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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Writing For Me

I’m trying a little something new in 2015. It’s not a resolution, exactly, as much as it is a declaration of devotion to the thing I most love to do with my time: write.

I had a particularly heavy December. I won’t get into it here, but it really made me reevaluate things. In a sense: Life is really freaking short. And all I want to do in life is write. Therefore, I should treat myself by writing daily.

Now, of course, I do write daily—emails, work-related documents, freelance, heck, even texts—but I don’t necessarily work on my fiction daily.

And it’s the fiction that makes me happiest.

Sure, I’ve mentioned in this space before that when I’m drafting I like to average a thousand words per day. Which is easy enough to average, but with a full-time job, a family that includes a husband and two kids, and then my other activities—most notably all my ultramarathon training—it’s very hard to do daily.

So, I made it easy on myself. This is a treat, after all, not a chore.

My goal?

Write 100 words a day.

Words of fiction—plotting, revision and other writerly tasks don’t count.

And these words don’t have to be perfect or profound. They even can be deleted the next day and replaced, but I have to give myself the time to write 100 words per day, even if it’s just thumb-tapped into my phone with a baby on my lap.

Now, 100 words isn’t much. It’s maybe a paragraph or a small exchange of dialogue. But it’s something.

To avoid a slide that ends in “Oh, I wrote 200 words today—that’s great because tomorrow is going to be really busy,” I decided to go old school and keep myself accountable with a sticker chart, as you can see above. A red star means 100 words. A gold star means 1,000 words. And, because I’m in the middle of a revision, a silver star means revision.

A couple of other writers, most notably Victoria Schwab, have mentioned using sticker charts to keep them on task and I figured it would be a fun (there’s that word again) way to keep me on point, rather than, say, an app on my phone or something.

At this writing, I’m nine days in (as you can see from the chart), and what’s interesting is that even on the days where I just have a 100-word star, I pretty much always write more. I think this has to do with the natural length in that it’s hard to write 100 words and really get anywhere, but I have had several 300-, 500- and 700-word days, even if they aren’t specifically denoted.

And even if that stops, and I have a whole month of 100-word days (only), that’s still 3,000 more words at the end of the month than I had at the beginning. Plus, that’s 3,000 more words toward something I love, which is why I’m doing this in the first place. Not for some crazy year-end word count. But because this is what I want to do, why not do it every day?

One more note on this. A friend of mine illustrated this point of doing a little something each day in a much more beautiful way than my sticker chart. She’s a music journalist and a mom and she made a 2014 retrospective that features a single second of each day of the year. It’s a gorgeous bit of storytelling that is poignant and epic and amazing and is a love letter to the year that illustrates beautifully what can happen one day at a time. See it here:

What do you want to do every day?


Jim Jackson said...

I do have three prosaic daily goals that I perform in the morning: (1) Review my goals for the day (2) Write an affirmation 25 times and (3) strecth.

However, what I really want to do is be mindful of the pleasure of living.

I know that sounds crazy, but I can get tied up in everything and nothing and forget that simple bit of recognition.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I understand what you are saying, Jim. I enjoy writing, but sometimes I find myself writing for "them." Becoming so mindful of editors or wondering what other writers will submit, I forget that I'm doing this for fun. It can't be for any other objective because so far, there is no other reward. Writers can't exist well by themselves, and yet, dealing with groups, personalities, emails, social media, making deadlines, etc. ties me up sometimes, too.

Writing for myself, improving my craft, and enjoying it--that's what I'll try to be mindful of.

Gloria Alden said...

Sarah, I like your idea. I used those little stars on charts for my students, but it sounds like a good idea for me, too. I'll have to buy some of those little stars since I long ago gave them away.

I write every day. Sometimes it's my blog, my daily journal,and I answer emails, etc., but what I want to spend more time writing is my fiction - my latest book, a short story here or there and poetry. I think the stars would show me my progress in that area.

Warren Bull said...

It sounds like a good idea, well worth trying. Please let us know how it works for in a month or two.

KM Rockwood said...

Great goal! I find that when I actually get started, I usually write more than I intended to. I do count rewrites the same as original writing.

One of my goals is to always have both a short story and a novel in the works. That way, when I get stuck, I have an automatic project to fall back on while I let my rather cluttered subconscious deal with the other project.

Sarah Henning said...

Great ideas, everyone. Right now, I'm really enjoying my sticker chart. I'm hoping that by keeping my goals small, it never because the bane of my existence.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Sarah, I like that you can give yourself more than one star, depending upon what you have time to do that day. It looks like you've made meaningful progress this year. I hope it continues and increases. Best wishes!

Sarah Henning said...

Thank you, Paula! I'm definitely making some progress. And I'm having FUN!