Right, this was a comment that I read a few months back and you know how sometimes the smallest thing can just jar your thoughts and you suddenly have … well, an epiphany – that moment where something so simple seems so profound. I’m not the best with math but even I can see the simplicity of the statement: One page a day, and you can write a book in a year. 365 days in a year, that’s a pretty nicely sized little book!
Before you ask – no, I’ve not completed my book yet. It’s been about three months since I read that statement and decided “Even I can do that”. However, it’s much easier to write a page a day than stressing out thinking that you’re not writing “enough”. Often, I will sit down to fulfill my one-page goal and end up with seven or eight; definitely an ego booster. My only problem is this: sometimes, I will sit down for my goal and can’t think of what I was trying to say. So, here’s some tips I’ve discovered that help me trudge right along toward my year-end goal.
No Excuses, or “Just Do It”
My daughter has hit the age that she constantly questions everything that I ask her to do. I’m not one of those pushy moms who have fifteen million chores in a day that need to be done – but every parent knows how important it can be to get just a little bit of help. In my more stellar “mommy moments” I’ve found myself repeating Nike and dropping off the oh-so-logical line, “Just do it”.
When it comes to writing, that little phrase has new importance. If you spend some time reading interviews with successful authors, you’ll notice that they all have some common work patterns. High at the top of the list is that they write every day. Every single day, they sit down and write something. And hey, they’re human just like the rest of us and will admit to having bad days when nothing seems to come out right. But they do it, they pour out their thoughts on a page regularly.
I recently read an article about writing, where the author was proposing the idea that there is no such thing as writer’s block. Yeah, I had a moment of “You’re surely not a writer” too. The author’s first sentence is what has stuck with me, though. It went something to the effect of, “If you hire a plumber to unclog your sink, do you expect him to sit back and say – I can’t figure it out – and then just leave for a couple of weeks?”
The point is that we all have ways of escaping our writing. We might decide that we don’t have time to write today because there’s too much cleaning to do, or the kids have to be taken to this event or that practice. We find ways of justifying the fact that we simply don’t feel like sitting down and struggling through our words.
So, step one to writing a page a day: Take a look at the clock nearest to you. Mentally mark a time that you will write, every day, no excuses. Then, grab a big red marker and several sticky notes and write on them, “Writing Time: 12:00”. Stick them all over your house – on the fridge, your calendar, even the bathroom mirror. Drive yourself nuts if you have to, but make sure that you sit down at the same time every day to do the writing you’ve committed to doing.
Deadlines and Quotas
Well, obviously your quota is easy – you are going to write at least one page every day. With that in mind, your deadline is pretty easy too – if you start writing at noon every day, your deadline for one page might be 3 pm.
Beyond that, though, you might expand this idea later on after you’ve gotten into the groove of just doing it and don’t need those really irritating sticky-notes every where to remind yourself. There are dozens of legitimate writing competitions taking place every month, and hundreds of publications looking for articles, poetry, and fiction. If you can locate at least one competition or publication that you want to submit to each month, you are able to expand your writing goals. Incorporate the writing time you will spend on the submission, and set a deadline that is at least two weeks before the actual deadline.
What it comes down to is deciding what you want to be: a hobbyist writer, or a professional author. Professional authors define themselves as such, and then behave like a professional – they meet their goals every day, or they feel like they’ve failed themselves. Even if you can only commit to writing for one hour a day, you should be able to get your one page out in that amount of time.
Step two to writing a page a day: Make goals for yourself, and stick to them. I like to write my goals on a calendar that is right above my desk. That way, I can easily keep track of things beyond my one page committment – one competition a month, a few articles for my favorite publications, and near the end of the month, revising old works that weren’t accepted so that I can re-submit them elsewhere. In all, I usually spend about four hours a day writing and performing related tasks like query letters, researching markets, and putting together submission packages.
Shut Off The Internal Editor
Every single person, regardless of their chosen career, has an internal voice that likes to criticize everything they do. That voice will tell you that you can’t, that you shouldn’t, that your work is simply not good enough. You can either give in to that internal voice and give up or push yourself harder (usually to the point of burn-out), or you can find a way of making that voice shut up.
While you’re writing your page a day, don’t go back to the beginning and start re-writing stuff. If you get into this habit, you’ll spend more time re-writing than you will creating, it’s a simple fact. Once you’ve found the point of view and characters you’re going to start with, just go with it. Write from your heart, and never look back.
In other words, the creating process is not the time to allow the Internal Editor to come out and play. Criticizing your creativity is not the goal – writing is. Try finding an activity that will help you calm your thoughts – meditation, yoga, running, or breathing exercises are great at this. Then, perform this activity before you write every day. Not only will it help you balance mind and body health, but it will focus your writing and let you pour out your thoughts without Mr. Nasty Editor trekking across your work.
Step three to writing a page a day: Shut up, ignore, drown out, or simply quiet your negative thoughts. Find music or an activity that will help you focus on just writing for the joy of creating, and let yourself go with the flow.
Read Every Day
The muse is a fleeting, fickle thing. Beyond the inspiration that reading other people’s work brings, you learn things about building your vocabulary and can study characterization and plot – all from a model of success. You can also perform writing exercises based on what you’ve read; try re-writing a scene or experimenting with the writing style, or voice, that the author you’re reading uses. It’s important to find your own writing voice, but by playing with the style that other people use you can find the strengths and weaknesses in your writing voice – and work at correcting them.
Step four to writing a page a day: Give yourself a reason to write – read the works of others who have been published, and draw both inspiration and study from those works.
Writing a page every day isn’t always easy. I am still having days when I dread the ticking of the clock inching closer to my time to write. Every day that I inch one page closer to my ultimate goal, though, I’m finding that writing becomes easier the more I do it. So those days when no words seem to work become fewer and fewer, and I’m finding the love of the writing process I had when I didn’t know that it could be stressful.