The Value of Commitment

A few days ago I shared these quotes on my religion blog:

I haven’t read any of Jonathan Franzen’s novels yet, but I love what he had to say when he was on the cover of Time recently: “One of the ways of surrendering freedom is to actually have convictions. And a way of further surrendering freedom is to spend quite a bit of time acting on those convictions.”

Franzen goes on to say:

“I came to realize that because my purpose on earth seems to be to write novels, I am actually freer when I’m chained to a project: freer from guilt, anxiety, boredom, anger, purposelessness.”

Whether it’s living a religion or writing a novel to the bitter end, commitment makes it happen. For the first time ever, I’ve spent the last two weeks giving daily word-count goals a try. I’ve missed some days, yes. But guess what Saturday night finds me doing? Catching up to meet weekly word-count goals.

I’ve read that Stephen King writes 1,500 words a day. Sometimes more. Rarely less.

In August, Laurie Halse Anderson shared her own writing schedule on her blog and challenged readers to write for 15 minutes a day. challenges writers to write 1,657 words a day for 30 days straight, producing a 50k word draft by the end of November.

Claudia Mills writes for one hour or one page a day. Check out her interview on how to balance writing and real life.

Jillian Michaels doesn’t write novels at all, that I know of, but she wrote this article on goal-setting. The short version:

1. Writing down goals makes them “a concrete thing instead of this vague hope tucked away in the back of your mind.”

2. Writing down goals prevents people from getting “caught up in activity traps–things that simply waste their time and energy–thereby making them unproductive and increasingly discouraged.”

3. Writing down short-term goals can make long-term goals less intimidating.

“I’m going to write a novel this year” = intimidating. “I’m going to write 500 w0rds today” = not so bad. Try it six times a week, and 20 weeks later, you’ll have your first 60k draft.

Here are my goals for what’s left of 2010:

3,000 words a week. That breaks down to 500 words a day, six days a week. My first draft will be finished by the end of January 2011. My second draft will be finished by mid-February. My agent will have something in her hands to blow to pieces by March 7, and I’ll start over from there.

I know this is a weird post for September 29 instead of January 1, but a Wednesday leading into the Halloween season seems as good a time as any to start anew.

What writing goals or schedule structures work for you?



Filed under Writing Tip

2 responses to “The Value of Commitment

  1. I’ve found that I love to have a word goal. I’ve put my first draft to the side at the moment since I “completed” it and it needed to rest, but at the time my goal was 1000 words. I didn’t always reach it, but I figured that it’s better to aim for the stars and miss, then aim for the manure (not writing at all?) and hit.