When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was look at my daily almanac entry that is automatically sent to Evernote each night to see the numbers that I knew would show up there today. This is what I saw:
I have now written fiction for 50 consecutive days. I can’t be certain, but I believe that this is the first time I have ever done this, since I first began trying to write for publication way back in January of 1993. Even during NaNoWriMo (which is only 30 days), there would be days that I just didn’t write. But now, I’ve written fiction for 50 consecutive days. First, let me go through the numbers, then I’ll provide some thoughts on the experience so far.
In the last 50 days (February 27 through April 17 inclusive) I wrote 44,296 words of fiction. That amounts to an average of 886 words per day. I aim to get 500 words written each day, and indeed this is the goal I have set in my almanac. My almanac tracks the number of consecutive days I write, but it also keep track of those days when I meet or beat my goal. The best I did during this 50 day interval was meet or exceed my goal for 25 consecutive days. On my lowest day, I wrote 199 words (back on April 10). On my best day, I wrote 2,259 words (on March 27, my birthday). I wrote less than 500 words on only 6 of the 50 days.
Here is what the 50 days of writing looks like plotted over time:
You can see from the trend line that the amount I write each day is steadily increasing, and I think that makes sense because the longer I go, the more I get better at making use of the time that I have to write each day. It’s the low days and high days that interest me most. And, because I capture what I write each day (including what I change) in Evernote automatically, I can look at what I wrote on those low and high days and see what it was that I was writing that made me struggle or excel. Sometimes, the only factor is time. The minutes of the day are used up and I can only spare 10 minutes and get in a few paragraphs. On the days I excel (my birthday, for instance) I happened to have more time available, or made good use of the time I had.
Further thoughts on the experience
I think there are several things that made it possible to write every day for 50 days.
- My automation scripts–including my Daily Almanac and the scripts that send what I write each day to Evernote–take away my need to count things myself every day. I know that in the morning, my almanac will be there and I’ll be able to see what I’ve done. Also, the fact that I don’t have to spend time capturing this information manually means I can use that time for, you know, writing.
- Learning to use the time available. I used to avoid writing on a given day if I only had 10 minutes because, what could I really do in 10 minutes. Well, I can write about 1,000 words in an hour so in ten minutes, I can write about 170 words. Being able to grab my Chromebook when I have 10 minutes or 5 minutes, or 2 hours and making use of that time has been really important. I get much of my writing done now in the evenings between the time that I get the kids ready for bed and actually put them to bed.
- Concentrating only on today. I no longer worry about how much I’ll get written tomorrow, or if I will have time to write on the weekend. When I wake up in the morning, I’m really only thinking about what I am going to get done today. I worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.
There are other things that help. A big one is that I now realize and accept that I’ll have good days and bad days. There are days when I am certain that what I am writing is pretty awful and sometimes I’ll even mark it up with a comment that says, “Cut this from the next draft.” But I keep on writing, even when the writing feels awful. There are other days when I feel like I’m sailing along. I sometimes make a comment on these passages as well, something like, “This felt good, but be skeptical of it in the next draft.” Because I am suspicious of stuff I write that I think of as really good.
I also never delete stuff. If I write 500 words today, and tomorrow, decide to change it, I don’t delete the 500 words, I simply move them to the “deleted scenes” section of my document and then rewrite in the main document. Because I capture what I write each day in Evernote, this allows me to go back and see how things change over time. In first drafts, I try to avoid even this type of rewriting, but sometimes, it is the only thing I can do to get any writing done in a day. It is interesting to go back and look at what I wrote on those days that I struggled, or made lots of changes. There is a value in having this ability that I never recognized before. It is the value of seeing how my writing mind works and that is important in helping me learn.
Counting the streak has been a big win for me. It is a kind of numeric expression of the “Seinfeld” method of writing, sometimes referred to as “don’t break the chain.” I do wake up each day thinking only about what I want to write today, but I also think that I want to keep that chain moving forward, going from 50 days to 51 days. For me, that is an important motivator.
44,000 words of fiction is a lot, but today, day 51, I’m just focused on getting some words down (hopefully good ones) and keeping the chain in tact. Tomorrow, I’ll do the same. Ray Bradbury said he wrote every day. Many writers I admire say they try to write every day. When it comes to writing, you really can only learn by doing, and as I move forward, my only real plan is to keep doing it, each day, focusing on that day’s writing, and seeing where the story takes me.