Simple Success

Typewriter Keys
Typewriter Keys,
Photograph by Welcome to Alville
A while ago I wrote about setting myself the ridiculously tiny goal of 100 words a day on my WIP, with the view that an extremely achievable daily goal leads to a momentum of success. I’m not exactly sure what went wrong: I suspect it was a combination of a two-year break between setting the book down and picking it up again; of not having an established voice for the second protagonist yet attempting to continue the story in her voice anyway; not having a deadline and goal to work towards that I could see being ticked off daily; and not recording my progress.

Discovering I was pregnant again led initially to a panic over how much I had to do before the end of the year, especially since I’d just pre-launched my Storyteller project. Then came the shedding of all work that was not owed to people who’d already paid me or was otherwise essential for some reason. And finally the realisation that what I wanted most of all was permission to shelve the “trilogy-into-standalone” headache and achieve something completely new before the baby is born.

Sixty-five days ago I worked out how many days I had available to me and calculated how many words I would have to write per day in order to complete a first draft of around forty thousand words. It came out at a seemingly do-able 270 words per day – but only if I wrote every single day until the end of November. Weekends usually prove tricky, as do various days during the week due to activities or other reasons. I realised I would have to make a small amount of writing a priority early on in the day, rather than count on my toddler’s nap time after lunch, when I usually felt keen for a nap myself.

I started with 100 words, with the “rule” of no Internet or email until I’d hit that target. On a few occasions that meant only turning on Firefox at 10PM. Soon I was reaching my bigger target of 270+ words at least a few days in a row. Right now my stats are: 65 days in a row of writing at least 100 words on my WIP; 290 words average across all 65 days; 20 days in a row of hitting my bigger target. I'm two-thirds of the way to the apparent habit-forming 90-day mark. It already feels like a habit. The nicest part of it was when I gave myself permission to make this work important enough that it trumped almost everything else. It makes morning thinking very easy: not "should I do X higher-paying work first or Y work that I am really behind on", but straight to the same novel every single day, with a slight frisson of guilt over the reckless luxuriousness of it. It feels a bit illicit, like I shouldn't be enjoying it this much.

The other side-effect is that Internet fora, blog commenting, Facebook, email newsletters, and Internet marketing videos have all gradually lessened their appeal and addictiveness. Previously I would risk morning sickness because I simply had to check email/ Facebook/ Forum responses, etc, before anything else, including breakfast. I developed that habit because it was easier to sit and read or watch something while breastfeeding than to write (although pecking out a blog comment or forum response with one hand became second nature). Now I enjoy breakfast with my toddler first, while watching the birds in the garden, and then I sit down to write - and my child's now old enough to (sometimes grudgingly) accept that I'm doing something that's important to me and he will get milk after I've written my minimum hundred words. It's not a big ask of him, but it makes me feel like I'm more than "just a mum". I feel in control again.


Published by

Elle Carter Neal

Elle Carter Neal is the author of teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was (sort of) a real job.

6 thoughts on “Simple Success”

  1. I am so pleased to read this and admire your determination. It’s not easy with a little one, particularly when you’re pregnant as well. Good on you. I am glad you are enjoying it!

  2. Thanks Sel. It’s done wonders for my sense of well-being, just having something that grounds me and makes me feel successful, no matter how small. Very happy at the moment.

  3. A good, informative post. I agree with Selma. I’m happy that you’re happy and that your work and family are progressing well.

  4. How to get the writing done is always such a hurdle! I’ve recently started a blog to try to trick myself into writing more and on a consistent basis. It really gets to me that I could devote 60-80 hours a week to teaching, but now that I have all the time in the world on my hands to write, it’s proving very difficult to develop a true writing schedule.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.