Do you have trouble finding the motivation to write everyday? A lot of people do. Life happens; jobs, family, chores, pets, social media, books, movies, chocolate… (Mmmmm, chocolate.) My point is, writing every day can be a hard habit to cultivate. You are doing homework for the rest of your life.
Homework as a hobby. Let that thought sink in.
Ok, now that the sobbing has stopped, let’s figure out a way to make it relatively painless. Writing is habit forming. Unleashing that part of your brain on a regular basis can be not just habit forming, but also pleasurable. I’m not going to compare it to drugs. Maybe it’s closer to a good exercise or meditation high. Anyway, there is an event coming that may help you develop the habit.
If you have been trying to write for more than a year and have not heard about NaNoWriMo, you really should get out from under the rock once in a while. Take a walk through their website, or, if you prefer, “Google it.”
The premise is simple. Write a novel in a month.
The devil is in the details, and there are plenty of them. I’ll hit the highlights as I understand them. Write 50,000 words between Nov 1st and 30th. That averages to 1,667 words a day. There a tons of rules to follow if you want to officially “Win” the event, and you get a whole community of support online. It also is during the start of the Holiday season. (Seriously, why during November?) The percentage of participants finishing out the months is only about 20%, which is not too surprising, considering the high word count expected each day. That’s getting close to full-time writer word counts. Even assuming you are really just writing a crappy first draft, that’s a lot of words if you haven’t gotten that far in your writing.
There are also lots of writers who just write alongside the event. They do the word count, but it’s to work on an existing project. Or they write poetry, so they try to write one a day. You could try that with limericks, too, if your writing leaned that way. Some try a 500 word count, or 1,000. Some people know they simply can’t produce that word count, but they set aside a specific time a day to apply butt to chair and write. Or they just carry the project with them , everywhere they go, using spare moments to write.
I spent a year and a half with a word count goal that high. Five handwritten pages would average me 1700 words a day. It took a couple of months to hit that consistently. I learned to shrug off the one or two page days, then chuckle gleefully when I’d have some ten page days. Some days it was on a completely different project than the one I was trying to finish, but I took those days, writing everything down into a different notebook, and thankful for the inspiration.
I still write rough drafts this way, pen to paper. I find it soothing to the persnickety parts of the brain, letting the ideas play in the mud. No red spellcheck line yelling at me, or the blue what-the-crap-is-wrong-now lines. I’m able to cross out, and jumble together, or leave arrows, asterisks. and alternate words anywhere I damn well please.
My brain was a different shape by the time I finished that project. The self-imposed cooling off period, while I wrote whatever came into my head and got set up with a newer laptop to type up the second draft, was filled with a strange euphoria. I had finished a project. Something some writers struggle with their whole lives. No matter what, I had that. A properly finished pile of crap. My crap. My own crap that I would figure out how to fix. (It’s called revision and editing in more polite groups.)
My point is, you won’t be ready to publish Dec 1st. You will still have a lot of work to do, but if you spend that month developing that writing habit, don’t stop when it’s over. Continue it. Embrace it. You don’t have to “Win” or officially finish, but you might find those spaces in your brain and schedule that are built just for writing. And if you are a writer looking for those spaces, it’s pretty damn wonderful.
The sublime feeling of finishing a project never gets old, and sustained word count is an experience not to be missed. Both are worth working toward, and I spend a fair amount of daily thought on how to get myself back to that place. I want you to have those feelings, too. So give yourself permission to write, whether it’s by joining the ranks of NaNoWriMo or a more solitary program. Give yourself permission to have bad days, then forgive and move on. You can do it.