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Slow 'n Steady

I consider myself to be a writer.  Like learning an instrument, writing takes time and experience in order to master.  The stringing of words together in a way that makes for a gripping tale takes practice.  Lots of practice.

The process of learning how to write is interesting to me.  I've tinkered around with stories since I was a teen--in the same way one might tinker around on the piano without any training--but I don't consider my formal training to have started until my adult years.

Again, like music, the life lessons taught by writing are gradual.  You don't just suddenly wake up one day with a Harry Potter or Moby Dick on your hands.  Each day you work at your story until one day you notice that the plot just seems to flow better now than it did a year or two years ago.

But the most significant thing that I've learned is the power of "slow 'n steady."  When I aggressively started my writing career the actual act of sitting down to write was entirely dependent on my "muse."  I had this idea in my head that a "good" writing session meant the words were pouring out and I got more than 1,000 of them down on the page.

What this led to was frustration.

I would sit down at the computer, write only a paragraph or two and then become overwhelmed by how much I had left to write before it was a "good" writing session.  As a result, days or weeks could slip by without much progress.

It took me a ridiculously long time to realize that all these lofty aspirations were my greatest enemies.

It finally occurred to me that it all came down to the math.  As it stood on the muse track I got 2,000 words down on a page in a good month.  2,000 words and tons of extra time spent putzing around on the Internet while I waited for motivation.

Now, I'm not an abnormally slow writer.  The thing that was holding me back was my unrealistic expectation of what should be done in a day.  But writing a story is not about the single day.  It's about every day.

2,000 words x 12 months = 24,000 words a year (the length of a novella)

If I lowered my goal and wrote an easily attainable 200 words every weekday:

200 words x 261 (number of weekdays in a year) = 52,200 (the length of a novel)

By dropping my unrealistic expectations and switching to small, easily attainable daily goals I more than doubled my writing output over the course of the year.

And I realized that the same holds true in music.  Waiting for the perfect practicing day where you are fed and happy and focused is a waste of time.  It's the small, daily accomplishments that are going to get the job done in the long term.

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