Welcome to the fourth part in our series on Daily Discipline for Writers. If you missed any of the previous posts, here are the links.
Previously, we talked about the need to have the proper mindset for daily discipline. Something as fundamental as how you think can make a world of difference in how much you accomplish. “Should I write today?” is a different question than “How do I write today?” The first (should I write today?) leaves the question open about whether or not you will write. The second (how do I write today?) assumes you’ll write; it’s just a matter of logistics.
Then we talked about finding the time to write by first determining what you have to do each day or week (work, commute, family time) and what you usually do (church, civic activities, recreation) and setting that time aside. This may seem like a no-brainer but–believe me–knowing when you can’t write takes a lot of pressure off.
Both activities are ongoing. Changing your mindset is never done and work schedules are subject to change. But the idea isn’t to anticipate the future; it’s to make the most of the now.
So what’s next? You know what times of each day or week you have available. What do you do with it?
Just Start Writing
The obvious answer is to just start writing. But that’s sometimes the most difficult part of the process.
Something that has helped me get started writing each day is something called the 500 Club. I first read about the 500 Club in Randy Ingermanson’s Advanced Fiction Writing e-zine and the basic concept is simple. Commit to write 500 words every day. For the rest of your life. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s why it works.
First, 500 words isn’t scary. It’s about two double-spaced pages. Not a big deal. You can do that on your lunch hour or before going to work or going to bed. It’s easy to start because it’s not a huge time commitment nor is it a lot of words.
But the real beauty of the 500 Club is that once you get started, you’re quite likely to keep writing past 500 words. I know I do.
When I’m really pushing, as with NaNoWriMo, and I don’t feel like writing, I tell myself I have to write only 500 words each writing session. 500 words and a break. Later, another 500 words and another break. Do four sessions like that and even if you don’t do any other writing, you’ll have written 2,000 words for the day. It only takes 1,667 words a day every day to write 50,000 words in 30 days. How cool is that?
In his most recent article on the 500 Club, Randy offered an alternative to the word count. The 30 Minute Club. Same principle, this time with minutes instead of words. Randy says this works well for him when he travels. I don’t travel all that much, but there are days when half an hour is just about all the time I have for writing. Or maybe I have a half hour of free time that hasn’t been scheduled. Why not write?
There are no doubt countless other variations on this theme. Find one that works for you. Just remember to set a small goal that will give you incentive to make a start without obligating you to a lot of words written or a lot of time spent. Try it a week or two and see what happens.
Only 15 Minutes
Something else that works tremendously well for me and that helps me stay on track with a number of projects is the 15-Minute Task List. I have a list of things that need to be done every week. Things like writing this blog post, writing freelance articles and letters home, writing eBooks, and a number of other things. I give them 15 minutes every work day. No more. No less (unless it doesn’t take 15 minutes to finish the task for the week).
The beauty of this is that I can do a couple of 15-minute tasks, then take a break to do housework or whatever else is on the agenda for the day. No task takes up big chunks of time and no task is neglected. It’s a great way to work on long-term projects.
Like writing a novel.
Once you’ve made up your mind to exercise daily discipline in your writing life, it’s all a matter of implementing your plans. The three tips I’ve shared here are fast and easy tips that get me off dead center every day.
Maybe they’ll work for you, too. I hope so.
But even if they don’t, there will be a variation on these themes or maybe an entirely different theme that will work for you. All you have to do is find it.
Oh, and implement it.
But we’ll talk more about that in the next post. See you then.