Monday, January 04, 2016


04:21 Monday 4th January 2015

SUCCESS! Last night at ten minutes to one in the morning (today) I wrote word number 100,289. That was from a beginning at 05:30 on December 7th 2015 and the total of 28 Days included three trips away, two games of football, Christmas and so on. 

I probably drank 10,000 cups of Green tea too.

I am not saying that I recommend you too try to write a million words in a year (you get 13 months the Boot Camp way) but that you set yourself “astronomical” (but theoretically achievable) targets and seriously go for them. A target of 1,000,000 words in a Calendar Year is only 2,750 words per day. If you aim for that million and “fail”, only writing half that amount (500,000 words) how pleased would you be?

When I teach at conferences and I discuss self-motivation, one of the first things I ask is that all the delegates in the room write down what they wrote today, yesterday etc for a total of ten days.

First, they all complain and say “obviously” they haven’t written today, they are at a writer’s conference! And I ask WHY is it obvious? 

If they were serious they would have got up earlier and written for an hour. If they were true, committed writers they would do this automatically. They would have used the impetus that all this writer-talk has given them and written for at least that hour. If they were going to be successful, they would have written for an hour AFTER the day’s lectures as well.

Who ever said this game was easy?

These are people who are (relatively) committed. After all they are on a writer’s course; they have paid money to learn stuff. They are the real beans. They average how many words a day?

Make your best estimate now. 500? 750? 1,000? 1250?

What do you think? Do the exercise yourself.

NOW. Stop Reading!

You may well answer by saying you don’t know. 

If you don’t KNOW how much you write how can you ever push yourself, test yourself, check if you are slacking? 

Keep a notebook, open a spreadsheet, write it DOWN. 

People con themselves. It’s human nature. When I was a serious runner and a running coach I aimed to run every day “forever” (a minimum of two miles) because I knew how easily one day off became two became three, became a week. I was trying to change my routine, what and who I was. Aiming to run every day was vital.

So I started an “every day” run and I was fit, getting fitter. I ran 57 consecutive days. 

I knew I had done that. I remembered it categorically because it was “Heinz 57” as in 57 varieties, easy to remember. There was not a chance I was wrong.

I went back to look at my running diary. It was 42 days. I would have bet my LIFE it was 57 (Heinz). 

Do not ask me how I changed 42 to 57. I have not the slightest idea, but if you are trying to change something about yourself, writing, running, calorie counting, going alcohol-free, becoming a vegetarian, LOG IT. Do not trust fallible memory and put the facts on paper as they happen.

In my case, as I push push push towards a million words, I don’t write down daily totals. I write down the individual item total, flash, poem. story, article, video with a number so I can see at what time I finished a piece, how many words it was, how my day is going. This way, over time, should I choose to analyse my efforts I will be able to check whether early morning writing is best, or late evening, or do I have a purple patch around noon.

I “know” of course what is happening. I am aiming to have meet all my daily writing targets by 0900 when, ideally I will have fed the dogs in a break and then can take them out for their walk. So far this hasn’t happened with any kind of consistency but, in general I have written 2,000-3,000 words by 09:00. In general, after that I don’t write a lot more. My daily average is now 3,546 (just checked the spreadsheet), so clearly at the moment I am packing in a large percentage of my totals in the first few hours (4 hours!) of the day.

Having accumulated this data, it’s clear to me already that I “switch off” once I’ve reached my daily target, but sometimes I have a really brilliant day (eg 10,458 my best this run, 8,210, — 7,483 — 5,853 and 5,658). WHY do I get these great days?

Frankly, I don’t know. It might be that a target like 50,000 or 100,000 was on the horizon and this was an incentive to keep going. Maybe I had to break and hadn’t reached my daily minimum before walking the dogs, and on my return, went for it, and kept going. I can make an educated guess and say I relax too much, and maybe I should set a goal of a 1K story or more to be written between 1PM and 4PM. That way I may break the slacker-habit. Health-wise I would do better to break my writing periods up into 3 or 4 sessions. I’m sure what I am doing is not good for my body (though it feels great for the soul, and maybe I will need to (a) pace myself better (b) spread the intensity over a wider number of hours.

For example, I pushed like hell yesterday and wrote 5.853 words to get over 100K. Very good, but that meant I got to bed at 01:00, took a while to get to sleep (because I was buzzing) and had to get up at 04:00. Arrrrrggghhhh!

Actually I would have got up at 05:30 as a reward, but my daughter had to get up (UNI Deadline) at 04:00. Sod’s Law strikes. She wanted to get up at THREE a.m. but I suggested she stay up later and broke her hours up more.

Interestingly, she would never have thought of rising this early. She often works late, but then the time is wasted because she then crashes half the day!

That’s another point. Get up at six, or five or my four o’clock and blast the work off while the world is quieter, while there are no distractions, and while your mind is relatively uncluttered. Consider getting up at whatever time you need so you have met all your targets before leaving for college or work or walking the dogs. When you know everything after (say) nine o’clock is a bonus your serotonin levels will rise, and you’ll feel satisfaction, pride, a sense of achievement, and chances are you will write some more during the day.

But don’t believe me. Just TRY it for a month.


The answer to the how many words question?

173 words per day average

That is NOT a typo

1 comment:

Rusty Barnes said...

I admire those counts. I'm about to try some stuff other than writing, stuff that requires diligence. I'm scared of it, but if I continue getting a thousand words a day too I'll be happy. An hour of writing, an hour of exercise. That's all I want.