new manuscript, finish a lingering manuscript, reorganize creative spaces, or weed out distractions. In my case, my urge has been to weed out distractions and try something new to keep me focused and make greater progress in my writing.
Recently a writer-buddy of mine gave me some advice that I thought I’d attempt since what I had been doing hadn’t been working up to this point. Listen up Newbies, this one’s for you.
We attended a school function together that was a “Celebration of Reading” if you will. When I first met this fellow writer/author a little over a year ago, he had a few books and I thought to myself, ‘One day that’ll be me‘. Well, as we’re setting up our table displays, I noticed his works had multiplied significantly (as I set up my only title with bells and whistles to make it look fancy). Being the conversationalist that I am, I lean over to him and ask (as only I can),
“Uhhh…What have you been doing? You didn’t have that many titles when we first met. You’ve been busy! How do you get it all done?”
I’m sure this is a common question for those new to this whole writing thing.
“How do you get it all done?”
I have read countless blogs and spoken with many writer-friends about writing and making time to write. By far, I felt this particular advice was the most practical. So I put it to the test.
He advised me not to set an astronomical daily writing goal. So many suggest a daily goal of anywhere from 1800-2500 words. Which, many of us can do, but can we do it consistently? He told me he set a goal of about 750 words per day. I immediately thought, that’s pretty low. I’ll never finish my next book with a goal that low. But I continued to listen.
He went on to explain that 750 words was a more realistic writing goal for the busy writer. Many days he would exceed that goal, but if not, at least he knew he had met the goal for the day and he could feel accomplished. Eventually, he created a habit of writing (which we have all been told is essential in this business). But the difference was his goal was realistic and attainable. He said he started aiming for this lower daily writing goal everyday (or at least almost everyday) and before he knew it his table was boasting three or four more titles than he had when we first met just over a year prior.
Despite my doubts, the table didn’t lie. So I thought I’d give it a try. Here’s my take-away:
- 750 words per day turned out to be a very reasonable and realistic goal for me. I was hitting my word count in no time and when I exceeded the goal, it made me feel as if I had really put in significant time with my writing each day. I could move on to get other day-to-day responsibilities done without the guilt of having not reached my word count for that day.
- Mentally, I didn’t feel drained by the end of the day stressing and obsessing over having not met my daily writing. I felt relaxed, accomplished, and more eager to finish the story I was trying to tell.
- By the end of the week, I had made progress on my manuscript that I had been longing for for weeks. No burnout, no frustration, PLUS rewards. By far my most successful week as a writer.
It’s been a few weeks now, and I have continued to apply this writing method – successfully!
Here’s the point – daily goals of 1800-2500 words are realistic goals . . . For someone else. Not for me. If you’re struggling with forming a writing habit, maybe your goals aren’t realistic given your personal schedule and/or your writing muscles. It takes time to transform our physical bodies and build muscles. Writing muscles are no different. I’m not saying aim low, but maybe you’re not being honest with yourself. While I met my 750 wpd many times, most days I was hitting 1400-1800 wpd anyway – without the pressure. This created a freedom for me to write, thereby nurturing my love for writing instead of fostering a dread for doing it, which would often lead to avoidance. I don’t want writing to become a chore, but at times the effort feels labored when I consistently fail to accomplish my writing goals.
Thanks to readjusting my daily goals, I have rediscovered myself as a writer and again look forward to tackling old and new manuscripts.
Are you setting realistic goals for yourself or are you losing sleep and hair trying to meet others’ expectations of you? If you need to write more – want to write more, but it’s just not happening for you, try scaling back that word count a bit and watch your story (or stories) come alive! Try it and share your results.
Scale back and write on!