On Writing

Isn’t it funny how 68 degrees in July feels refreshing, while 68 degrees in September feels frigid? It’s cool and rainy today. My mom is visiting next week and if this cooler weather keeps up I may need to actually turn my furnace on to keep her tiny body from dropping into hypothermia.

It’s a perfect afternoon for snuggling up in my chair to read a book – though I should be picking up clutter in my living room (those damn ‘shoulds!’). I cracked open a book my friend recently gave me, Writers On Writing. In the introduction, John Darnton writes about the day he discovered a helpful technique for tackling a large writing project:

“One day I complained to a friend…that the work was going slowly, that I had been writing only a thousand words a day. He sat up like a bolt, downed his scotch and peered at me through a cloud of cigarette smoke. “One thousand words a day! That’s terrific! Don’t you realize? That’s thirty thousand words a month. Three, four months and you’ve got a book.’ I did the math; he was right. I set my computer so that I could knock off the moment I hit a thousand words. The device worked. A momentous task had been cut down to bite sizes. No longer was I laboring to climb a mountain while staring at the snow-covered peak far above; instead I was climbing a single slope day after day until one day I would arrive at the summit. And one day I did.”

This is a concept I’m very familiar with in theory, but I often forget to execute. And not just with writing, either. It’s a Flylady thing to tackle household projects 15 minutes at a time, or an hour at a time, yet I still avoid starting something unless I have all day to devote it. And therefore nothing gets done.

I love to write. I love to practice writing. But sometimes I obsess over writing so much that I ignore my home and my family. Granted, we writers must write when the inspiration hits, but even in that I have set up tools to accommodate both my busy life AND my random idea spurts. I modified Anne Lamott’s tool of carrying index cards with her wherever she goes, and began to carry a small booklet that fits into even my smallest purse. I can collect my thoughts as they come (and they hit me in odd places, like in the bath tub, while driving the car, or sitting in a bar) and expand on them later at my computer. My Blogher friend, Amy, wrote about our books here.

But as much as I hear writers saying it’s important to write every day, I’ve never heard anyone define HOW MUCH they write each day. So I went back and did word counts for all my more significant, thoughtful posts, and found most of them to be right around 500 words. Do I have time to write 500 words a day? Maybe not as coherent blog posts, but I may certainly be able to free-write 500 words on a theme to flush out the structure for a book idea I have.

Hmmm… I’ll try it for a week and see how it goes. Though next week is network television’s premier week, so maybe the timing is bad….

3 thoughts on “On Writing”

  1. I’m with Kristen…get to it Zugster. 🙂

    I’m a firm believer that our lives never get easier than the moment. You’ve got the perfect set up to tackle this dream head on. Go for it!

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