Research shows that, by now, over 50 percent of people have given up on their new year’s resolutions. By the first week in February, that number will jump into the 80s. While those numbers refer to all resolutions (and you can click through to the articles for the whys and wherefores), I can only assume, based on anecdotal experience, that the numbers for writing resolutions are very similar. Over the next three weeks, I will present some ideas to help you stay—or get back—on your path to success for the rest of this—still young—year. This week, let’s take a look at writing consistently and hitting your daily word counts.
The most common writing resolution seems to be “I will write X amount of words (or time) every day.” This affirmation stems from the idea that to be a writer, one must write, and the related idea that one must practice if one wants to improve one’s craft. There are myriads of famous, successful writers who shout some version of these statements from the hilltops and present it as their first piece of writing advice for aspiring writers.
While writing consistently is a virtue, this advice is somewhat disingenuous. It is easy for a professional writer whose primary source of income is their writing, and who has an agent on retainer to search for and submit to venues for their writing, to say that you need to write a certain amount a day, but for the rest of us, life happens. Work exhausts us; family obligations arise; health situations must be considered. Moreover, this type of goal prioritizes quantity over quality (more on that in the coming weeks). How does research and reading fit in? To what extent should one prioritize actual writing—keeping your pen moving—over researching, querying, and submitting?
I would like to suggest an easier way to achieve your word count goal: Instead of setting a daily goal, set a weekly goal. Let’s say you set a modest goal, 250 words a day. Two hundred fifty words is approximately one double-spaced page. If you can write just one page a day, the thinking goes, you will have 365 pages by the end of the year, enough for a full-length novel. That’s all well and good until you start missing days. Given the very common issues delineated in the above paragraph, it is easy to find yourself falling behind and feeling disheartened.
Consider, instead, setting a weekly writing goal. Instead of setting a 250-word a day goal, set a weekly goal of 1750 words. If you hit the goal, you will have written the same amount of words, but if you happen to miss a day due to circumstances beyond your control, you can still achieve what you set out to do, as long as you make up those words by the end of the week.
A weekly goal will also allow you to schedule time around your own individual schedule. Perhaps you have a big family dinner every Sunday, or your wife works late on Thursday nights. You can work around those (and other similar issues) by scheduling writing time when it is more convenient both for yourself and for others in your life. Need to block off a day for editing, querying, submitting, an/or working on your author platform? A weekly goal allows you integrate these activities with your writing schedule and to stay consistent with these other areas of your writing practice as well.
Why a weekly goal instead of a monthly or longer-time-period goal? Well, writing consistently is still important. A weekly goal still sets a regular, measurable deadline. If you have to hustle to reach your goal on a Saturday night, good. That’s why you’re setting goals for yourself in the first place. I believe that weekly goals provide a good medium between consistency and achievability.
What is you still fall behind? What if your word count goals push you toward quantity over quality? Tune in next week for my proposed answer.