Guest post by Krissy Bradfield
Just over a year ago I made the decision to write every day. It had been a New Year’s resolution for too many years to count but life and work always seemed to get in the way. I’m a freelance writer by trade, which means I write most days anyway – but I wanted to write a novel. That was my dream. And, apparently, to become a novelist you need to actually write, not daydream about writing. I was determined that this time would be different and for the first time in a long time I was in the right headspace to commit.
So on 1 August 2011 I started. I wrote 874 words that day and it took me an hour and thirty-three minutes to finish them. I struggled mightily. I had to claw those words out of my brain but since I finished that first day I have not looked back since. It has been long. It has been hard. There have been many days when I didn’t want to write – but I did. I’ve now been writing for 392 days straight.
Here’s how I did it
The first step. The hardest part about changing any behavior or developing a new one is beginning. Starting anything new means negotiating a steep learning curve and if you don’t have a plan of attack, you’ll fail. I planned for success this time by doing three things differently.
- I joined 750words.com.
Sure, I could have written my words in any word processing program, but what drew me to 750words.com is the fact that the site does everything for me. It tracks my time; it tracks my word count, and it saves my work automatically. I also like the accountability of the monthly challenges and committing to a rewards-based system.
- I wrote at the same time every day. Establishing a routine was very helpful. I tried writing at different times of the day and quickly found that I wrote better in the evening, after all my work was finished. I now write, every day, just before or just after dinner. Having this set slot means I could stop trying to ‘fit’ writing in. It just gets done automatically, without me thinking about it at all.
- I stopped trying to write the perfect sentence.
I discovered that writing daily wasn’t about writing perfect sentences. It was about getting words on the screen. When you write on the fly, there is no such thing as perfection. That can come later.
When you shake off the desire to write perfectly you’ll find the words come more easily. Sentences flow. Some of it may not make sense, but that’s not the point. You’re putting words down – that is the number one most important thing.
Write even when you don’t want to.
I wrote when I was sick with the flu. I wrote on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. I wrote through two deaths and the grief that followed. I wrote through a bad bout of insomnia. I wrote through happiness, sadness, tiredness and tipsiness. I wrote the night when I sliced my finger open with a stick blender and had to have seven stitches (that was an experience).
The point is that you find time. You push everything else aside and you get it done. These days it takes me between 13 to 22 minutes to write 750 words. It’s not a long time but for those minutes I am 100 per cent committed to writing.
Yes, life is distracting. I’m sure yours is a billion times more distracting than mine, but if it’s something that you choose to do, you make time. You just do.
What I achieved
Okay, I am going to do a bit of trumpet-blowing here, but I’m doing it to illustrate what you can achieve when you get into a productive writing groove. Here’s what writing at least 750 words a day helped me achieve.
- Rough first drafts of the first two books in a trilogy. Each draft is well over 50,000 words long.
- I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time after years of never writing more than 5000 words in one story (50,143 words in the month of November 2011).
- I finished a children’s book I’d been writing for months.
- I completed seven short stories, two of which I’ve entered into competitions.
- I mocked up every feature article I’ve written this year (ten in all).
- I wrote my first YA novel – over 60,000 words (it’s currently being tweaked and edited).
- I’ve started on my second YA novel.
All in all I have written more than 390,000 words in the past 12 months – 390,000 words that would have never been written otherwise. Characters were born. Stories were told. That, to me, makes all the time I’ve invested worth it.
Believe me when I say that I could not have done any of this without the discipline I gained from writing every day. It has taught me consistency. It has sparked creativity that I thought was long gone. It has shown me that with a little hard work, I can write my novel. I can write many novels if I want! It’s in my hands now.
So if you want to write – if you want to be a writer – you need to write every single day. There is no other way around it. You can do it. Is it hard? Yes. Some days it is. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Krissy Bradfield is a freelance writer from Perth, Western Australia. She will have a book published before she dies. You can follow her progress at krissybradfield.com.