At the beginning of 2014, I gave myself a simple goal: write 250 words a day. Writing consistently has always been a goal of mine, but lofty dreams of writing for an hour every day have never materialized. So I decided to aim low and go for something ridiculously easy to reach.
One year later, I’m blown away at where that simple goal brought me. I kept track of how many words I wrote and for how long using a spreadsheet in Google Docs. It added a bit of extra time, but now I can look back over the past year and see how I did.
January through April was pretty consistent. I only missed a few days in each month. Numbers for May through July, however, were very low. My word count was under 2500 for all three months. That’s around the time I decided to rework the outline for my novel, so I lost steam.
Halfway through August, I started writing again with a fresh outline. That pace continued every day for the rest of the year.
All told, I spent 114 hours writing 165,391 words in 2014. I broke 2,000 words in a day several times, the largest being 2,469 words on December 18. And I ended the year with writing every day for 135 days.
In the midst of all those numbers, I finished the first draft of my current novel. While I have started other novels before and even wrote a fantasy book in high school (because we’ve all done that, am I right?), this is the first novel I intend to revise and publish. It was a great day when I crossed the finish line. I couldn’t help but grin as I walked out of the coffee shop.
It is no stretch to say that 2014 was my most productive year of writing ever. I’m humbled at how small, steady efforts can achieve big things.
What I Learned
After writing consistently for a good portion of 2014, here are a few things I learned:
- Setting a timer helped tremendously. It gave me an immediate goal, and even if I didn’t want to write that day I could tell myself, “Just ten minutes. You can do it.” Once I could meet that time easily, I increased it to 15 minutes. By the end of the year I was averaging 30 minutes a day.
- The choice to write every day didn’t get easier, but staying in the chair did. I thought gradually I would want to write, but it was always a choice I had to make. Once I was actually writing, though, my stamina to continue greatly increased. While doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November, I wrote close to an hour every day.
- I can write more than I thought. This is largely due to NaNoWriMo. I had to write 1667 words every day, and at first it was extremely daunting. But I found that by pushing myself, I could reach that goal. Discovering that I was capable of more than I thought was very encouraging.
- I know how much I can write, and how long it takes me. Thanks to keeping track of my daily numbers, I know I can write about 1000 words in 30 minutes. Having that data helps me know how much time to set aside during the day if I want to meet a certain goal. I’ve found that if I don’t know how long something is going to take, I generally never do it, so this data helps dispel the myth of not having time to write.
- Planning ahead helps me find time to write. If I know I’m going to busy all day on a given Thursday, then I need to not wait until the very end of the day to write (like today :/…) Just simply thinking about when in the day I’ll be able to write helps me find time to do it, like in the few minutes before I leave for work or while waiting for a wedding to start.
This year I’ve relaxed my goal of writing every day, but I’m glad I focused on it in 2014. It trained me to be consistent, it worked my creative muscles and expanded them, and it encouraged me that I can, in fact, write an entire book. It was always a far-off dream, and now it’s reality.
Goals for 2015
With a solid year of writing behind me, I have a few new goals for this year. The first goal, and one that needs more than a bullet point, is to write with God.
As I compiled my list the things I had learned in 2014, I realized none of them had to do with my relationship with Jesus. It shocked me that I spent 114 hours, almost a whole week, on something and didn’t grow in my relationship with the Lord.
That is probably an extreme statement, and of course not everything in life reveals something about the Lord. (How many hours have I spent brushing my teeth?) But writing is a creative endeavor, and I want to get to know the Creator better while I do it. It seriously felt like a blow to my heart to think that I hadn’t learned anything about him while I was writing. That needs to change in 2015. I don’t want to look back in a year and say again, “I spent a solid week of my life doing this and didn’t grow in love for the Lord.”
So far I’ve found two ways of doing this. The first was suggested by my friend and fellow author Andy Sheehan. When he was writing his fantasy novel years ago (see what I mean?), he would go for a walk and pray for a certain time period, then write for a chunk of time. If he wanted to keep writing, he would walk and pray again. I think that is a fantastic idea. Second, I want to find books about creativity and the Lord and read a small section of it before I write. The book I think I’ll start with is Pursuing Christ. Creating Art. by Gary A. Molander.
With that foundation in place, here are some other goals:
- Finish the second draft of my novel by August.
- Attend the Realm Makers writing conference in August and pitch my novel. I’ve never pitched anything, so that will be a new learning experience!
- Submit two short stories for publication. If I only do one story, I could take all year to do it. Submitting two forces me to at least get one done.
- Write 6 comic book issues. This project has been outlined for a year and needs to be written!
- Write a short film screenplay. I have a rough draft for one finished, and another idea simmering.
Looking over this list, I’m realizing I can’t relax my goal of writing every day. That doesn’t mean I won’t give myself a day off now and then, but these things won’t write themselves.
What did you learn in 2014? Any goals for the new year, or book recommendations? I’d love to hear about them, so write a quick comment below. Here’s to writing in 2015!