At the beginning of the year I made this big resolution about writing an average of a thousand words per day. At first things went well. Throughout the month of January I met and exceeded my goal on a daily basis.
But then February got here and something changed. I started writing fewer words in the day. On most days I barely limped past the five hundred mark.
I started to get worried. Was my initial success simply the result of beginners fever? Was I starting to burn out after only half the year was up?
I kept trying to make appointments for myself to write each day, but in spite of having ample time to complete my goals, my wordcount consisted mainly of blog posts and little else. I didn’t know what was wrong. I was starting to doubt my resolve as a writer.
But something more specific had changed between the months of January and February: my wife had moved up to working an earlier shift that required her to get up sometime around five forty-five. Before that change, I had been waking up somewhere around five thirty and writing till she got up somewhere around seven.
After she started working the early shift, I started telling myself that I would write, “sometime this morning.” I set plenty of word goals, and from time to time I met them, but it never felt the same. I found myself frittering away my time with twitter and other online distractions.
And then I read a blog post by Katie Lyn Branson, about the importance of scheduling your writing time, and the light bulb finally came on for me.
It wasn’t that I was lazy, or uninterested in writing. Well, okay, I am a little lazy. But the difference in my output was affected by how I thought about my time. During January my morning writing had a specific starting point and a specific ending point. It wasn’t something I had consciously set up for myself, that was just how it all worked out. February was far less structured.
I realized I needed a schedule. I needed a time limit in which I would say, “Albert, you will write for x amount of time and do nothing else. Then you can quit.”
So yesterday I tried it. It worked beautifully. I wrote to 2,445 words with breaking a sweat and finished off one of the short stories I had started earlier in the month.
If I’d simply set myself a word goal of almost 2,500 words for the day, you can bet I would have poked around on the internet for a while, felt guilty about it, and then tried to come back to my writing, only to crank out a measly thousand words or so. But the schedule worked like magic.
Why? Two words: quitting time. Do not get me wrong, I like writing as much as the next guy, but even so, it can be hard work. It was so good to be able to look back at my writing and say, “Well, that was a good output for today,” and go and watch the Nostalgia Critic without guilt.
In other words, I was able to use the internet as a reward, instead of using it as a reason not to write.
Maybe you’re in the same boat I am. Maybe you’re not writing nearly as much as you’d like to be. Instead of making more and more wordcount goals for yourself, try scheduling instead. Tell yourself, “I will do nothing but write for a whole hour.” You may surprise yourself with what is possible.