This Is My Design: The Virtue of Writing 1,000 Words Daily

Darker PagesI get a lot of questions about my daily writing habits. In a nutshell, I wake up early (about an hour before my daughter), feed our pets, pour myself a cup of coffee, and sit at my computer. If I’m being disciplined, I ignore social media and read the day’s Writer’s Almanac poem for a bit of inspiration. Then I read the last few paragraphs of what I wrote yesterday and make a few line edits. That gets me back into the story. Then I write for about 1,000 words.

This is my design.

Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Hannibal episodes lately. I couldn’t resist.

All serial killer thrill pop culture references aside, that’s it in a nutshell. I write 1,000 words. It takes about an hour, depending on how the words are flowing and whether or not my cat yaks on the floor. Plus, it’s easy to track on the running word count feature in Word. For me, 1,000 words is an ideal amount, because:

It’s achievable.
It keeps me at my computer and gives me a goal to shoot for that I can reasonably achieve every day. It’s an hour that I can give each day and still be a good dad, worker, and friend.

It keeps me from going too far.
Even if I’m in the middle of a scene that I’m absolutely enjoying, I’ll still stop when I hit the 1,000-word mark. Why? Because I’ll be excited to start right there again tomorrow. Like Kenny Rogers said, you gotta know when to walk away—and know when to run. Except you always count your words while you’re sitting at the table.

Side type: if possible, always stop writing each day mid-scene. It’s much easier to pick up where you left off than to start a new scene.

It’s sustainable.
I’m fairly confident that I could write 1,000 words a day and never run out of things to say. In the years that I’ve been doing it, I’ve never walked away drained of story. With the limits of time and energy that I currently have, I can write 1,000 words in perpetuity without draining whatever creative reserves I keep in my demented little brain.

Some authors do more than 1,000 words and some do less. Maybe 1,000 words works for you. Maybe more or less is better. Play around with it and see what works for you. This is your design.

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