A thousand words sounds like a lot more than it really is. It’s just about two double-spaced pages or one single-spaced, depending upon the amount of dialogue or length of paragraphs.
It’s also my daily writing quota. A thousand words a day, seven days a week. Doesn’t matter if that thousand words is a blog post or a chapter in a book or a magazine article. Doesn’t matter if it’s trash. Because it’s still writing, and that’s what matters.
It seems pretty absurd to state that a writer is a person who writes, but it’s a concept I can just as easily let go of as grasp. It doesn’t take much for me to read about writing and think I’m writing, or go to Staples and hang out with the notebooks and pens and call myself a writer. But it doesn’t work that way.
Because a writer writes.
So it’s a thousand words for me. Every day. Period. Because I need that discipline. That reminder. But like I said—that sounds like a lot more than it really is.
The thing is this:
There are days when those words gush forth from that mysterious place inside me like water from a fire hose. When I have long hours to sit and ponder and sink into my desk. When the sun falls through open windows and warms my room and heaven itself pours buckets of inspiration over my head.
Those days are rare. Exceedingly so.
More often than not those thousand words are stretched out from around six in the morning until one the next morning. Rather than gushing from me, they have to be cajoled and, in come cases, dragged into the light. Most come in those precious few minutes between one thing at work and another or between dinner and second grade homework. They come when I sink myself into my desk not out of comfort, but exhaustion. When the moon shines against draped and curtained windows and cools my room. When inspiration comes in slow drips like sap from a tree.
That’s the norm, whether you’re working on your fifth novel or your fifth blog post. Which is why your decision shouldn’t be I want to be a successful writer or I want to be published, it should be this and this alone:
I am going to write.
The decision to write isn’t like a New Years resolution. It’s a daily choice. A matter of the will rather than circumstance. Because trust me, once that choice is made the universe itself will align against you in an all-out attempt to keep you from doing just that. There will be appointments and chores and Things To Do. There will be children tugging at your sleeve and spouses tugging at your ear. There will be jobs and responsibilities, dusty tables and shelves, and a dishwasher that just has to be emptied.
You’ll be tempted to think, If I do those things and help those people, then I can sit and write.
Don’t fall for that. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because there will always be things to do and people to help.
If writing teaches you nothing else, it will teach you this: sometimes you have to be selfish. Your family won’t understand and neither will your friends, and that’s okay. It comes with the territory. At its core writing is a lonely task steeped in irony—in order to share yourself with the world, you must at times remove yourself from it.