I’m a slow writer. Words don’t gush or stream or—even that most mundane of tropes—flow out of me. They drip, pause, and drip out like they are emerging from a leaky faucet that’s not broken enough to fix yet.
Since I started writing 18 years ago I’ve finished a total of seven short stories, two of which are fewer than 700 words. (Let’s not even talk about novels, except to note my current work-in-progress is at 46,000 words, the most I’ve ever written for a single story.)
But here’s the real reason for my lackluster output. Of those 18 years, I only wrote for four. During this time, I managed to get two short stories accepted by professional publications. For 14 years(!) of dormancy, I only wished to be a writer.
I would like to be a writer instead, so here are the three basic rules I’ve set for myself.
- Write every day, even if it’s just a sentence. The only words that count are the ones in the actual story. Research doesn’t count. This blog doesn’t count. A tome on the history of the world I’ve created doesn’t count, unless I’m planning to go the way of the Silmarillion. It can be the shortest and/or worst sentence in the history of sentences but I’m not allowed to go to bed without having written it.
- Set monthly writing goals that are ambitious but achievable. In keeping with the first rule, negative words don’t count, sadly, since I can’t sell something that doesn’t exist no matter how much time I’ve spent on it. In the 30 days since I’ve started keeping track, I’ve averaged about 530 words per day. (I’ve joined Camp NaNoWriMo and my goal there is 700.)
- Treat writing like my first job. This might be the hardest, especially since I have a day job that takes up most of my waking hours and attention. So this commitment is attitudinal—I will treat writing like my most important job and not a hobby. I will prioritize writing whether I feel like writing that day or not. And I will not just start work, I will complete it.
At the end of the day, like everyone says: Writers write.