At the beginning of my writing career, I had the mental stamina to sit at a computer for hours a night and write NaNoWriMo-levels of words every day (1,667 words for those not familiar with it). Granted, looking back, it was easy to write that amount of sub-par writing (I still have those files – which will never see the light of day).
I kept that streak up for over five years. And I would write every, single day.
I’m doing great if I can sit down long enough to write If Walls Could Talk. My average day is about half this many words.
Once upon a time, back when I started this column, I would write it and then turn around and write about the same amount of fiction. If I’m honest with you, this will probably be all I write today.
My writing has become very sporadic. I’ll enter NaNoWriMo prep season and be like, “I’m going to use it to get back in the habit.” Then, by the New Year, I’m back to sporadic updating.
Honestly, part of my problem over the last three years is that I have been stuck in the belief that a proper writing session is sitting down and writing over 1,000 words a day. And sure, it would be nice to have days where I do that. To be fair, I have days where I do.
But where I am in life now, that’s not an option. Within the last week I’ve started to embrace it.
It started last Tuesday when I wrote last week’s article. And now, one week later, I’ve written every day since.
Some days, it’s 500-800 words. Other days it’s 200-500. One day it was 150 words for a news article.
Regardless of the length, I sat down at my computer and I wrote.
I didn’t even notice it at first until I hit about day four.
— Mary-Helen Norris (@girlinpink44) September 30, 2022
But then there was a moment yesterday where I was looking at the document I’ve been chipping away at for a week and realized it only had about 2,000 words. For a second, I was discouraged remembering how many words past me could crank out.
After letting myself feel that for a second, I forced myself to realize that being on a week long streak is a victory I haven’t had outside of NaNoWriMo in several years.
So here are some lessons I’ve been learning this week about writing.
1) Quality over Quantity
You hear this about a lot of things but it really hit home for me this week in regards to writing.
Yes, past me could crank out words like there was no tomorrow. But going back and examining the quality of the work made me realize that producing the quality I have now in smaller doses is better than that.
So what, you only write about 500 words a day? If those 500 words are quality and well thought-through, then it’s better than a NaNoWriMo day.
On those short writing count days, I still was proud of what I created. Sometimes it was a conversation. One day, all I wrote was prose describing the scene.
For someone who even a couple of years was very sparse with details, seeing how I develop them now surprises even me. But more on that another week…
2) Share your Victories
As you saw above, I tweeted a few days ago about my short streak. Some of my writing friends liked the tweet and that silent show of support really helped.
Sharing your victories has multiple benefits.
It helps to hold you accountable. I think that is part of the reason why NaNoWriMo is so effective as a tool for writers. They’ve set it up so you get awards for keeping your streak alive through the month (okay they’re shiny things on your profile but they’re like Pokémon – you’ve gotta catch em all).
But also NaNoWriMo brings writers together. My local area has a Discord Server where we update each other on our progress, hold writing sprints at night, and just hang. While we have it all year round, it’s the most active during November. (Granted, it’s not uncommon to find me hanging out and using the bot in the server to host my Sprints. I love it. It sets the timer, adds up my word count, and even assigns a words per minute rate per sprint. I wrote an article about that earlier this year: it’s definitely worth taking a look at.)
3) Find a Routine that Works for You
Unless I have edits that need done ASAP, I almost never write in the mornings.
I’m not a morning person. I have writing friends who write first thing in the morning. They sit there with their keyboards and sip on a beverage and type as the sun rises.
That is not me.
Chances are, you find me writing in the midafternoon to evening. When I was younger, I’d write until odd hours, but you don’t see that a whole lot from me anymore.
But as part of my self-care routine, I save the late evenings for relaxing. That’s my prime gaming time. I’ve also fallen in love with reading before bed (and first thing in the morning as well).
Contrary to what some writing advice books will tell you, there is no one size fits all when it comes to writing. We are all unique and as a result, our writing routines are all different from each other’s.
It’s not just time of day to consider either. It’s where you write (I write primarily on my desktop in my office). How you write (short bursts, like I mentioned earlier). Your beverage of choice (tea – always tea) and more.
Finding what works for you goes a long way to helping increase your productivity. I’ve learned that unless I make sure I’m in a comfortable space, my writing suffers.
I’m officially on day 8 of my writing streak and it feels good. But it’s taken me a bit to get to a point where I can accomplish even this small victory.
How’s your writing streak going?