Do you listen to your brain, when it says you can or can’t do something? Writers either do, or they don’t. Which becomes a little problematic when your brain starts trying to convince you how impossible it’s going to be to reach today’s writing goals.
Getting started is one of the biggest hurdles you’ll have to stumble over as a writer. Here’s how you can trick your brain into letting you write – not just enough, but more than you’ve ever imagined you could.
The hardest part is getting started …
So that must mean the trick is much simpler than you might think. Which, yes I know, is something I say so much here that it probably doesn’t mean anything to you anymore. Writing advice, when it comes down to it, isn’t really that difficult to apply. The hard part is actually taking the advice from the internet and incorporating it into your daily life. More on that later.
Anyway, here’s the truth – a truth, I hope, you’ve heard at least once before: your brain is a liar. It tries to convince you of things that shouldn’t be believable, but are. You set a goal to write 2000 words on Monday. That’s easy, you can do that, right? But no, not exactly, because your brain has a way of crafting some kind of excuse as to why it’s impossible. You’re too tired. You don’t have enough time. 2000 words is just too much to write in one day.
So how do you fix this problem? It’s EASY … just write 500 words. It doesn’t matter what your end goal for the day is. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t the best 500 words you’ve ever written. Sit down, shut off your phone, and write 500 words.
500 words is all it takes
I am a huge advocate for the 500-word rule. It’s not scientifically proven to be effective, but I’m an internet creator, not a scientist. In my experience – and in a few others, I’ve found – 500 words seems to be the magic number. You don’t think you can write 1000 words, or 1500, or 2000, or even more than that. At first glance, it seems like too much. You overwhelm yourself, thinking you have to make it all the way to 2000 words or more when you haven’t even written 10.
But when you really think about it, 500 words isn’t that many. And sure, you might get to 500 words, kicking and screaming the whole way, and that’s all you can do. It happens. But really, writing 2000 words is just writing 500 words four times. And often what happens is that you commit to 500 words, but by the time you get there, you’re past your “I don’t wanna do this” phase. You’re in a flow state, without really meaning to get into one. And 2000 words just sort of happens, seemingly effortlessly, after that first 500.
Turn a trick into a tactic
At first, you might be a little skeptical of this method. Believe me, I’ve had days when I’ve done all I could to get myself to 500 words, and it just didn’t happen. It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t: for goodness sake, stop trying to be so perfect all the time. If you can’t, you can’t. But the more you get into the habit of turning “can” into “did,” this sneaky method of tricking your brain into letting you get more writing done can actually become more of a tool you can use over and over again in your writing life.
The 500-word rule has actually become a staple in my daily writing. There are days I have thousands of words that need writing, and I have anxiety – I get overwhelmed and I don’t want to do any of it, half the time. But I do it, simply by starting with 500 words. I sit down and automatically think, “Okay, just 500 words to go.” And that’s what gets me through it all, every time. I wouldn’t recommend this method if I didn’t believe it could work for you.
Think you can’t write as much as you need to, if not more? Actually, you can. 500 words is the average size of a blog post. A piece of flash fiction. A short article for a website or a standard article for a magazine. In many cases, it’s a smaller portion of a much bigger piece of writing. But it’s a start. And until you sit down and get started, you really don’t know how many words you might be capable of producing.
You never know until you try. Seriously. Just try.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.