Hey. Hey you.
Wanna know a secret?
Writing is hard.
Okay, okay, that’s not a secret — at least I hope not. But do you know what is? Writing is also possible for anyone willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Take the past few months, for example. I’ve been steadily working my way up to writing 25,000 words per week, mostly to see if I could do it (but also for other reasons I’ll tell you more about at the end of this post).
I didn’t think this was something I’d be able to achieve. But I did.
Here are the strategies I used to make the impossible possible.
I broke a very big goal into reasonably sized portions. Writing 25,000 words in a week — possibly 100,000 words in a month, if I really wanted to — seems like a lot. And if you were to approach the task that way, telling yourself you somehow had to write all those words in 7 days, it’s very possible you’d just never do it.
I got over that by dividing up this very large task into smaller, daily tasks. Though it may change — I’m working on incorporating a full rest day into my weekly schedule for mental health reasons — right now I write approximately 3,000 words Monday through Friday (15,000 words during the week) and 5,000 words on both Saturday and Sunday (10,000 weekend words total).
This is much more manageable for me than, for example, trying to write 25,000 words every weekend. I’m not even sure I’d have the mental stamina for that at this point. I look at my to-do list each morning during the week, and “write 1,500 words” is written on it twice, once at the beginning (in the morning) and once at the end (in the evening).
I can knock each of those even smaller tasks out in an hour (per 1,500 words), if I really get into a good flow. That’s, hypothetically, three hours at most per day that I’ll spend writing. And that leaves the rest of my day for … well, everything else. I can more easily reach my end goal, and — most days — I don’t feel completely overwhelmed while doing it.
I supplemented work projects with personal projects that made writing more enjoyable. For the first few months of 2019, I was writing a lot. But I was mostly only writing things that other people were guaranteed to see at some point — blog posts, a book (maybe two), articles, short fiction for my Patreon donors. I don’t mind doing these things. But I wasn’t writing anything that was “just for me,” and that really started to wear me down.
There’s this misconception that if you’re a “real” writer, writing will never feel like work. This simply is not true. While your passion for writing might give you a sense of purpose that makes you feel fulfilled no matter what you’re writing, the truth is, sometimes you just aren’t going to feel like writing. The words aren’t going to come to you easily, you’re going to struggle, and you might not be able to do your best work in that moment.
But having a personal “just for me” writing project changes everything — at least, it did for me. I did my best to dedicate at least 500 to 1,000 of my daily words to something I could just go all out on and not have to worry about it being perfect or imagining what a potential reader might think about it. I’m currenly working on a short story that I plan on keeping to myself simply because it’s like my practice canvas at the moment, and not only is it contributing to my word count goals — I’M ALSO HAVING SO MUCH FUN!
Writing is work. It doesn’t have to feel like work all the time. Have your articles and blog posts and keep working on that novel draft you eventually want to send out to agents. But in my experience, it’s having that one thing that’s for your eyes only that can make all the difference.
I didn’t cut out the things that made me happy. I just held myself to a schedule. Hulu and Netflix bring me joy Educational YouTube videos teach me things and expand my horizons (and non-educational ones make me laugh). Books are a very important part of my life as a storyteller.
Just because I want to be more productive and finish more projects does NOT mean I have to eliminate some of my life’s greatest pleasures. Especially since, you know, writing is fun, but it’s also hard work.
It’s kind of like going on a diet. You can eat more healthy foods and make progress toward your weight loss goals without having to stop eating chocolate chip cookies. You simply have to learn to limit the number of chocolate chip cookies you eat in a week (or at a time).
I now record all my shows during the week and/or queue them up on Hulu, meaning I very rarely watch “real” TV Monday through Thursday. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, however, I typically do nothing but watch TV, because by that point in the week, my work is done and I’ve earned it.
If I let myself have “too much” fun during the week, I’d end up putting my work off until the weekend, and I’d probably get fewer words written. So I simply limit and carefully control my fun time. I get my work done, and I still get to enjoy the things that help me relax and recharge. That’s what works for me. It might work for you, too.
Now, I bet you’re wondering: Why write 25,000 words in a week? What’s the point?
The short version of this answer is that it may be about a specific word count on the surface. But it’s about so much more when you dig down a little deeper.
At the end of 2018, I felt stuck, bored, and restless in my writing life. I dealt with constant frustration because I didn’t feel like I “had enough time” to write. I was starting to feel like I wasn’t applying enough of the strategies I promoted in my own blog. I had so many writing goals that felt so far off, and I didn’t feel like I was moving toward any of them at a significant pace.
So I decided to write more, so that I could tackle my own barriers to productivity and creativity — and share what I’ve learned with all of you.
It’s a work in progress. I’ve learned a lot in the past three and a half months. But one of the most important lessons I’ve taken away from this experience so far is this:
You can do all the writing things. You just need to be willing to tackle your own obstacles and challenge yourself to do the things you don’t think you can accomplish.
This is what I’ve created this blog for, after all — helping writers put their ideas into words, figure out what’s stopping them from doing that, and help them implement strategies to Make Writing Happen Anyway.
And … surprise! I’m currently taking this concept and writing a book about it.
Stay tuned. If you’ve been a follower of this blog for a while, I think you’ll really like it.
Do you have to write 25,000 words every week to be a successful writer? Uh, no. And honestly, unless you have a reason to, it’s probably not smart to try. Because burnout, and all that.
But if you’re struggling to make progress on your goals, maybe these tips can help.
Good luck. May the Force be with you. Keep writing.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.