I made a difficult decision this month to break the chain. After struggling to find the time and energy to work on my novel in any kind of meaningful way, I took a hard look at my writing life. I assessed what my days were like, what my stress levels were like, and why I kept putting off writing. I looked at my motivations and distractions and my goals. My precious, precious goals.
I’ve been writing at least 250 words every day, and after five years I decided it was time to break the chain.
Evolution of a Goal
When I first set the goal of writing 250 words every day, it was a path to a specific end goal. I wanted to move from being a daily writer to someone who writes 1,000 words every day.
I got it in my head from reading the habits of prolific and successful authors that the only way to “Make It” was to write 1K–2K every day. Which I was not doing. (Which I currently have no hope of growing into either, but we’ll get to that.)
My first steps on this path had gone well. I transformed myself first into someone who wrote daily, and then into someone who wrote at least 100 words a day, and then into someone who wrote at least 250 words a day. And most days I wrote more than that!
The original plan was to continue to up that goal every year—or whenever the minimum word count seemed “too easy”—but then I had a reality check.
Reality Check: Getting Intentional
So, like, writing a minimum of 250 words every day is fine. I was able to write 250 words when I was distracted by DragonCon, sick with covid, depressed, throwing up from a food allergy, and in many other really sucky situations.
But many of those times when I was writing those 250 words under less-than-ideal circumstances, I was also not writing intentionally.
I had fallen into the trap of writing literally anything to not break the chain—and then amassing starts of projects I was never planning to continue (mostly because they were babbling for the sake of word count).
I made the decision to write from a project list or with a specific project series in mind (like Writer Resources posts). And things got better. For a year or two. But I still had a problem.
Break the Chain (When It Binds You)
Whenever time was short, my stress was high, my mental health was low, my exhaustion had a vice grip on my brain—I wanted to write the easy words and keep putting links in the chain of 250 words a day.
“Easy” writing for me often equates to nonfiction posts or presentations about writing. In the last year, while I’ve been suffering another round of severe depression and heightened anxiety, I have written way, way more blog posts than fiction.
I have a specific end goal in mind again—a different goal than trying to write 1,000 words a day (which I have also given up as crazy-pants-thinking I don’t need in my life)—that goal is to write a draft of a novel. While writing 250 words a day would help that goal, it’s too much pressure right now.
At the start of a project, while I’m hemming and hawing, questioning my decisions and direction, and just figuring it all out, I don’t need the added pressure of making sure I’m hitting a daily word count. And trying to hit that daily word count was preventing me from putting time into my novel because I knew those weren’t easy words, I wouldn’t hit my 250 goal, and stress! Not writing! Ahhh!
And that, my friends, is why it’s time to break the chain. I have moved away from the original goal, the revised goal is no longer serving me, and it’s time to find some new habits to help support the writer I am today.
(But, uh, still a daily writer… FOR NOW.)
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