I don’t know about you, but I often find it hard to develop good writing habits, especially because I work contract work, so my schedule varies greatly from week to week. It is impossible for me to set-up a consistent writing routine.
Recently, I have been trying what I’m calling the “2 Word Rule”. Less a rule and more a commitment (yay, semantics!!!). I have decided that each day, I just need to add two words to any piece of writing I’m working on. If I do that, then I have been successful and can celebrate my accomplishment for the day.
I’m sure there are some writers out there reading this, scoffing at the idea that a “true writer” would settle for only two words per day. How amateur… Well, to those people I say, “shove it!” Writing is hard and the easiest thing for a writer to do is to crap all over themselves for not achieving as much as they thought they would or thinking that what they’ve done is garbage. Writers are notoriously hard on themselves (more so than any critic could ever be). Often writers tank themselves before they even get started. I know, I’ve been there, I’m still there. I look at the number of things I’ve written and still think I’m a hack who doesn’t know any better. Then, I read a bunch of published garbage and get down that I can write better than that and still I’m not published. I don’t need any more help to tell me that I’m not a writer. What I do need is the encouragement to keep writing – and not necessarily from other people, but from myself. This is when I made the two word bargain with myself.
I have tried every other type of writing motivation. Just write 100 words. Write for 5 minutes. Do a free-thought writing piece. Just journal for the day. Write as soon as you get up… go to bed… while eating. None of these things have ended up being consistent or successful in helping me get to the end of a project. The 2 word rule has. I work a lot of nights, I travel a bunch, I am sometimes drunk when I come home at night. I’m busy. The last thing I want to do at that time is sit down and meet a quota for the day. If I don’t, I go to bed feeling like crap. But the two word rule gives me my out. Two words is easy, especially because I follow Hemingway’s advice to always stop writing in mid-thought. That way when you pick it back up, you are in the middle of a flow and don’t feel pressure to be creative off the top. Writing two words when you stop mid-sentence is easy, you already know what they are going to be.
Also, I have yet to only write two words, but allowing myself that out, is the biggest way to ensure I sit down each day to face that blank page. Tonight, I was convinced I was only going to hit the two words mark. I was so happy that was all I had to do. I wrote two pages of the novel I am working on and have hit 532 words in this post. This is because anything beyond two words is being an over-achiever. I’m a superstar. Even if I only wrote 5 words, I’m still a superstar because I exceeded expectations. And, if I only wrote 2 words, then I can pat myself on the back and say I did a good job as a writer that day. I at least wrote 2 words, which is more than when I used to make myself feel bad for not writing for 5 minutes or any other technique. And really, even writing 2 words puts me 2 words closer to the end of the novel than I was for the six months I felt guilty about not dedicating enough time to writing it. It’s slow going, but each day, I am two words closer to finishing, and you know what?! That’s really something. Every day, I am a success as a writer. So, try it. Just put down two words a day. It will be astonishing what you find. But remember, anything above two words is gravy. Two words is the goal. Don’t think beyond that. The rest will come in time. If you hit two words, you have been a success. Good job!!!
Just think, “They went to a variety store” is three days’ worth of writing. One day, your job was to write “to a”. It’s not hard to write two words a day. They don’t have to be fancy words, but every word is just as important as any other, and every word gets you closer to your goal.
Really, the moral of the story, is don’t kick yourself for not achieving what you dreamed of, celebrate yourself for even the smallest step forward, because you are still that tiny step closer to your dream than you were before. That’s what really counts.