Shovelling sand

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At the start of January, I committed to a daily word target that represented more writing than I had ever done in a single day. And I was going to manage to write that much every single day, without fail? I must have been mad.

But once you begin to do something every day, it doesn't take long for it to first become a part of your daily routine, and then to become habit. Two or three weeks in, you realise it's now just something you do, like showering or paying bills. Part of your conception of yourself.

It's now the last day of the month, and I have written almost 33,000 words. That's more than there are in Animal Farm, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's closing in on the word count of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or The Great Gatsby.

Of course, I haven't actually been working on just a single project. When I conceived of the idea of setting a more challenging daily word count for myself, one of the benefits I expected to realise was that it would force me out of the comfort zone of only working on one thing (which gives you a legitimate excuse to not write anything on days when inspiration doesn't strike).

So, as well as making, by my reckoning, around 12,000 words progress on my current novel, I also wrote seven blog posts (including this one), a handful of pieces of flash fiction, and several short stories.

The short stories in particular are something totally new for me; I had never really considered them as something I'd like to do, but now I've tried a few they're actually kind of fun. So far I've written about:

  • A wife and her children wondering who their father really was while they listen to his choice of funeral music;
  • A world where growing old is optional;
  • A husband who discovers his wife is a jewel thief;
  • A man who decides he is going to treat everyone better in life, right before he has a heart attack;
  • What happens to people in a world where everything, even decisions, are automated;
  • And a voyeur who tries to help the people he spies on.

Most of them aren't great, and that's okay. As Ray Bradbury once said,

“Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”

I have eleven more months in which to prove him wrong.

Matthew Pennell

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