Becoming an Organised Writer
If you've read some of my blog posts or tweets over the last year, you may be aware my writing life has been in the doldrums. After the final push to publish Such Crooked Wood, my ability to stick to self-imposed deadlines vanished. Like many writers, I couldn't bring myself to stick to routines when so much of what made my writing time effective had disintegrated when the pandemic hit.
More than 12 months down the line, I've taken definite steps to improve my writing routines and habits. I'm obviously doing something right - I've written over 25,000 words in two weeks. That's more than I've written in a long time and, most importantly, it's consistent writing rather than haphazard writing sprints when I'm in the mood. So, how have I got into this mindset?
I came across a book called The Organised Writer by Antony Johnston. The premise is clear from the title: it aims to help writers become more organised in their day to day activities. That, in turn, should improve your writing quality and, crucially, your writing consistency too. I won't spoil all the secrets of the book, but I do want to dwell on one aspect of Johnston's method which has revolutionised how many words I get down.
It's this: the daily writing quota.
Key to Johnston's method is a daily quota, the minimum number of words a writer should write (or edit) before they give up for the day. This is unique to every writer and it's important for everyone to find their own level, but meeting that quota is the cornerstone of Johnston's method. In addition, where possible, hitting that quota should be the first thing a writer does every day, before they tick any other tasks apart from the necessities of life off the to-do list.
Now, I'm lucky. As a freelancer, arranging my own schedule is a perk of the job, so I can legitimately say the first thing I'm going to do every weekday is write 2,500 words. Johnston's ethos is that it takes as long as it takes and, believe me, there have been some days I've spent hours and hours hitting that target. But, usually, it takes me around two hours and then I crack on with the other stuff I need to do after around 11am. I deliberately set this up only for weekdays to give me respite on the weekends and you know what? So far, this crazy system is working.
Johnston provides clarity on the most important task of a writer's life: getting those words on the page. I'm not sure how effective this system will be for me when it comes to editing (I've been writing a second draft this time around), but I'm going to try and stick to a higher quota for editing too. I'll let you know how I get on.
P.S. April is Writing Habits Month over on Rhubarb Writing Shed. Come join the community for free and join in the conversation.