One week and 7,400 words

So, after the first week of my self-imposed word target, I thought it would be useful to assess how it has been going.

So far this year I have written more than 7,400 words, which is around the same amount as I managed in the entire last six months of 2015. I have hit my word target every day (although every day has been pretty close -- no 5k sessions just yet).

It has been ... tough, thus far. There have only been two days where I hit the target before sundown, and one of those was the initial blog post on this site, which doesn't really count. Every other day has seen me still at the keyboard at eight or nine o'clock at night, which isn't ideal; I can see why Hemingway always recommended writing first thing in the morning. Mind you, he was probably still drunk from the night before.

What has surprised me the most is how much progress I've managed to make with my primary project, a second novel. I had thought that sustaining sufficient inspiration day after day was going to be too much of a stretch -- in fact, I suspected I might neglect it in favour of shorter, newer, more exciting ideas -- but I think I've managed to add a few hundred words to it every day this week.

The rest of the work has been pretty evenly divided between new short story ideas, and a game-related blog I started a while back in order to have somewhere to practice writing and story-telling. I also managed to complete one unsatisfactory review and a couple of pieces of flash fiction. I suspect the reason the game blog has become a common fallback when I run out of inspiration elsewhere is that it is easier to write in an existing universe, with pre-existing lore, names, places and characters. I need to work at the discipline of creating more meaningful work, rather than writing what is essentially fan-fic. It's too easy, and therefore has less value.

As I mentioned in the New Year's blog post, I've also started carrying a notebook again. In the last few weeks of 2015, when I had a clear idea that I was going to try to create more varied things, I seemed to be overflowing with ideas for stories; but, now I actually have need of that inspiration, it appears to have dried up. I've only pulled out the notebook once or twice, which after weeks of thinking "I should write that down" is mildly frustrating. I have, though, found that music is a good idea lubricant; a couple of new ideas have sprung from whatever Spotify shuffle decided to provide that day.

I guess the most important questions are: does it feel like a habit yet, and are you getting any better? The second is obviously a ridiculous question after only a week, and I'd have to give an indecisive "maybe" to the first. Knowing the daily wordcount is there has definitely made a difference to my routine (I haven't even switched on the Playstation this week), but -- as I end yet another evening writing until 9 -- it's not become so ingrained a habit that I don't feel it looming over me throughout the day until it is done. Maybe that will change ... or perhaps that is the point.

I'm looking forward to looking back in a month or so. I hope I don't disappoint my future self.

Matthew Pennell

Designer, developer, writer, runner, gamer, devil's advocate, INTP. Senior designer for Booking.com. Founder, Refresh Cambridge.
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