Monday, November 9, 2020

The All or Nothin’ Approach to Writing

A post by Mary Fan
“How much do you write per day?” That’s a question we writers often get, from fellow wordsmiths and non-scribes alike. During the month of November, aka National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), there’s a daily goal of 1,667 in order to hit 50,000 words by the 30th. The official NaNoWriMo website even rewards you for getting your words in daily via badges. And, of course, there’s the ever-present advice to “write every day,” even if it’s just 500 words or a few paragraphs.

That’s sound advice for some people. I always envy those who have a set schedule of waking up an hour earlier than their families every morning and knocking out a few pages while the rest of the world is making its coffee, or who settle down every evening after dinner to get their word count in for the day. I get how that kind of routine works well for creatures of habit – this is writing time, and writing shall be done.


Problem is, I’m the opposite of a creature of habit. Every time I’ve tried to set a daily schedule for myself for anything, be it work, writing, exercise, or music practice, it’s been a disaster. Oh, it’ll be nice for a few weeks, this daily rhythm of knowns, but soon, an agitated instinct pops up, going “Every day, it’s the same stupid thing! Can I blow off this one?” The next thing I know, I look forward to the blow-offs, until I’m back to my usual chaotic habits.


When it comes to writing, saying “okay, 500 words a day, come hell or high water” or something can be fun for a spell. I remember during NaNoWriMo 2017, I managed to get my 1700ish words in en route to and while vacationing in Arizona, typing them out on my phone and emailing them to myself. But the moment I hit that 50k, even though there were still a few days left to November and I still had half my novel left to go, I was like “Mmkay, I’m done.”


I’ve managed to write an 8,000-word short story in a single day, and then refused to touch a word of fiction for the next three weeks. I’ve cranked out half a novel one month, then ditched it for another, then picked it up again and cranked out the other half in a few frenetic weeks. Basically, for me, it’s all or nothin’. I’m either banging out thousands of words over the course of three-plus hours, or I’m binge-watching Netflix comfort shows and pretending there is no book. In fact, I can’t even bring myself to sit down to write unless I have at least two hours to dedicate to it. “Oh, there’s an hour before I have to head out? Can’t get anything done, might as well faff around on Facebook.”


So, how much do I write per day? It’s complicated. What about you? Do you write every day, or is it feast or famine?


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I really feel this. I do best writing a little every day but often enough I am a Mary.

Katrina Monroe said...

Oh, man. I NEED the habit. Even if I only write 80 words a day, if I'm knee-deep in a book, I have to stay in it or I'll risk abandoning it forever. I don't have the attention span.

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