06 Jun Writing 101
How do you measure accomplishment at the end of a day of writing? Is it pages, words, or time? Ask yourself that question because it is different for all writers. The prolific writers, the ones we turn to for advice, even for something as small as a quote, have mostly all spoken about accomplishment. While Hemingway was in Montana he wrote most mornings, and spent his afternoons fishing for trout or hunting. Other authors start and don’t finish until they’ve hit some predetermined goal—Steven King’s five pages every day, or the gold standard one thousand words, or Karen Russell’s goal of maximizing quality time spent engaged within her story (she’s not a word robot).
Why do we listen, then? Do we plan to copy Hemingway’s write-only-in-the-morning style? Will adhering to Steven King’s prolific writing style make us as celebrated an author as the man himself? No. At least for the most part I believe no. We listen to them, because being in the room at the desk alone can feel daunting. For the most part, writing is not a team activity. It’s just us. There’s no one to whom the writer can compare himself against but himself. It’s an activity that entirely self-motivated—unless of course you have a deadline or a job which requires you to write—and the reason we look to other authors for advice is that these are the people who discovered something about themselves. They all discovered who they are as writers.
Start easy, start a journal. Don’t simply walk away when things get difficult—if the right word is not coming, or if you’re simply stuck staring at the screen—keep writing. You’ll be amazed at the ideas you will find yourself capable at times of the greatest stress. Those ideas might not flesh themselves out with perfect articulation, but they might be there. Keep writing and determine the things that work best for you. Consider the amount of time you need to stay focused every day, or even every other day. Understanding what will keep you focused, keep you at that desk for those ours or those pages or that word count will, eventually pay off.