What Writing System Works?

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Writers have dedicated an untold number of words to revealing their writing system to the world. Some writers swear by the daily word count. Others write for a certain amount of time. Set a schedule and stick to it. Start with free writing or journaling to clear your mind. I think there are as many systems to encourage writing as there are writers. Looking back over the years, I feel as if I’ve tried them all. Then this fall I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands – time to unravel what writing system gets the best results.

None of them. Surprise! Actually, they all work…until they don’t. I would consistently meet my daily word count until the day an old friend showed up out of the blue. There was a visit, an impromptu meal, wine and suddenly it was 10 pm and I only had 200 (bad) words strung together. The next day guilt drove me to complete that day’s word count plus the words I’d missed the day before. I didn’t quite make it so the next day I had a new day’s word count and still some words to make up from earlier in the week. And you never really do get ahead of it, do you? Then, if you’re like me, frustration drives you to abandon daily word counts.

So what’s next? Daily writing time? Let’s give that a try. Until that day the dishwasher breaks. There is water, angry cats, a pessimistic repairman, a trip to the home improvement store. Who has time to write on a day like that? The next day the guilt nags at me to make up the time…well, you see where this is going to go.

Happily, I have freed myself from searching for the elusive writing system that enables me to produce wonderful words every day. I still have a daily goal but it changes each day. Some days it’s a word count. Other days it’s a specific piece of writing I want to research or complete. Occasionally, I give myself permission to do nothing. I like this writing system because, instead of setting myself up to fail at some point, I’m setting myself up to succeed every day.

It’s a simple system that I recommend everyone try. Find a quiet time each day when you won’t be interrupted. Stop rolling your eyes. There are quiet times. The minutes when you’re brushing your teeth. That time when you settle into bed but aren’t asleep yet. The daily walk out to the mailbox. If you must, hide from your loving family in the laundry room. Look over your day and choose a goal that works with that day’s events and your overall writing goals/deadlines. If you have a dreadful head cold, make it something easy. If you’re feeling energized and creative, shoot for something impressive.

When it’s completed, you can give yourself that imaginary gold star. You’ve done what you set out to do today. Good for you! Chances are there’s still time left over for something else. A few more words. A query. An outline. Research. Or maybe you’ll use that time to watch snowflakes drifting down outside the window while you sip hot chocolate. That’s OK because you did what you planned to do today.

I got my gold star today because I finished my piece about pretzel bakeries. You were wondering about the photo, weren't you?

Nurture yourself and your love of writing by setting achievable daily goals.

I’d love to hear about a writing system that’s worked for you.

Jodi M. Webb writes from her home in the Pennsylvania mountains. After a decade hiatus from writing, she is back with bylines in Tea Journey, Mental Floss and a WIP about her plant obsession. She's also a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. Get to know her on Instagram


Angela Mackintosh said...

I’m nodding my head to your post, Jodi! At the start of the year, I focused on building (and breaking) habits, including daily writing, using a rewards system. If I write a certain number of words per day, using a cue (a prompt, exercise, or lesson), then I will get a reward later that evening. This system has worked for building an exercise habit that I’ve had for years without missing a single day. The reward for exercise is being able to eat a portion in balance with the amount of calories burned, which totally works. But I’m bummed to report the system is not working for writing. I love to workout and see it as a stress reliever, but I don’t feel the same about writing. Sometimes writing feels like a chore. So I’m tweaking my habit to find out the routine that will work for me. I think it might be because I set my daily word count goal at 1k, and it’s too much for me; maybe 500 is better. So no systems yet! But I will keep you updated on my progress.

Congrats on finishing your piece about pretzel bakeries! :)

Renee Roberson said...

Finding the best writing system is so personalized to the individual writer, and there are ebbs and flows. I was telling my husband the other day that I feel guilty if I run personal errands during the week because that's the time I've reserved for writing/editing. But I belong to a writing accountability group and it's been beneficial to see how productivity looks different for every member--because we all specialize in different genres--but I consider us all great successes!

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top