How can I write one new work per year for the next 10 years? I tossed this idea around in my mind on the morning of September 22nd, the last day of summer, as I thought about tremendously prolific writers I admire. What separates them from other writers is their productivity and persistence. And that’s what I want to have as a writer.
Here’s the math that showed me that this wild goal is possible: write 250 words per day for 360 days. (Look I’m even giving myself 5 or 6 days off per year!) That’s 90,000 words. That’s a book. That’s almost two books! 250 words a day? I could write that while my coffee’s brewing. That’s only half a page. That’s less than the length of this post. And that got me very excited and curious. Could I actually do this?
Yes, that’s just a first draft. It needs LOADS of editing and rewriting. Yes, if you’re a planner and outliner like me, that takes time, too. Yes, there’s research. And yes, marketing is also time-consuming and extremely necessary. And you also have to pitch your own work if, like me, you don’t yet have an agent.
But in my mind the breaking down of this enormous task moves it from possible to probable. I could write a new work every year.
Always around the end of summer / beginning of fall, the new yearly inspiration for this blog strikes me. Someone says something or I read something, and the theme just clicks. I don’t worry about it anymore because it really does just happen.
So, this is my 2020 theme: I’ll be writing about the process of getting down 250 words of a new work every day. Most of the time I’ll be sharing resources, motivation, and encouragement for writers. If you’ve got questions, please ask them and I’ll do my best to either answer or find the answer for you.
Here’s to a 2020 filled with words and creativity that we can share with one another. If you’re on social media, I’ll be using the hashtag #250wordstoday to collect all of these thoughts this year.
“I’m not an outliner or someone who free writes. I’m more of a gardener. I plant seeds and I see what grows. I plant pumpkins and I expect a pumpkin. But if I get a tomato, I’ll figure out what to do with that. That’s how I write. I love that magic moment when something happens on the page we’re writing that we didn’t know was going to happen. I get to be the first reader of my work, and it’s very exciting. And quite frankly that magic doesn’t happen often enough. A lot of writing is just laying brick.” ~Neil Gaiman, International Literary Festival in Dublin, May 2018
By an amazing stroke of luck, Neil Gaiman was speaking as the headliner at the International Literary Festival in Dublin while I was there doing research for my next novel this week. He’s one of my favorite writers, an inspiration for my own work, and to see him in person was thrilling.
Of all the beautiful advice he offered (and you can see my tweets from his talk here: https://twitter.com/i/moments/1002678622765887488), this quote above is the one that affected me the most because it made me change the way I think about my own writing.
I’m a planner. If I were to self-analyze, I would say I like plans because I grew up with a lot of instability. I like order and organization of my tasks because I like to know what I’m doing and where I’m going, and I absolutely hate wasting time because I know what a precious and finite a resource time is. I can’t imagine a world in which I completely let that go. However, Neil Gaiman made me realize that maybe, perhaps, I can loosen the reins a bit. I certainly allow for new information and imagination in my writing. I’ve absolutely had moments where new characters and circumstances and obstacles show up that I never saw coming. That’s the fun, the magic, of writing.
But maybe I don’t need the next bit figured out before I sit down to write every single time. It’s at least worth trying, and giving something a try is where everything begins.
“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” ~Rumi
As much as 2016 was a year of hype, I hope that 2017 is a year of substance. I hope we stop rewarding the person in the room with the loudest voice and start listening to those who are take action in a thoughtful, collaborative, and inclusive way. I hope we learn to revere love and reject hate. And most of all, I hope we collectively come to understand that caring for people and assuring equality is not a liberal value, but a human one.