Do you have a book idea sitting in a (real or metaphorical) drawer somewhere? Maybe you haven’t even done much writing on it, just some random notes, but it nags at you now and again.
What could you do to finish it or at least start moving forward? First, try getting unstuck by setting a daily writing goal. I even have the number for you: 300 words.
If you write 300 words every day for four months, you will have written 36,000 words.
A word count of 36,000 is around 120 book pages, assuming 300 words per typeset page.
Voilà! There’s your book.
A Daily Writing Goal Is Great, But…
What if you can’t even get to setting that daily writing goal?
There are a hundred factors that come into play when we try to fill in that big white space. We feel unworthy, we think our writing isn’t good enough, we don’t think we’re competent enough to address the subject, and all these psychological barriers stop us before we can even start.
So let’s change the dynamic by understanding three things:
1. All good writers write bad stuff. Then they fix it.
Your first draft is not going to be pure gold, and neither is your second. Or possibly your third. Most of writing is rewriting or, as Hemingway said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.”
You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits [for a writer] is persistence. —Octavia E. Butler
2. Inspiration comes when you do the work.
Despite the romanticized notions out there about writers, writing is hard work. Like any creative endeavor, inspiration (and motivation) doesn’t just show up on command. It comes when you do the work. If you don’t do the work of writing, you won’t see the results you want. Remember: Inspiration rarely comes before you start writing. Inspiration usually comes as you’re writing.
If you wait for inspiration to write you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter. —Dan Poynter
3. You need to develop and reinforce the writing habit.
Write every day. If you can’t do 300 words that day, do 50. Do 10. Do a sentence. If you hate it, you can delete it later. The key is to begin developing that daily habit, to consistently write every day and reinforce that mental pathway.
A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit. —Richard Bach
The work—the act of writing— is where your motivation comes from. There’s a big psychological barrier to starting anything, so go for quick wins. Start small by writing a little every day and work toward your daily writing goal. You’ll develop confidence and momentum, which will motivate you to continue to write.
And voilà! There’s your book.
You’re more likely to act yourself into feeling than feel yourself into action. —Psychologist Jerome Bruner
For those of you keeping track, this post is 542 words long. I wrote it in about an hour and a half with a lot of tweaking.
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