Don't break the chain!

So R.J. Anderson turned me on to "don't break the chain," wherein one commits to writing for 15 minutes every day, to create a chain of unbroken days. (Some days can be scheduled off in advance.) I thought it might be a good way to keep my writing hand in during day job weeks. (I work full time, but only every other week. Or, I write novels full time, but only every other week.) I didn't think it would really add up to much, though.

Wrong.

Last week I wrote every evening except Friday. I wrote 3118 words. I kept excited about my newborn book, and know exactly what I want to do when Monday comes and I can really spend some time with it.

3000 words is a lot for me. I am a desperately slow writer who can often spend hours on a single scene, especially when starting something new. A 1000 word writing day is a big deal for me. By way of calibration: on my recent writing retreat, I worked full time from Tuesday supper to Thursday midnight – just an orgy of writing. I did between 8000 and 10,000 words.

If you want to try this, I’ll tell you that the trick for it for me was (unsurprisingly) stickers. I get a tiny shiny star for each day I do this. Also, as of last week, I committed to writing it down on the spot – not just opening my writing notebook at the end of off weeks and going: now, what days did I manage to write? A sticker plus a word count has kept me on track.

It’s kept me so intensely on track that skipping it on Friday in favor of seeing a movie and spending some time with my husband made me feel guilty, and if I should stay up (past 1:00 AM!) to sneak in my 15 minutes. Answer – no. I will perhaps schedule Friday evenings off. Writing shouldn’t be about the guilt.

The best bit? Those higher word count days are generally ones where my timer goes off and I just keep writing….

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