So, we’re heading into the last week of November, which for many people means holiday food and fun and shopping. For many writers, it means either agony or triumph over NaNoWriMo (AKA National Novel Writing Month). Personally, I have mixed feelings about NaNo (as it’s called). Sure, lots of writers finish–or at least start–a novel this way. A few of those novels end up published.
It can spark a love for writing. It can be fun. The sense of community can inspire. But I think it can also discourage. Never mind the writers who pen a 50,000-word novel in November and start sending it to agents in December (yes, it happens). I get the (completely unscientific) sense that for some people, NaNo is the complete opposite of what they should be doing. By November 30th, if not sooner, they end up discouraged. They may end up thinking they can’t write.
The thing is, writing 50,000 words during one month during the year probably won’t make you a writer in the same way running during one month of the year probably won’t make you a runner. And there’s plenty of proof this sort of binge writing may not be the best for you or your writing career.
From Script Magazine: Get A New Story: Binge Writing Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be. Click through and read the whole thing. It’s worth it. But I found this study they cite very interesting:
In a 1999 study by Robert Boice, “Which is more Productive, Writing in Binge Patterns of Creative Illness or in Moderation?” the findings showed that:
“Binge writers (a) accomplished far less writing overall, (b) got fewer editorial acceptances, (c) scored higher on the Beck Depression Inventory, and (d) listed fewer creative ideas for writing. These data suggest that creative illness, defined by its common emotional state for binge writers (i.e., hypomania and its rushed euphoria brought on by long, intense sessions of working—followed by depression), offers more problems (e.g., working in an emotional, rushed, fatiguing fashion) than magic.”
You don’t need big blocks of time to write. As this other fabulous article (Get A New Story: Why You Don’t Need Big Blocks of Time to Write) points out: it’s a trap. You can get an amazing amount of writing work done in fifteen minutes a day. This is what Rosanne Bane calls Fifteen Magic Minutes.
Thing is, I’m pretty sure nearly everyone has fifteen minutes they can devote to writing three to five times a week. It sounds kind of like an exercise schedule, doesn’t it? I think the practice of writing has a lot in common with daily exercise. It’s not glamorous. It can be lonely. You don’t “win” anything at the end of those fifteen minutes.
But what happens when you work out at a slow and steady pace for twelve months out of the year? What happens if you only work out for one month during the year?
Apply that same logic to writing. Where might you go and where might you end up if only you took a few steps (or wrote a few words) per day? My guess is farther than you might think.