Small Thoughts for a Quiet World.

300 Words

I read somewhere recently that Terry Pratchett had a goal to write four hundred words a day. Anyone who is familiar with Sir Terry's body of work knows that he must have written far more than that most days. You don't create the Discworld and Good Omens and all his other projects without putting in a fair amount of time and effort daily.

At roughly the same time I was in a seminar for work. During that seminar they talked about the concept of incremental gains, the “1% Daily improvement” concept, that each day we do a little bit that makes us a little better. This concept has many names, but it always boils back down to “just keep doing the thing you want to be good at.”

And I want to be good at writing. So I decided, hey, I can be 75% as good as Terry Pratchett. If not in quality, then in quantity. I set a goal to write 300 words a day in my current work in progress novel.

And here's what's happened in the three weeks that I've been doing this. On the days where I write at least 300 words, I write much more than 300 words. Some days have been over two thousand. Most days are over a thousand. I think the low, obtainable goal has a strong psychological benefit. Once I've hit that magical (very low) bar of three hundred words, I feel more free to do things other than just type new words. I go back and edit, even removing text. I make changes, restructure the text, spend time thinking about the characters and the plot and what will come next. All the other activities that make up writing. And I still end up adding more words than before.

Again, this isn't new advice. Every book about writing, every author who is asked “what's your secret?” will tell you the same thing. The only “secret” is to keep writing. This is just another view into that open secret. If I can focus on what I'm doing right here and right now, I'll eventually end up with a finished work, because I kept working on it. If I get discouraged that I'm not significantly closer today than I was yesterday, I'm more likely to give up. Someone described it as being a writer instead of worrying about what you have written. It's a somewhat subtle difference, but important.

Thoughts? Tell me about them!
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