500 Words Every Day: Six Months In

We’re halfway through the year.  I’ve written for six straight months now, every single day.  I don’t, however, have a lot of published work to show for it as the last two months have been busier than normal at my day job.  I’m able to write every day, but polishing up posts for publication has fallen off.  I’m still creating content that may or may not be ready for usage.  My daily word count averages 960 or so for the past three months. That’s incredible to me.  111,000 words in three months.  I can write a novel.  Now, I know I can.  I just need to come up with a story idea that I like. I’ve had one rattling around in my head for a while, but it’s a shapeshifter.  My political side wants to write a dystopian novel that rants about today’s society.  My romantic side wants to write quite another novel. I’m siding with the latter because I don’t think I have anything uniquely different to say about the world right now.  And no one listens to differing opinions anyway.  I’d rather create something escapist.

So instead of writing a “what I’ve learned” post, I wanted to discuss the issues I’ve run into in the hopes of helping anyone still struggling to put together a daily habit.  First, there are a lot of posts recently on whether or not you need to write and post every day. I am not advocating posting every day.  I think that makes a writer lazy.  If you could take three months and prepare three months of content, you might be able to begin to post every day after you have 90 posts ready.  That is if you can keep producing quality posts while writing every day.  I don’t think that’s possible or needed unless you were independently wealthy and didn’t have a day job.  I saw a recent post where someone claimed they can write once a week and the pent-up frustration for them spills out onto the page. That’s good for that specific writer, but if I have to get to a million words to find my voice, or to get good, that will take me 7 times as long than doing it every day.  Again, I’m not saying post every day, I’m saying you do need to write every day.  This is just a basic rule of learning.  Anything you want to master takes daily focused practice.

Capturing ideas

If you have any question about your idea-creating abilities, go ahead and do a 30-day post-a-day challenge.  It will show you how difficult it is to come up with content.  That leads you to the realization that you need a steady stream of ideas.  I’ve seen a lot of systems out there to capture ideas, and I have formed my own that seems to work for me.  Basically, you have to have a way to capture your ideas AS THEY HAPPEN.  I’d use a notebook and pen if I could read my writing.  But I can’t rely on myself to write legibly enough to be able to transcribe the note later.  So I use Drafts 5 on my iPhone and voice dictation to capture the idea.  Then I export it to Evernote where it sits until I move it to my ideas folder.  It has worked so far.  I currently have 350 ideas in my idea folder, more than enough to keep me going.  It turns out I create almost three times as many ideas as I use, on average.  I’ve written about that process here.

I’ve also come across several journaling processes as a way to summarize your day and capture ideas.  I’m sad to say that none of those have worked for me.  The summarizing at the end of the day is a great practice, but that’s my reading time, and I feel I need to progress in my reading every day as well.  Every writer I respect has said you have to read to be a writer.  I haven’t always been a reader, so I feel I have to catch up for lost time.  I try to read at least 10 pages every single day, and more on the weekends.  It helps me get through more books than I ever did before this system.

Feeding the subconscious a question

I try to feed my subconscious a question at night when I go to bed.  I have been underwhelmed by the results of that.  I do find that if I write an idea down that has come out of a situation throughout the day, and has a lot of emotion attached to it, I’ll set it aside for a few days and let my mind come to grips with it.  I also want to let the emotion relax a little bit before I go to write the piece.  I seem to have better results that way.  I’ve done both, written while still upset, and I just don’t like the tone that comes out of my angry rants.

I’ve had decent success planning my writing for the week.  I did it for 10 days.  The first week was great, I got 7 new scenes for my novel in a week.  Great movement.  The second week exposed that my storyline wasn’t really fleshed out, and the writing became more difficult.  I would like to plan out a whole week of writing in advance and see where my mind goes with it.  I do think it would be more successful than randomly grabbing an idea each morning.  I will test that over the next six months.

The routine saves me

I’ve realized that I have to stick to the routine if I want to have a successful day.  If I don’t get up early, I rush the writing, and I don’t have the time I want to do my research, polish up posts, etc.  Work will start to creep in about 7 AM, so if I want three hours in the morning, I have to get up at 4.  That actually only yields 2.5 hours because I have to brush my teeth and make coffee.  But by 7, the dog wants to go out and work is starting to bug me, which means my mind is split between work and creating, and I know I’m not good at that.  I can do one or the other, I cannot bounce between and focus on writing at all.

Just keep going – the bad days

There are days you don’t want to continue.  I’ve had relatively few days where I didn’t want to write.  But I have had more and more days of “why do I even bother” or “I’ll never get anywhere.”  And indeed, it’s probable that I will never make a living from my writing, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have written.  That doesn’t mean I won’t have tried.  More than ever, and with every day, I am more certain that hard work pays off.  If I do the work, I will eventually get where I want to be with my writing.  Does that mean I’ll make money?  No, because success isn’t necessarily the only reward for hard work.  Will I have a body of work to show for the last 20 years of my life?  Yes.  Unless something happens to me that robs me of my ability to write and create (one of my only real fears), I will keep creating.  I will write books.  I will probably write a non-fiction one as well.  Probably a collection of writing tips, or a guide on how to make your own prompts.

Other art forms as a tool for expansion

I’ve started to dabble in other art forms just to see how it affects my artist side.  I’ve been surprised so far, but again, knowing that everything good comes out of hard work and dedication, I’m willing to put the work in to find something else creative I enjoy doing.  I started drawing again, and I’m going to work on photography.  Both have interested me for decades, so now is the time to jump into those media as well.

My Hand
This was done the first weekend I started drawing. This is roughly what my hand looks like

Organization of my writing

I recently read a post from an extremely anal, I mean organized, writer, and he posted about his process of keeping track of how many words he writes each day.  I hate it when I find an idea that I wish I would have implemented months ago.  It’s a simple Google Sheet where I just enter the number of words I write in my morning session, the date, and the subject.  After doing that for about 25 days, I realized I liked the way it was coming out, so I went back to March 1st.  Then I added a checkbox so I could track which morning sessions get moved into blog posts.  This is probably the second or third most powerful thing I’ve done for my writing.  I can see trends, daily averages, and I can see subjects across the month.  I enter the word count manually when I’m done each morning.  This is especially useful for when I’m looking back for things to develop into a post.  The title is a general subject line that reminds me of the writing for that day, then I can quickly flip to Evernote for that date and find the article.

Screen Shot 2018-06-29 at 5.51.55 AM
Who’s anal now?  I love this thing!

Medium.com as a platform

Finally, I started blogging on Medium as well.  I have to say having a platform that already has readers is exceptional.  There don’t seem to be any trolls on Medium, which is a really nice break from the Internet.  I’ve had more views of my work there than all of my blog content combined.  Not that it’s a lot, but it’s something.  I will continue to learn that platform and try to figure out how to build an audience.  I’d say that my only real disappointment so far is that I haven’t finished my ebook and built a landing page to build my email list.  I have the content 90% done, I just am stuck in the “is it good enough” phase.  And honestly, I started writing it after three months and I didn’t think I had enough credibility to speak to my daily habit.  Six months is a solid effort, though.

Overall, I’m happy about where my writing is going after only six months.  If you had told me last November that I’d be sitting on June 1st with 78 posts, an 8000-word eBook on my writing habit, 12,000 words of my novel, six other projects in the mix, and an average daily word count of 960, I wouldn’t have believed you.  I am firmly on my way.  I have begun.  I will only go up from here.  That’s the best part about a daily writing habit, you see results so quickly.  After just one week, you have results.  After one month, there are even better results, and you get excited.  After three months, you feel like you have this down, you’ve mastered the habit.  And at six months, you start to raise your head up and realize, not only can I do this, but now I can point the weapon and choose my target.

It’s exciting, and if you’ve ever wanted to be a writer, I highly suggest you start by writing every single day.  There are no “days off.” That’s the point of a 500-word count daily minimum.  Even on the day I was sick in bed, I managed to knock out 500 words.  I’m living proof that it can be done.  The rest is up to you.

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