400 Days of Writing

As of today, I have written for 400 of the last 402 days, beginning back on February 27, 2013. And, while there were two days that I missed since starting (both while I attended the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop last July), my streak of consecutive days of writing stands at 256 days, or seven-tenths of a year–without missing a day. The last day on which I did not write was July 21, 2013.

Some stats

256 consecutive days puts me just shy of 10% of my goal of 2633 consecutive days of writing. But 400 out of the last 402 days seems astonishing to me, when you consider that I probably hadn’t written 400 days over the previous 20 years or so that I’ve been writing.

Here is what 402 days of writing looks like:

400 Days of Writing

It amounts to a grand total of 339,000 words, and an overall average of 845 words per day. Every day. Looking at the 7-day moving average brings out some additional interesting features of my writing:

7-day moving average

Those mountain range-like spikes beginning in the fall represent the time I was working on the second draft of various stories. I tend to write more each day when I’m working on second drafts because, unlike the first draft, I’ve already told myself the story and am simply now trying to make it an interesting story for the reader.

Some thoughts on writing every day

I was asked recently if I writing every day means even writing on the days when I feel uninspired and write badly. I think the implication (although I may be reading into this) is that it shouldn’t count if you are writing just to get words down for the day. After all, if the writing is bad what is the point?

I pondered this quite a bit and have a few thoughts:

1. When I sit down to write, regardless of how tired I feel (which happens occasionally) or how uninspired I might feel (which happens far less frequently), I sit down with the intention of doing the best possible writing I can achieve. Put another way, I’m never just sitting there to put anything but the best words on the page that I can manage.

2. Writing is a stress reliever for me. When I sit down to write–more often than not in the evenings–the stresses of the day melt away as I work on my story. It may only be for 10 or 15 minutes on some nights, but I’ve found that since I started this well over a year ago, I’ve been sleeping better than I can remember at any time in the past.

3. My best isn’t always good enough. But practicing at something every day will make you better. I find it interesting that people can abide someone who practices at the piano every day, but who looked askance at a writer who writes everyday and considers it practice. Geniuses excepted, storytelling is a learned craft, one that requires just as much practice as anything else.

4. Routine is reinforcing. Baseball players are not superstitious because they believe that their quirks (not stepping on a foul line when exiting the field, tapping the bat on the plate three times when getting ready to hit, etc.) bring them luck, but because the routine of it helps to reinforce muscle memory and put their mind into the frame of concentration needed to perform their job on the field. The same is true for writing.

5. You have to do what works for you. Everyone works differently. I work well writing every day, and I only wish I’d discovered this 20 years ago instead of last year. Just because it works for me doesn’t mean it works for others. I like to think that I’ve long since matured beyond the notion that my way is the right way and everyone should be doing it this way. My way is the right way–for me. Your mileage may vary.

But back to that original question for a moment: if the writing is bad, what is the point? I’d say that when the writing is bad is when I should be writing the most. How else would I learn to improve except by writing?

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2 thoughts on “400 Days of Writing

  1. Do you track time spent writing? Per day, overall total, daily average etc. Interested to know longest session in one day?

  2. Pete, I’ve tracked time since November. Initially this was through some custom scripts and that was a little annoying because I had to remember to “clock-in” and “clock-out.” Since January, I’ve used RescueTime, which is wonderful because it tracks all of my time without me having to do anything.

    For sessions for which I have actual data, my longest single session came on November 6, where I wrote for 118 minutes (just shy of two hours) producing 3,124 words. Actually, this number is significant because it demonstrates that my baseline calculations are fairly accurate. Let me explain: as a whole, looking at the data in aggregate, I can write between 400-500 words in 20 minutes (1,200-1,500 words per hour). The amount varies based on lots of factors: if my kids are distracting me, if my concentration is on or off, if I need to pause to look up something, etc. But, in general, 400-500 words in 20 minutes hold true for me across the board.

    I rarely have more than 35-45 minutes to write each day, which should tell you that I write somewhere between 600 – 1000 word per day. In fact, my average daily output over the last 400 days has been 845 words. (Right between the 600-1000). Conservatively (400 words/20 minutes) that means I spent, on average, 42 minutes and 15 seconds per day on my writing. This factors in the really long days, and the really short days. Using this number, I’ve spent 16,900 minutes writing over the last 400 days, or, more conveniently, 281 hours (11.7 day) worth of time.

    On that day that I wrote for 118 minutes and produced 3,124 words, I wrote at a pace of a hair over 1,500 words/hour. Which amounts to 500 words per 20 minutes. Right on target. It was at the high end (500 words as opposed to 400 words in 20 minutes) because I was working on a second draft that day, and I always work faster on second drafts.

    I don’t have time data for my best writing day ever, which came on August 10, 2013. I went to the library that day and produced a stunning 5,384 words. But, given the accuracy of my 1,200-1500 words per hours estimate, I think it is safe to say that I spent between 3-1/2 and 4-1/2 hours writing that day.

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