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A Thousand Words a Day

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

Maintaining focus is a struggle for me. I wish I knew what to blame—social media, getting old, or the fact that last night instead of re-reading Emma, I decided to watch The Dog House, a show in which very nice British people are matched with shelter dogs based on personality profiles. Reading classics or watching a dating show for dogs? My brain must be smooth by now.

When I gave up on my book five years ago, this lack of focus—which is at its core a lack of discipline—was the primary factor in my inability to finish it. Every author from Stephen King to the members of the writing group I joined in high school say the same thing—you have to practice your craft. Back then, I thought I had to be inspired or have a huge chunk of time available to do nothing but be in a creative space in order to produce anything.

In the intervening years, I progressed in my career and learned how to struggle through tasks while completely deprived of will or inspiration. After all, this is the version of corporate America that our school system prepares us for. When I picked my book back up in June, I decided I was going to make a rule for myself. J and I call this rule:

A Thousand Words a Day

I gave him permission to say this to me as I bemoaned opening up my laptop at 7PM knowing that I mentally wasn’t up for the task. It has several variations. Sometimes when he knows I’ve skipped a day, he will yell, “Two thousand words a day!” or when I’ve whined too much and he wants to shut me up it’s “A thousand pages a day!”

There were some nights where I sat in front of the screen for four hours and was actively typing for maybe a quarter of that. Sometimes I would go down insane rabbit holes trying to figure out the most accurate way to describe the width of a tree trunk just to avoid having to write that scene. You can see in the log below that I didn’t always make my goal, especially at the end. I knew how I wanted things to wrap up, but I was slogging through putting all of the necessary pieces together to get where I needed to go (though hopefully it doesn’t read like that!). Through that process, I found that having my husband, ever so lovingly, remind me of my goals to be quite motivating.

The daily word count log I started keeping to stay motivated

The other great thing about a thousand words a day is that it should result in me being able to kick out a first draft of the next two books in less than three months each. I am currently editing Acorn, a process that I am enjoying very much. I plan to write a post soon about my timeline for getting Acorn reviewed and edited, so stay tuned!

So there you have it, an entire blog post dedicated to the thing every writer has been told a million times: write every day. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that it really works, but it does.

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