And I would write 500 more. Just to be the author that writes 1,000 words and falls down on the floor.
Let’s face it. Writing is HARD. Especially now when authors have major distractions like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other various forms of social networking. Not only are these things a major time suck, but they open us up for comparisons. It’s hard to avoid these detrimental comparisons when we’re inundated with words and images that remind us we’re not good enough.
And because writing isn’t the only place where I feel like a failure, you’ll need to double click the above image in order to read the microscopic words I’ve so cleverly crafted.
There’s the other part of the inferiority I feel on a daily basis: I’m not agented. My published books are co-authored by my 13 year old daughter (which I love, but I worry that others may think it’s weird, or think I’m not a “real writer”). I’m with a small press so there haven’t been reviews. Without reviews its been extremely hard to get my book into schools, let alone the hands of readers. Some days I wonder why I do it. Why do I bother?
Those emotions brought me down so far that I stopped writing. Last year between my final edits for Cinderskella and my first draft of Little Dead Riding Hood, I wrote nothing. From submitting LDRH to my publisher until January of this year I wrote nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Big fat zero. For NINE MONTHS. I could have - quite literally - given birth during that time. To a book or a baby, choice is yours. But I didn’t.
Instead, I worried. Fretted over sales. I wallowed. I compared myself to others. I sulked in self pity.
While I was away from writing, I just sank deeper and deeper. Staying away from writing wasn’t helping me. In fact, it was making things worse. And seeing updates from other authors definitely contributed to my feelings of failure. Why couldn’t I accomplish what they were? Why wasn’t I making the time for something I enjoyed so much?
Then, sometime during the holiday season, author J. Scott Savage posted a challenge on his Facebook page. (Yes, in this instance, FB helped!) He challenged authors to write 500 words a day in the new year.
A little spark lit within me. I could do this! Large goals are always better when broken down into bite sized pieces. It’s true with anything – education, weight loss, and yes, even writing books. We need to meet little goals in order to achieve the larger one. So instead of thinking about writing a 60,000 word book and being overwhelmed by that concept, I would focus on the little goal of 500 words each day. I even did the calculations. I could write one book in four months. Three books a year.
So, unbeknownst to Scott, I set the goal to write 500 words a day. I was going to excuse myself on weekends (which would mean my final goal would take a little longer, but I was okay with that). Five days a week, I was going to sit down and write. All I needed was a half hour.
This is how my first week went:
Day 1 – *stares at blank word doc* Type something. Anything. *types two words* Think! THINK! *types five more* *stares at clock* It’s only been 10 seconds? Good grief! FOCUS! *45 minutes later, 501 painful words are typed*
Day 2 – *stares at previous 501 painful words, sits on hands to prevent from deleting them* Okay. This time DON’T THINK. That’s where you went wrong yesterday. You were thinking TOO hard. Just type. *30 minutes go by, 621 words are typed*
Day 3 – *refuses to stare at screen* Don’t read what you wrote. You know it’s garbage. It doesn’t matter. Just write. *30 quick minutes later, 1,250 words are typed*
Day 4 – *remembers scene, eagerly gets to work* *60 minutes later, 2,500 words are typed*
Day 5 – * opens document, fingers itching to start* *90 minutes later, 3,200 words are typed*
It speaks for itself, really. I found that once I forced myself to sit down and write, the words flowed. Sure, there were tough days, (and there still are) but I’m writing again! I’m excited about my stories! I’ve set an easy goal and I’m able to reach it each day.
This goal has taught me a lot about myself, too.
1 – I don’t have to write every day. (This recent post from Nathan Bransford helped confirm that.) Yup. It’s okay not to write on weekends. Or when I’m sick. Or if my day is super busy. Just as long as I get back in the saddle as soon as I can, it’s okay to take a day off.
2 – Every part of writing – whether it be storyboarding, plotting, or creating characters - matters. Even though word count isn’t increasing or progressing, that’s okay. The story is! I allow myself to take credit for every step of the journey.
3 – My accomplishments are my own and I don’t need to compare myself to others.
I love what I’ve learned about writing, about myself, during this process. I’m going to keep on keeping on with my 500 words a day because I see progress. I’ve felt my inner growth. And that’s what matters most.
What about you? What kinds of goals have you set? What helps you as a writer? I’d love to hear your comments and ideas!
Amie Borst is a PAL member of SCBWI. She writes twisted fairy tales with her 13 year old daughter, Bethanie. She’s writes 500 words a day, even if they’re terrible. Find her at her blog, facebook, twitter, and pinterest. Add her books on goodreads!