I am not doing NaNoWriMo, the brilliant writing challenge of November in which thousands partake. I should be though. But this November, I am writing 5000 words a day into my own non-fiction ‘novel’.
I am writing my next book and digital product, How to Crack the Code to Get Promoted (at your corporate job) and apparently, I have a lot to say on this topic. Lucky you, if you want the little-known secrets that no employer tells you but badly wishes you knew so you stop making the obvious mistakes and start closing the gap between what you need to do and what you think you need to do to get that darn promotion and move up the ladder already, but I digress.
This blog post is about writing. It is about writing with the kind of consistency that makes the prolific Stephen King go “Hey! Not bad at all!” although I am sure Mr. King would be far more eloquent but you know what I mean.
This blog post is about ditching your own excuses, getting out of your own way, and start writing. Write your overdue novel, your project plan, your 2013 goals in excruciating detail, your first book or fourth, your blog posts, your magazine article submissions, your newsletter, your proposals, your research paper, your journal publication, whatever it is you need to write. Writing is the essence of all wealth and knowledge and it is the most therapeutic way to get in touch with your soul. Writing is the basis of your life’s work.
How else are you documenting your thoughts, your dreams, your plans, your gifts, if you are not writing them?
Well, I could go on about why writing is essential to your very survival as a professional in any field, but you can read On Writing or a million other books and articles on that. I want to talk about how to get in the habit of writing 5000 words a day. Even if you don’t call yourself a writer.
If you feel yourself building a wall of resistance as you read those words, welcome to the Writing Resistance Syndrome club: You Are Not Alone! You probably have at least a dozen excuses on the tip of your tongue as to why 5k words a day is a ludicrous thing to attempt, even if you are convinced about the power and the benefits of writing. You have responsibilities. You have to take care of kids and dogs and cats and your house. You have a job. You have to make dinner or watch an episode of something important. You have to browse Facebook and check Twitter.
I know. And just because I don’t have kids or dogs (and boy am I dying to get a pooch but must hold off) or a job that wastes my time (not anymore, thank God), doesn’t mean I use every hour of my day productively. I admit, I don’t. I waste time as brilliantly as you, and no matter how many times I beat myself up for it, I continue to waste time. And this is why I am shocked and thrilled that I have discovered a way to write 5000 words a day nonetheless, while I still manage to waste time, and I am about to tell you how you can do the same thing.
It’s a funny irony how high you tend to rank your own productivity in a vacuum.
You may believe that you will produce books upon books and a suite of products on top when you quit your job and go solo or when your child is off to daycare or college or when your husband leaves town or when the holidays are over or when … [fill in the blanks].
You create this amazingly productive robot in your mind’s eye and when those things come to be, when you are finally sitting at the keyboard in your favorite part of the house, all quiet and happy, you will still be itching to do something else after 10 minutes or 20 at most. You will still get up and get another cup of coffee, or get a snack, or use the restroom – again – or remember that you need to call about the car or the fridge or check on a friend or go see if the mail has come by yet. You will be at your most creative, thinking of everything else that you should do really quickly before you really start writing. And this is how most of that first quiet “perfect” day of writing will go for most of us.
On subsequent days, you may hate what you write and scratch it. You may start reading about ways to write more efficiently and get lost in the world wide web for a few hours, telling yourself that you are doing research and getting ready to write “seriously” and to produce “great content” very soon. And low and behold, when you have exhausted your search and are finally ready to write more, you are bound to get interrupted by something that I guarantee will seem more “urgent” than writing.
And so the days and the weeks will go by, your other distractions will weave themselves back into your life and writing will sadly take the same old dusty backseat of “someday” syndrome that it has always reserved, and you will brush it off by saying, “I’ll need to develop a great writing habit one of these days, as soon as I get such and such done and over with in my life.”
Or is that just me?
So how then do you write 5000 words a day when your mind and every fiber of your body loves to resist writing?
Here’s some stuff you don’t have to worry about as much as you may think:
You don’t need to kill all your distractions. Not by a long shot.
You don’t need to go into a cabin in the woods.
You don’t need to cut off the internet. Are you crazy?
You don’t need to have someone hide your iPhone in an undisclosed location.
But here are 3 irrefutable rules that you cannot break:
1. Do not interrupt the writing flow. You know that inner voice whence your writing originates, that sacred little place inside your mind, that faint voice that you hear when you start writing. When it’s in full motion, and when you are in the flow, do not interrupt it. Wait until it has finished its say and take a break before the next cycle begins. The more you hear this inner voice, the more you tune into it and the more you believe in it. And the more you will write. So take your breaks, indulge in your distractions, and take time off for dinner too, but do not do it when the writing voice is in its flow.
2. Do not give in to the myth of “writer’s block”. There’s no such thing. It’s a myth. It’s in your head. It doesn’t exist. So that inner voice I talked about, it can get weak, it can get tired, and it can make your writing difficult. But it’s not a block. If you don’t have anything to say on this topic, try another. If you write garbage, write anyway. If you can’t think of a single word, think harder, more creatively, less restrained, more open, because you have not exhausted your full brain power by any stretch of imagination, or take time to read – you must read a ton of books as a writer, I hope you know that one – or meditate or take a walk but please don’t go around saying “Oh I have writer’s block!” When you give this myth power, you will have destroyed your ability to write consistently.
3. Do not go to bed without writing your 5000 words. This rules gives you all the freedom in your day as long as you manage to get your 5k in! So if you want to watch your episode of …. (Sorry, I don’t even know what’s been playing in the last 10 years on American TV.) then do it, but you still have 5000 words to write. If you want to take care of everything else first then write, then so be it, or if you want to get up 2 hours earlier to write, then that’s fine too. But tell yourself that you will get in those 5k words in every single day, and don’t take no for an answer.
Since November 5th, I have written 41,700 words into Crack the Code to Get Promoted using only these irrefutable rules, plus daily Ashtanga practice and a great many walks with hubby, not to mention one too many hops over to Facebook. I started out with 3000 words a day and then bumped it up to 4k and then 5k+. How many words can you write in one day?
Writing is not easy, of course not, but who cares about easy? Easy is irrelevant. Easy is uninteresting. Easy is for losers because easy doesn’t get you far. You are a winner. Winners work. Winners crush it. Winners put their priorities to the test, winners don’t take no for an answer, winners are not fond of excuses, and winners do things their way but still win, and I bet you anything, winners write. A lot.
So start writing already. That book won’t write itself now, will it?