500 Words

‘A writer writes, always.’

I remember that line from the movie ‘Throw Momma From the Train’. The main character, played by Billy Crystal, is a struggling writer who teaches a creative writing class on the side. The above line was the mantra of his writing class, and has become my mantra as well. Whenever I think ‘What am I supposed to do today?’ the thought always comes back to ‘A writer writes, always.’

But when I tried to sit down and work without a guideline of what is ‘always’, it was never enough. I would work and work until I couldn’t give anymore and then I would leave the work untouched for days at a time. Almost in childish defiance. As if the work had taken so much out of me, I refused to give it any more of myself.

So, in order to keep working without the emotional upheaval, I had to establish a set parameter of how much was ‘enough’. At first, I tried to limit the scope of my work to a length of time. I set my working time for four hours. But, with regular interruptions and my constantly short attention span, I couldn’t sit still that long, and I wasn’t getting much work done. I tried using the Pomodoro technique and that proved some success, but still couldn’t handle the amount of external and internal interruptions I was getting.

The time restriction wasn’t working, no matter how I was trying to conform it to my particular style. I wasn’t getting the productivity results I was looking for. The only solution was to set a word quota. I’ve set my quota for 500 words a day and that’s been a big success. I’ve been able to hit that pretty much every day. When I was writing for NaNoWriMo, I was hitting upwards of 1,600 words a day, so 500 is an easy challenge.

Making sure that I have some type of quota is important for my motivation and development as a writer. I have to write, every day, even when I don’t ‘feel like it’. It’s the only way I’m going to become the writer I want to be.

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