I’ll admit I have never formed a daily writing habit. I’ve made several attempts at Nanowrimo. The first time, I thought I was going to write my first published #scifi book, Stupid Humans, in the month of November. I started in November of 2012, and I finished in November…of 2014. Whatever, they didn’t say what year it had to be.
Writing: It’s Complicated
Admittedly, my 176,000+ word first draft was way longer than the 50,000 words required to complete Nanowrimo. Still, I didn’t work on it daily, even during November of 2012. I did work on it several days in a row, then I burned out and wrote maybe every couple days for the rest of the month.
After November ended, I got even lazier and less motivated. I wrote a couple chapters every couple months, then forgot about it for a couple more months. In November of 2012, the store I worked in closed, and I decided to take the opportunity to finish my book while I had the time, so I finally did. I should have used Nanowrimo as an opportunity to develop a daily writing habit, but unfortunately, I didn’t.
After that, I spent a couple years writing two more manuscripts, at one point writing a political satire in three months after losing yet another job (this time to a ten-dollar-an-hour-no-benefits intern). After writing and publishing that one under another pen name, I went back to writing #scifi, slowly working my way through another novel, about a guy who invents a pill to make people more trusting. Then I spent a lot of time writing blog posts, doing interviews, and generally avoiding doing very much writing.
I did manage to write about a chapter a week of a parallel universe book last year, and got to about 35,000 words—maybe a halfway point. Then I got the idea that I wanted to make Stupid Humans a series. So I ended up shelving the parallel universe story, which I will come back to at some point, and starting on the second Stupid Humans book for Nanowrimo of last year.
Developing a Daily Writing Habit
I’ll confess, I cheated. I started writing in October and still didn’t finish in November. I did finish in December, by continuing to write daily. Okay, most days. Nobody’s perfect.
So I finished the second book and started on the third. I considered making writing 1,000 words a day my New Year’s resolution for 2018 (although I usually refuse to make resolutions because I kind of like myself just the way I am). Anyway, I made an exception and decided on an unofficial resolution to try to write 1,000 words a day most days. If I did that, I could write 365,000 words a year! That’s like four books if I don’t go over 100K on any of them and one is only 65K.
Developing a Writing Habit That Works For Me
Okay, that may have been overreaching a bit. A week in, I’d written on maybe two days. I blamed it on editing the second book, and the trust pill book. Or on having to do writing for freelance clients, like press releases and ad copy. (At one point, I saved a client from who knows how many lawsuits by ensuring his brochures didn’t actually say yoga classes could cure diabetes.) But, I did not manage to write 1,000 words a day of my own stuff.
I gave myself a week off to try to finish editing the second book, finally finished, and decided to start over. I did better with that, and have managed to write most days since then. I missed some Saturdays. I didn’t manage a thousand words every day—some were only 500. I decided writing SOMETHING every day was better than writing nothing. I took another week off last week to finish editing the trust pill book, something I expected to be done by now. Unfortunately, when I went back to the beginning and started rereading it, I realized I hated the first fifth of the book and it needed serious surgery, including a couple complete chapterectomies. I’m not sure why I didn’t fix this stuff before—maybe being away from the manuscript for months gave me perspective and allowed me to grow as a writer. Or maybe I got Hemingway’s famous advice about “Write drunk, edit sober,” backwards. At any rate, I took some time to fix that manuscript up, then got back to writing.
It was easier than I thought. I wrote 1,000 words today, and yesterday, and I plan to tomorrow as well. The biggest thing that has helped me keep this up is starting as soon as I get off the treadmill in the morning. I toss around story ideas in my head while I run, and I figure I’m never going to have better blood flow to my brain than during and right after a workout, so that’s what I do. After I get out of the shower, I make a vegan protein shake with Sunwarrior protein powder and peanut butter, take some active B vitamins that are supposed to have a nootropic effect (although that’s probably bullshit, I like to think it makes my brain work better), and sit down to write.
But the most important thing I do for my daily writing habit is I force myself to write something before I do anything else—check my email, go on Facebook, etc. That way I write a thousand words before I get into an argument about whether Star Wars or Star Trek is better (Star Trek all the way!). Sure, I still waste time arguing with people on social media (probably more than I should), but at least I got some writing done first, right?
I also remind myself that it’s okay if I don’t have any good ideas for what to write next. One of the best things you can do as a writer is give yourself permission to write something that’s not perfect. If I don’t have a good idea, I write my best bad idea and hope I think of something better. Usually, I do, and I can go back and delete the crap I wrote before it. I guess I could amend Hemingway’s famous advice by saying write drunk, or at least without inhibition, and edit sober, or at least with a very critical eye.
How did you develop a daily writing habit?
V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, the first in a #scifi series that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent humans ran away from Earth—and we’re what’s left?”