Writers know that something happens when you commit to writing daily. The simple act of the practice means you’re exercising your writing muscles and those muscles, just like your physical muscles will wither and atrophy if you don’t use them.
In other words, “Writers, write.”
And paid writers write a lot.
To tell you the truth, I’m a little astonished by how much writing some of my colleagues accomplish daily. Some of them seem to regularly reaching 4,000-5,000 words.
However, none of them come close to hitting the word count of a book author I know. He writes a million words a year to meet his deadlines and just closed a deal for four more books. 20,000 words a day is not uncommon for him.
I felt like my “to do” list was rather short compared to other writers and started paying attention to how much I DID write.
I did what any self-respecting productivity geek would do, I installed Rescue Time on my computer. It quietly checks my activity in the back ground and sends me a weekly report. It seems I’m only spending around 4 hours a week on email which is pretty good.
But my writing time left something to be desired.
As a working writer, I write regularly. Every day I write blog posts, emails and web pages.
And while I had a guilty feeling that I wasn’t as prolific as many of my colleagues I did crank out a few thousand words with some regularity. So when I installed Rescue Time I was appalled and bemused to discover the app only tracked 8-10 hours a week in Word.
How can that be?
Yes, I also write within WordPress and Evernote and those add another 5-8 hours a week but that still didn’t seem like a lot compared to the amount of time I spent at my desk.
What to do? If I want to improve my writing and my thinking and simply get more writing done, I need to log more writing time.
So I set a goal. My goal is to write 1000 words a day – six days a week and work my way up to 1200, then 1500, and so on.
5 days in and it’s already starting to pay off. Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I finally knew how to start an article I’ve been struggling with for weeks. Midnight found me, pen in hand scribbling on the back of scratch paper. That was another 200 words or so… but more importantly provided me the framework for the story.
You can train yourself to write faster and better. Which means you can write more and take on additional clients.
I also want to hone my thoughts so I come up with more and better ideas.
Ideas are the crux of any successful writer.
Writing Requires Idea Generation
When I go through my hard drives and old notes, I find scraps of ideas, some of them grew into articles but many of them didn’t. Some of them are half baked and others just need a little polish. Still others give me déjà vu like “haven’t I written this before?”
The answer to the latter is “probably.”
When I wear my blogging hat, I’m often writing variations of similar topics for different client projects. For instance, I’ve written more “How to get more Facebook “likes” type posts than I can remember.
You probably know that working writers are constantly pitching ideas to editors, coming up with a new angle on topics they’ve written about dozens of times, and developing a BIG IDEA for a fresh approach for a product or service.
In fact, writing is all about that idea generation. You need dozens and dozens of ideas to find a good one. If you’ve ever done a brainstorming session, you know what I mean. Most ideas aren’t excellent.
How do you become a master idea generator?
James Altucher, author of Choose Yourself and other books, says to be an idea generator, come up with 10 new ideas a day. They don’t have to be good ideas but like daily writing, the practice forms new synapses in your brain and stimulates creativity.
He recommends skimming chapters from four books in different disciplines to come up with ideas. Write them down. One idea from his book is that maybe you come up with the idea to write a book and give away a million copies within a year, how can you do that? Print it on teensy paper so it doesn’t take up much space? Hold a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to print it?
You don’t have to implement the idea. Simply think about it and the next steps. You’ll be pushing yourself and that’s the point.
For right now, I’m working on the 1000 words a day, six days a week. Next week, I’ll add Altucher’s idea generation exercise into the mix.
What about you? How do you keep the creative juices flowing?