I hit a major milestone last week. Since February I’ve written more than 100,000 words. Let’s put that into perspective. According to Amazon’s Text Stats, the median length for all books is about 64,000 words. I have written enough to fill one novel and am halfway through a second. While I doubt many of my words are novel-worthy, I know there are a handful of great ideas buried in all the debris. More importantly, I’ve developed as a writer and found a discipline that has eluded me for years.
I’ve always liked to think of myself as a writer. Witty, pithy, insightful, sure, but with NOTHING to show for it. Like many would-be writers I talked about writing, i thought about writing, I bought moleskins, notebooks, dictation programs, apps, but the result was always the same. Nothing! Maybe a half a page here, a blog post there, but mostly an empty page and a mindful of half baked ideas.
So one big goal for 2015 was to write more. For the last few years I set up alerts, systems, and tricks to get me writing more. Some things worked and others not so much. I managed to write once or maybe twice a week at best, but my natural inertia kicked in and I would find reasons not to write. I needed something drastic. Actually I needed two things. First, make the time and second, make it a daily habit.
To accomplish the first I waged war on my own busyness. I reduced my information and social media diets considerably. I found ways to eliminate digital distractions. And I put down my damn phone. I was able to write three or four times a week, but I still wanted more. I wanted to write every single day.
Then I found the solution, 750words.com. I wrote about it here a few months back, but with 100,000 later I need to shout about it a little more. I started In February, committing to write 750 words every day. AND, I wrote every single day. After fighting my own procrastination and laziness it was astonishing. Writing is hard work. Churning out words takes discipline and at first much of what I wrote was terrible. Too personal. Too mundane. Too repetitive. But at a certain point I got a rhythm. Pieces started to flow together. It may not be great, but some of it was worthy of posting on my blog, worthy of sharing and worthy of asking for feedback.
Some days I start with a rough idea. Others I already have a full post sketched out in my mind. Sometimes I just start writing and it begins to take shape. The ideas coalesce and 750 words later I am done. What is really critical is the discipline that has come with the act of writing. Initially it took sacrifice just to get my ass in the chair. Then it took work to write. Now it takes effort not to write. Whether I have anything to say or not isn’t important, it’s the ritual of sitting down, writing the first words and pushing through to the end. That’s the real moral to the story. Action. Writing. Results. Repeat.
It has been a total of 137 almost consecutive days of writing. I had a 118 day streak and then I spent a Saturday carpooling kids, cleaning the basement, mowing the lawn, running 6 miles and falling asleep at 9:30. When I woke up the next morning I knew something was horribly wrong. What was different about the night before? Then, it hit me. I didn’t write. I had fallen off the wagon, but I jumped right back on. It’s been another nineteen days and counting.
In the end, it’s not about success or failure, There are no awards or benchmarks apart from an occasional milepost that reminds me I have stuck to my resolution. My goal is not to make a living as a writer. It’s about a daily act, a simple ritual. Laptop in hand. Butt in chair. Four fingers and an occasional thumb typing away. The thoughts are mine. The words are mine. The discipline is a gift that I hope keeps on giving 750 words at a time.