I wrote 500 words a day, every day last week! Do you know what happened? Well, I wrote 3,500+ words! Which, if you’re “into losing weight” you know that’s the same number deficit calories you need to lose one pound. And no, that’s not why you’re here, but you can see where my head is at. After my regular mom/life/work/wife/podcaster responsibilities, I’m always trying to balance my “free time” between writing and working out.
But I did say that I’d show up and be committed to my writing this year, didn’t I? So what did I do? I took January and February to ease into it, and some of March to plan out a . . . well, a plan. Then I got my two WAD (Writers After Dark) authors, Raymond and Brandon, to join me. We’ve been serving as accountability partners and I have to say, “So far so good!” We’re continuing the writing shenanigans this week, taking it one week at a time, and planning on going on for as long as possible. Why? Because . . .
If you want to be a writer, the one essential thing you must do is WRITE.
“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens.
Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.”
― Ray Bradbury
I will say, even though I met my word goals pretty easily, some days were better than others. I had days when it took me an hour or two (because I had to shut off the overthinking brain), and other days where I was finished within half an hour.
What did I learn from this?
Writing is the easy part. The challenge is in starting to write.
Without overthinking it.
And while letting go of being a perfectionist . . . right.
YES, you’re going to feel great that you wrote every day, but NO, it’s not perfect. It’s not meant to be. At least, for my purpose of doing this. I want to get back in the habit of writing every day and making it a priority. It’s just too easy otherwise to find excuses to “do it tomorrow.” Motherhood takes pity on no one and I fall prey to its trap every day.
If you think you’d like to join us with writing 500 words a day, here are some things to consider:
Expectations v. Reality
I went into this with the dream that I’d end up writing more than I set out to. I mean, some days I did, but for the most part I only wrote a few words over my goal and went on about my to-dos. I thought for sure I’d hit an inspiration strike and would write for hours and hours and would be impressed with myself and my amazingness. That didn’t happen.
I felt good about my writing each day, but each session raised a question or two. There are things in my manuscript I have to change, and my internal struggle was on fixing that or moving forward with my new 500 words a day. I did the latter. My goal for now is to get into the habit, and if I take my writing time to go back and revise, I’m failing my experiment.
Same goes for editing and accepting the imperfections. If you try this, there will be mistakes, you’ll find sentences that don’t entirely make sense, maybe you’ll write on different stories (hey, whatever tugs at your writing heart, I say go for it), and some days you’ll be hard on yourself because you know you just half-assed it. Whatever, it happens. The good news is that daily writing brings us the opportunity to do better the next day. The important thing is that you show up.
Before starting the experiment, define your goals clearly.
What kind of writing do you want to be doing?
One novel, two novels, blog posts, journal, or short stories?
How deep do you want to be?
Will it be 500 words a day, 1000 words, or will be timed (30 minutes daily)?
I wouldn’t say that daily writing lends itself for in-depth mind-blowing pieces, but it depends on your frame of mind and how much you thought about the scene before starting. I just went right in. Otherwise, I feared writing would feel like a chore. And honestly, if I was too self-conscious of what I was about to do, I knew I’d be scrambling for ideas on how to tie loose ends on scenes I haven’t yet written.
Don't try to form too many habits at the same time!
It’s fantastic if you want to write every day this year, but if you’re adding that to a new workout routine, a strict new meditation schedule, quit smoking, join a new book club, or start a new diet, you’re probably going to crash . . . hard.
You need to give yourself enough time to form a new habit. According to studies, it ranges from 21, to 28, to 55, to 60 days, so . . . basically try for at least two months and see what happens. At WAD, we’re only in our second week so we have no input on that, but we (I’m speaking for the boys here) are enjoying the process and the accountability
Determine a routine, or a writing trigger.
As much as writing late at night when the kids were babies worked for me, it seems I cannot get back into it. And that was a truth I had to face. Sure, years ago it was a great time to write, but not anymore. What I realized is part of my failure over the past couple years is that I kept trying to do things the same as I used to, but my life has changed and so have I. If something stops working, stop trying to force it back! Try something different, and eventually you’ll hit the sweet writing spot.
I did much better on days I put writing on the top of my list. It was done early in the morning, and I didn’t have to stress it the rest of the day. Or worse, I didn’t have to face the keyboard while mentally drained and physically exhausted. Or rather, while being lazy.
Studies have shown—you know we love studies here at WAD—that having a routine triggers your habit and helps it to be more effective. If you write more at night than in the morning, after lighting incense, twerking ten times, and doing five jumping jacks, then for the love of all that is sacred, do it. Every single time. Also, send us a video.
Please hang up!
The number you have dialed is not available at this time . . .
Okay, so basically disconnect from anything electronic and anything that can and will distract you! Personally, I just turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature on my devices and start writing. I’m not allowed to check social media, reply to anyone, answer any calls (unless it’s school), or research anything on the web (I make notes), and go for it.
Check in every day.
If you have accountability partners, check in with them daily. Everyone has different writing times and schedules, so Raymond, Brandon, and I tend to check in every day for the previous day’s writing session. It is important to track your progress to yourself and to others if that helps you. We like to give each other encouraging criticisms. Rather than, “Well, I’m better than you because I wrote 1,201 words!”, we say, “Well, that’s 497 more words than you had last week. Keep it up, darn it!”
No one is here to put the others down or to make anyone feel bad. We cheer for each other, and we celebrate all words written. And I do mean ALL of them.
So, will it actually work in the long run? I don’t know, but we sure are trying!
Do you write every day? What has worked and hasn’t worked for you?
Or are you considering trying it? Let us know your thoughts!
By S. Katherine Anthony
S.K. Anthony (Shanny) is a writer, a reader, and make-stuff-up-er who lives in New York. She is an award-winning author and a podcaster. When she isn’t busy with her toddler twins, S.K. finds herself being transported into the world of imagination. Well, either that or running away from spiders . . . she is convinced they are out to get her!