Productivity is something everyone strives for, and if you pickup any self-help or productivity focused book you’ll probably run into the advice to “not break the chain”; that is, for habits you want to do, mark them down every day that you complete them, then over time you’ll build a chain of days where you’ve completed the task and you’ll be more likely to attempt it each day to try not to break that chain. This is part of why so many habit tracking apps have ‘streaks’ built into them (think Daylio, Duolingo, Productive, Streaks, etc.). So why is this important or interesting?
Now this isn’t a new idea, I’m not claiming to suddenly have had an epiphany about how to write and if you’re already well aware of this, feel free to stop reading, but, I never used to see the value in the advice. The idea of doing writing (or anything really) everyday regardless of whether you feel inspired or motivated to do it does feel depressing. But if you only produce when you feel like it then nothing will ever get done. If as a worker at a job you only did work when you wanted to you’d very quickly find yourself in trouble and potentially fired (or if nobody notices, extremely bored). So I’ve been forcing myself to write every day and after doing it for a week this is what my progress on a 10,000 word target looks like:
Day 0 is how many words I started with, this project had begun but never gotten anywhere for a number of months before I decided to try knuckling down to finish it. Now, I know that 10,000 words isn’t a huge goal to accomplish (and I haven’t accomplished yet), but when a story has been sitting there for so long it is difficult to psyche yourself up to do it, especially when there are new fresh ideas that you would rather focus on (or other projects you can procrastinate by doing because they require less mental energy). But the progress made over a week with only ~800 words an evening after work (something between thirty minutes and an hour depending on how mentally exhausted I was) is at least worthwhile pursuing.
The thing is, as I said earlier, this isn’t new as an idea, writing every day is the rule not the exception for a lot of authors, after all, we’re all aware of the blistering pace Stephen King sets and Neil Gaiman is on record with the following snippet of advice:
If you’re only going to write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist — because you’re going to have to make your word count today, and those words aren’t going to wait for you, whether you’re inspired or not.
- Neil Gaiman
This sort of advice is also why some find the psuedo-competition of events like NaNoWriMo so helpful as a kickstart to getting into writing habits (though making it stick can be problematic, I’ve participated several times and have never been disciplined enough to force it to stick afterwards). Anyway, it’s November 2nd, the start of NaNoWriMo time (well, 2 days in actually), so you can still participate and put the challenge of daily work to good use and get yourself into the habit. It’s only 1667 words every day it can’t be that bad (which is what I say to myself every year).