Isnâ€™t it funny how 68 degrees in July feels refreshing, while 68 degrees in September feels frigid? Itâ€™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.
Itâ€™s a perfect afternoon for snuggling up in my chair to read a book â€“ though I should be picking up clutter in my living room (those damn â€˜shoulds!â€™). 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:
â€œOne day I complained to a friendâ€¦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. â€œOne thousand words a day! Thatâ€™s terrific! Donâ€™t you realize? Thatâ€™s thirty thousand words a month. Three, four months and youâ€™ve got a book.â€™ 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.â€
This is a concept Iâ€™m very familiar with in theory, but I often forget to execute. And not just with writing, either. Itâ€™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 Lamottâ€™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 itâ€™s important to write every day, Iâ€™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.
Hmmmâ€¦ Iâ€™ll try it for a week and see how it goes. Though next week is network televisionâ€™s premier week, so maybe the timing is badâ€¦.