As someone who writes words for a living, you’d think I’d have my writing process pretty much nailed down. You’d be wrong. Spectacularly so. I’m certainly better than I was, but I’m continually tweaking and refining the way I work.
I talked about this with a friend of mine recently. When I told him of my goal of becoming a ‘more efficient writer’ he accused me of being a ‘capitalist pig dog’. He’s right of course – the more I can write, the more money I can make. But it’s more significant than that.
Being an efficient writer, will make me a happier one. And being a happier writer will make me a better one.
Up until now I’ve measured my writing output by how long I spend writing. I’ve tried to ring fence time purely for writing, going as far as creating different writing time blocks in my calendar. Invariably though this approach doesn’t work. I end up getting frustrated at myself, particularly in the days where I don’t write.
Seems odd, but the nature of my business means that there are days where I don’t write anything. I might have back-to-back meetings with clients, or I might be working on a non-writing task – like fixing an issue with my website.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog (hi mum!), then you’ll be well just to my love of writing. What I haven’t shared though is this – I get quite grumpy if I have a day without writing.
So I’m changing my focus. Time will no longer be the measure of success. Word count will be my new master. This isn’t a new idea. The concept of focussing on word count has been around for a long time. The wonderful Ann Handley talks about it in her fantastic book – ‘Everybody Writes’.
The principle is fairly straightforward you commit to writing a minimum number of words every day. The idea being that having a target and sticking to it develops a writing habit.
To give you an idea, here are the daily writing goals set by some well-known writers.
You’ll notice that I scored out ‘Goal’.
For me, as a professional writer it shouldn’t be a goal – it needs to be more than that – it needs to be a commitment.
So my commitment from this day forth is that I, Kevin James Anderson, being of sound (ish) mind does hereby declare that I will definitely (ish) produce on pain of death the following number of words EVERY DAY.
Well, that’s the equivalent of roughly three blog posts a day for me. It’s stretching, but achievable. That’s the number until the end of the year. I’ll review in January. To keep me honest and accountable I’ll make a note of my daily number and report back at the end of the month.
If you write blog posts or newsletter content – why don’t you consider setting a daily word count commitment? Start modestly – even 150 words a day would be a great way to start your writing habit.
Try it and see how you get on.
Having a daily word count commitment, isn’t the end of my writing process ‘tinkering’ but it will get me focussed on writing every day, and that has to be a good thing.
PS – Found this wonderful quote from Maya Angelou while researching this post.
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