Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Words, Words, Words: Why You Should Get Them Out

Stephen King used to say in interviews that he wrote everyday except Christmas and Easter. He reveals in ‘On Writing’ that this is a lie. He writes everyday, full stop. He aims for 2,000 words a day.
Dorothea Brande recommends writing 1,000 words a day.
Ray Bradbury in his book ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’ states that he has written 1,000 words a day since he was eleven.
But why? Should we all be doing this if we want to be writers? Is it the daily factor that’s important, or the word limit, or both? Can we write 2,000 words every second day and still get results?
From my research into motivational methods, development of talent, and sports training, I think there are three major aspects behind the commands to write everyday (I’m leaving myself some leeway in case I think of more later).  Hopefully spelling them out will help you to devise a writing program that will turn you into the best possible writer.
First, as pointed out by Writing Excuses Season 1 Episode 3: your first one million words are probably going to be crap. Only after that will you get better. So, might as well get them out of the way as soon as you can.
Second, if you want to become an expert at anything, studies across the fields show that it takes around 10,000 hours of good practice. That’s three hours a day for 10 years. It’s not just words, but amount of time actually practicing that pays off.
Finally, writing is like any exercise: one day off and you notice, two days off and your critics notice, three days off and even your fans notice. Your abilities to find the right word, express things just so, keep in the voice of the characters etc. start to fade much faster than we would like to think.
So, it seems that there is good evidence to support writers’ claims that you should write everyday and aim for a specific number of words that seems high to you.
And by writing a draft every two weeks, I’m hoping to speed up the process. I’ll have my first million words out in a year (not counting all the words I’ve done already, or the words I’m doing for blog posts, emails, work etc) and hopefully knock over my 10,000 hours in the five years while I’m at it. Just need to get myself more into the habit of writing everyday.
Next time I'll do a post on essential tips for forming a habit.

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