Friday Speak Out!: Have You Made Art Today?

Friday, October 17, 2014
by Mridu Khullar Relph

This week, I’ve been taking a long hard look at my career, what I want it to be, and whether I’m there yet. The questions haven’t been easy to answer.

I, like many other professional writers who have come before me have been very open and upfront about the role marketing plays in our careers. You’ll hear us say often that the writing business is 80% marketing, querying, putting your name out there, admin, and all the rest of it, and only 20% writing. And since the beginning of this year, I’ve been thinking about how much I detest that, how much I don’t want my career to be about querying and marketing, but about writing. I’m a writer, after all, and shouldn’t what I do in my day to day reflect that?

At the beginning of the year, many of us set a 1,000-word daily writing target, but let’s face it, most of us don’t reach anywhere near that. Because if we did, we’d all have written at least three books and three-dozen articles by the end of the year and I don’t know anyone who has that kind of productivity. Writers, we don’t always average 1,000 words a day over the course of the year. We’re lucky if we average 500.

Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to change that. I wanted 80% of my time to be spent writing and the remaining 20% to go towards marketing or whatever else writers need to do these days to keep their names out there in front of editors and readers. I set a daily word count goal and then made sure that hitting it was the first thing I did each day, no matter what else was on my plate. I haven’t always succeeded. But I’ve tried. And I realized something, which is that in the past when I’ve been happy writing eight articles a month (averaging two a week, which is a fantastic goal for journalists), it’s only been about 8,000 words of actual words on paper. That’s not enough. I can do better. YOU can do better.

I talk in this post about creating a daily writing habit (, but I’ve found that my biggest motivator is a simple Excel sheet in which I chart my daily writing progress. I’ve found that the thought of getting a big red checkmark serves as excellent motivation for the schoolgirl in me to write something, anything, for the day. Words on the page. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? That’s what we do.

The reason I became a writer is that I enjoy the process of writing. I enjoy having created something from scratch. I live for the next high when that story, that article, that scene comes together in perfect harmony.

The marketing, the tweeting, the blogging, are extras. They have to be extras.

Writing has to come first, because that’s why you’re doing this, right?

* * *
Mridu Khullar Relph is an award-winning freelance journalist who has written for The New York Times, TIME, CNN, ABC News, and more. She runs The International Freelancer ( and will happily share 21 of her best query letters with anyone who signs up for her free weekly newsletter.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Margo Dill said...

YES! This is why we write. I like the Excel Spreadsheet idea. I like recording it somehow. It's hard to lie to ourselves when we have it in black and white. . .

Kay Rae Chomic said...

Great advice, Mridu! I believe completing a writing goal first thing to start the day no matter what sets up a productive, and for me a more light-hearted day. I'm going to try to be more consistent in doing this.

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