One writing tip I hear over and over again is to prioritize writing every day if you can. I hadn’t done that this year but I did do one thing that revitalized my writing in 2019: I completed a whole month of writing for NaNoWriMo..
In November 2019, I took my first dive into the National Novel Writing Month. This group draws tens of thousands of writers each year to their online site which tracks your writing. The originators set the goal of writing 50,000 words for the first draft of a novel – in one month.
I’ve never written a novel before but an idea for a historical women’s fiction book came to me as I ended an online course by Margie Lawson on Deep Editing and Rhetorical Devices. I jumped in to NaNoWriMo with no intention of writing 50,000 words. My goal: see what I could do and how far I could get.
A cool word count graph on the site introduced me to tracking my daily writing. My graph grew upward diagonally for a few days, then flat for a couple. At the end of November, I had 17,000 words completed in my rough draft. But before I could go further, I realized I needed to learn more about writing fiction such as plot, character development, and POV.
With a pile of craft books in hand, I designed an at-home fiction course study for myself. I graphed it manually (I love filling in the columns as I finish a section of a book) and was on my way to learning how to write a novel.
Beginning in January, I gave myself permission for a fallow year – a year to rest a bit and learn about fiction writing. Beside occasional journaling, I wrote only for my blog and periodical articles that I feared submitting.
After resting a while, the itch to write returned.
Some authors encourage tracking your writing, so I started a daily word count with a not-too-subtle-form titled Writing Habit. Knowing how many daily words you write on average allows writers to project how long it will take to finish an essay, novella or book.
Problem: when I could defocus from pandemic fears, I studied the craft of fiction writing by reading and taking courses. I wasn’t currently writing my novel. Unsure of my antagonists and loosely playing with a plot with holes in it, I didn’t feel comfortable writing the next scene until I’d made some decisions.
When I wrote a blog post or article, I’d fill in a box with the word count. The Writing Habit Chart looked like a string bikini.
After a few months of looking at the skimpy word counts on the chart, I concluded I had not formed a writing habit. It would take years before I got my first draft done and edited at this rate. I began to wonder if it was all worth it. The pandemic didn’t help. I moped. I procrastinated. I couldn’t focus. I posted on social media as a way to avoid facing the fact my novel wasn’t going anywhere.
Does Social Media writing count?
I decided to try Instagram for a change and played with how to make images there appear attractive to the eye like art displayed in a museum. Surely finding followers on Instagram was part of my brand development, I rationalized. It tied loosely to my writing. Sure.
As I clicked on other Instagramers, I noticed some wrote long bursts of thoughts and vulnerable self-examinations. Over time, I made the connection these were microbloggers.
I tried microblogging one day and found it easier than my blog: no tedious SEO work, extra graphics, tags, sub-headings, et al. I became a micro-blogger as I read through writing craft books. I worked out my pandemic overwhelm with gardening when I couldn’t focus on reading.
Nothing much got logged in my Writing Habit Chart the first two months of the pandemic. I reminded myself I’d endorsed some fallow field resting time. Resting time is important for creatives. The type-A in me didn’t buy this rationale. My pandemic brain didn’t know what to think.
I seemed unable to form a new writing habit in 2020.
Enter a nudge from the Holy Spirit or my guardian angel. I never know who to give credit for muse moments and brainstorms, and I don’t spend too much time wondering.
Something didn’t set write with the way I thought of myself as a writer and the blank days on the chart.
Someone in heaven seemed bent on a solution. I looked over my recent Instagram posts and checked the word counts.
The one thing that revitalized my writing.
Huh, I thought as I entered a few numbers on the chart. I have been writing. Not big amounts. Ahem, that’s why it’s called microblogging. But filling in my Word Habit chart felt like a spring breeze to my frozen mind.
The graph quickly showed me I had believed a lie. My inner critic told me I hadn’t been writing because I tracked only the manuscript writing. I smiled in gratitude for the Holy Spirit guiding me to the truth of my writing life. I am writing, just not writing my Work in Progress (WIP) at the moment. My WIP has become, at least for this month, microblogging on Instagram.
The truth shall set you free.John 18:32 ESV
We believe what we see. Blessed are those who believe in their writing that readers have yet to see.
An insight dawned in my joy at the shimmering chart of small word number counts. It’s more important to write first and edit second if we want an accurate measure of how many words we put together in sentences in a day. When I edited as I went, I never knew how many words spilt from my mind. I deleted so many. I couldn’t measure what didn’t live to be counted.
Seeing and measuring what you do makes it easier to see the lies we tell ourselves and know the truth about the daily habit of writing. I look forward to putting in today’s word count on my chart.
I still don’t know if I’m capturing all I’m writing each day, but I’m getting better at it. And that is worth writing about. Here’s another unexpected wonderful.
Tiny steps can still take you where you want to go; you just need to dedicate some of your time to yourself, which is a form of self-respect and love.Drl Daju Suzanne Friedman