A messy desk. In the bedroom, a clean path from the bed to the door. Stacks of unread books line the ground and/or bookcase. An empty social calendar. Piles of dirty clothes. A well-used coffee pot. An overused laptop.
If you were to walk into my apartment right now, that’s what you’d find. As you navigate the mess, you might be thinking that I’m a hoarder or just in terrible need of a maid. Well, you’d be wrong on both accounts. The truth is that I’m a writer and this is November. Those two things might not equate to much, but if you’ve read my column from two weeks ago (sorry I didn’t have one last week, but it ties in with this week’s column) you’d have known that it’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).
And I think I have to admit defeat.
The goal of NaNoWriMo, simply put, is to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. Currently, I am at 21,626 words and it’s currently Nov. 19. Unless I quit my day job and unsubscribed to my Netflix, there is literally no way that I can catch up.
That doesn’t mean that I’ll be giving up and not writing every day. Far from it. In fact, I’m going to try to make it a point to write every day. I believe that’s an essential part of being a successful, published writer.
With that in mind, let’s talk about some important aspects of being a habitual writer.
- Finding the time to write. Unless you’re Stephen King or another full-time writer, you’re not going to be able to write 2,000 words everyday because that’s your only job. If you’re like me, and just about every writer out there, you’ve got a daytime. That means trying to squeeze a few hundred words in before wor, sometimes a few hundred during your breaks, and then if you’re lucky you can get a few hundreds words when you get home. It can be difficult to break up your writing session like that because you don’t want to stop at a certain point. I get that. The important thing is to find a writing schedule that you’re comfortable with and one that you’ll be able to get some writing in. If that means you have to wake up earlier than normal, then cool. More power to you. I’m more of a night owl and prefer just to stay up at night consuming large amounts of caffeine.
- Set up a daily/weekly/monthly goal. Theoretically, you’ve found the time to write. Congratulations. Now, you have to set up a word goal. The difference between finding the time to write and setting up a word goal is like the difference between oil and water. Having said that, sometimes you can’t cook without the oil and the water. For me, I have a chaotic work schedule that fluctuates every day depending on what type of night meetings I have to cover. Some days I have no meetings while other days I have meetings that last most of the night. For me, setting up a 500 words per day goal is a bit more feasible than saying I’ll write two hours before and/or after work. If you’re lucky enough to have a regular set work schedule, then it might be better to set up that hourly goal. The important thing to remember is to set that goal and do your best to complete it.
- Don’t break from your target goals. So, once you’ve gotten into the rhythm of writing every day, it is vital to not swerve from that goal. If you set up a goal of 100 words per day, and if you take the weekend off, that equates to 500 words per week. You’ll produce about 2,000 words a month. That’s then 24,000 words a year. In about two to three years, you’ve written a normal size book. Depending on how fast you’d like to pump out books, you might consider increasing that word goal.
- Take a day off. Everyone needs a break once in a while. Make sure to schedule a day or at least some time off to clear your head. Stephen King takes time every day to walk a few miles. I like to watch a show between work and writing. Sometimes I like to watch those shows for a few hours and then write 10 or 100 words before bedtime, don’t judge me. Clearing your head by doing something mindless helps to reset your brain. If you’ve ever suffered from writer’s block, sometimes hitting your mind’s reset button is the way to go.
I hope these tips helped because I know they helped me by writing them. Maybe I’ll have to take my own advice and try them. I hope you all had a safe and happy Thanksgiving.
Categories: Mastering the Craft