It was the only New Year’s Resolution I ever kept. It started with a quote on an Instagram post. I don’t remember who made the post, but I’m pretty sure the quote was by Stephen King. It was something about writing 300 words a day and by the end of the year you’d have a novel. (I can’t find it now. If you know what quote I’m talking about, drop it in the comments.)
That quote inspired me to wonder, what daily writing goal could I set that I would actually keep?
Now I hate writing by word count. Keeping track of the numbers annoys me and distracts me from the actual writing. That’s one of the reasons that I’ve only won NaNoWriMo once in my life.
The other reason NaNo thwarts me is because the daily word count is a little too high. To win NaNo, you have to write 1,667 words a day. That’s a lot of words – especially when you already write hundreds of words a day as a professional content writer.
So I came up with my own challenge: writing a page a day. I made some rules around what a “page” was and how to cheat, but I’ll go over those in another post. The point of this post is what I learned from the experience. It turns out, I learned a lot. Here are the highlights:
- Think ahead to succeed. I put in some pre-work around what might get in the way of me writing and what excuses I might use. I had plans to overcome those challenges or short-circuit those excuses. They never blindsided me so I didn’t have to think through a solution when I was tired/sick/overwhelmed/just not feeling it.
- Your friends and family can help you write. No they never put words on the page for me, but they did all know what I was up to. At about nine o’clock friends would start asking, “Hey, have you written your page yet?” At home, my family would start around 10 p.m. saying things like, “Oh, we can’t watch another episode, you have to go write.” I didn’t ask them to do it, they just saw that this goal was important to me and they supported me in it.
- Momentum builds. I was far more likely to fail on day three than on day 300. On day three, I wouldn’t lose much if I decided to drop this experiment. On day 300 not writing would have meant throwing away my 299 day streak. There was no way that was going to happen.
- Writing a page a day adds up. The quote above was right. By writing a small, set amount everyday I ended up with a huge volume of work by the end of the year. Yes, most of it was crap (as all first drafts are). But it was a start. By December 31st I had completed one novel, written an entire second one and started on a third. I had also written a couple of short stories, including the one that eventually became Remade: A Short Story, which I published this month on Kindle Direct Publishing.
These are just a few of the lessons I learned while writing a page a day. I know I also became a better writer in the process through sheer repetition. Also, writing at that volume pushed me to be creative. The page had to be filled. I didn’t have time to reject wild ideas. Sure, the first drafts need editing, but every first draft does.
Have you ever tried something like this? If so, what did you learn? If not, what’s holding you back?