In January, I began a new habit of writing 500 words per weekday in what I call my “fiction file.” At first I hacked my way through a 19,000-word novella. As I ended that, I realized that this was probably a bigger story, but I had no real sense of what direction it would take. I could find out where I wanted to go by thinking hard about it. Writing a certain number of words per day is one way to guarantee I would make space in my life for such thinking.
(It’s similar to what some people do with “morning pages” — for fans of Julia Cameron.)
It’s April now, and I’ve been pretty consistent. I took a week off when we were in London (honestly, I forgot the first weekday, then realized what I had done. I decided that since I write for a living, being on vacation was a reason to take a short break). In those 500 word spurts, I’ve played with different plot ideas, and what different characters might be like. Or I crank out descriptions. Or something random that occurs to me.
I am not sure how much of it will ever be usable. The past few days in particular I have felt like I have nothing to say. Why do I keep doing this?
Here’s why: daily writing practice helps improve my skills. Setting a daily word goal forces me to make space amid everything else for this practice. A violinist wouldn’t (or shouldn’t!) complain that playing her scales wasn’t leading to anything. Or that she wasn’t inspired to play the scales.
So what? Inspiration is over-rated.
And so the 500 words per day continue. It doesn’t take much time, but it’s about making sure this time does exist in my life amid all the parts of a writing career that don’t involve writing.
What skills are you practicing daily?
In other news: I talk about the idea of “streaks” (be they running or writing streaks — or other things, like time-tracking!) in my next book, Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done. The book will be out May 29. If you like this blog, or the podcast when we don’t have audio issues, would you please pre-order a copy? Pre-orders help show there is interest in a book, and influence early coverage and how many copies retailers stock and how prominently they feature the book. I appreciate your support! Retailer links and pre-orders benefits outlined here.