For one week, I tried to write an hour each morning before I went to work. Setting a minimum writing time, though, didn’t work for me. After a few days, I was bored and still not satisfied with how my creative nonfiction piece was progressing.
The next week, after I finished reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, I decided to try a word count goal instead. I considered trying to write 500 words a day. But I realized that I am a fairly concise writer and would struggle to hit my goal often. I opted for 300 words a day instead.
I was a little embarrassed—300 seemed so small. But I remembered that I had never written on a daily basis before. A year ago, when I was in college studying journalism and creative nonfiction writing and I never had a routine at all. Mostly, I procrastinated until one or two days before a first draft was due, wait around for inspiration, then ended up forcing 1,000 or 2,000 words in the three hours before the class where it was due.
The first few days, it actually took me an hour to write 300 words. I would go back and delete extraneous words and phrases from my draft before I started writing. I know this goes against all writing advice. I know your writing and editing brain are different and should be activated in separate sittings. But at least I was hitting 300.
Again, I looked toward Anne Lamott’s book for guidance—the “Shitty First Drafts” chapter in particular. By Saturday, I was able to stop myself when I went into editing mode. When I wasn’t going back and deleting material, I was able to write over 500 words in an hour.
But I’m going to stick to 300 words.
Setting a goal I won’t always achieve works for a lot of the things I do: running, healthy eating, reading. But it doesn’t work for writing. I need a goal I can achieve every day, even when it’s hard and I don’t feel like working on it at all. To many, 300 words per day probably sounds very small. But this requirement ensures I produce 2,100 words every week at a minimum and at least 109,200 words per year. Even when I’m sick or it’s a holiday or I’m traveling, I know I can produce 300 words.