There I am, standing on the top of a mound that was once a former bunker, staring out at the English Channel. Omaha Beach is an inspiration on its own; the historical events that took place here make it somber and emotional. After jotting a few notes, I walk off the grassy mound and back to my car. The rain splashes against my windshield, bubbling before sliding down the glass. I’m avoiding going home to begin writing.
Don’t get me wrong; I want to write. I want to capture the fresh and raw emotions brought on by visiting this amazing beach. But, I can’t. In fact, I’m avoiding my computer altogether.
If I listen to the advice found on the internet, I should be writing every day and setting goals for myself to be successful.
I’ve done that, and I must admit I found the “advice” suffocating. I try to avoid writing. I find myself shying away from my task, which is upsetting because I love writing. I have loved it since the third grade when I wrote little plays for my class to perform each week. But, not being able to stick to the goal of 10,000 words a day was not only making me feel unworthy of the title “writer,” it also had me feeling overwhelmed.
So, why is a 10,000-word day goal so hard?
I’m not kidding when I say I have been writing pretty much my entire life. In school, I would write short stories and poems for my school paper. I was the kid who was excited about a research paper, or a project that we had to work on with a report.
As I have grown as a writer, so has my process. I create outlines, character backgrounds, etc. This is my profession, so I should have professional habits. One of the ways I adopted these professional habits was to set goals, and set up schedules.
My best writing happens in the morning, sometimes right out of bed. Understanding this, I set up my writing schedule and word goals around my most productive time. However, while I was able to accomplish my goals for the first week, suddenly, I wanted to avoid writing like it was the plague. The writing was no longer the bright shiny love of my life; it was now a chore.
How did I get around this? And, how can you get around that feeling?
I learned to listen to myself, and understand that I am not like the “average writer.” My creativity comes differently for me than it does for others. I work more organically. How I work may look less structured but I am most productive and creative when I am not committed to an unrealistic goal.
To get around the “strictness of goals,” I make sure that I write during the times of the day when I know I will be more productive. Using my outline, I make sure that I stay true to the story, but I don’t limit or require myself to reach a specific word goal.
Working during the hours when I feel most productive also helps me tap into the creativity that makes me enjoy writing. Understanding myself, and learning how I work, has been incredible for my productivity and writing management.
Here are ways you can continue to progress as a writer:
1. Discover yourself
When writing a story, how long does it take to get it out of your soul and onto paper? Track the time it takes you to push all the good stuff you are coming up with on the fly.
Discover how much time you, as a writer, need to devote to writing. It is vital that you understand how long it will take you to write a chapter, an article, a short story, a poem…anything that’s on your to-write list. Knowing how much time it takes you to write, and how many words you can push out, will help you create a realistic goal, and not turn writing into a chore. The bonus is that you know what you can hold yourself accountable for should you feel you cannot write another word.
2. Discover your motivation
For me, my motivation usually comes from books, research, or visiting the place I may be writing about (or want to use in a story). When I feel inspired, I turn to a journal. Journaling is a great way to gather your thoughts and notes, and collect details you may want to use later.
Journaling will also help you keep track of the things that motivate you. For instance, you could be sitting in the park, and notice a couple arguing. The way they fight, the hand gestures, and the way they stand could all inspire you.
3. Set page goals instead of word count goals
As with any writer, I understand that goals are essential, especially when you are working towards a deadline. Remember to keep track of what you are capable of, and use that information to set a realistic goal for your writing. If you can create 40,000 words a month, use that as a goal.
Page goals are a much more realistic goal for someone like me. I am doing a little math, taking the average page amount of any given fiction book, dividing it by the number of weeks in which I want to finish my project, and then figuring out how many pages I need to have completed each week to reach that goal.
4. Read. Write. Read. Repeat.
Reading is a great motivator and it helps build your vocabulary. Plus, it allows you to become a better writer. Spending time with established writers gives you good examples of what good writing looks like. I am not saying you should copy everything the author has done, but you can use their writing as a guide. Focus on how they build a scene, the dilemma the character faces in each chapter, or how the plot builds. You are learning in real-time how a great story can be established.
Use what you have learned in your own writing. While setting 10,000 words, a day goal may work for others; there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to goals. For many, 10,000 words a day may seem overwhelming or unachievable. If that is the case, try something else. Hold yourself accountable, and use a writing system to support you, and not hinder your progress.
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Christina (@christina_write) is a freelance writer who offers ghostwriting, copywriting, article writing, and more. You can find more about Christina at quillsandtypewriters.com.