I’ve just returned from a very quick trip to introduce my children to that abyssal money sink some people call skiing. I’ve learned a couple of things.
The first is that I have the knees of a terribly old man. I hope he comes back to collect them soon. I want him to return the ones that don’t flare into searing agony after a mere few hours of pounding them again an iced-up mountain slope. That’s not too much to ask, surely?
The second is that a couple of days of wrangling kids, hefting a metric ton of hired gear and trying to rest in a hotel room directly adjacent to a ping pong table plays hell with my writing habits.
Specifically, this quick trip away has broken my “100 words for 100 days” progress at the quarter mark.
The idea, which I first heard from Twelfth Planet Press publisher Alisa Krasnostein, is simple – for one hundred consecutive days, write at least one hundred new words on your current project. If you miss a day, you must start the count again from zero.
Obviously in one sense this is a peculiar form of self-torture that I wouldn’t recommend for anyone. In general, I agree with the air of skepticism surrounding the idea that “real writers write every day”. While presumably well-intentioned advice, it’s unsound to build a gauge of personal success around an expectation of daily habits which fail to account for the inevitable interference of daily life. “Write every day” can all too easily set you up to fail.
On the other hand, I like a challenge. A one-hundred-word stint could take as little as three minutes to write, so it’s not as if we are talking about a significant daily imposition. The hard part is maintaining the habit, especially in the face of disrupted routines.
I got to 25 days on my first attempt. Not a bad run, until I broke it by planning for a trip and then being away from home for two days.
Tonight I’ve reset the clock.
The lesson I’ve taken from the first stab at this particular challenge is to plan for the disruptions. I know I’ll be travelling for work in a few weeks, and then again in late September, so I need to plan ahead to ensure I can keep my new run alive. I need to have my tools at hand for when I’m outside my usual patterns – notebook, laptop, story notes. Whatever I need to make sure I don’t have an excuse not to write when the opportunity arises.
What I hope will come of this is a new habit of writing in the gaps. Filling the interstitial moments with a quick description here or an exchange of dialogue there. I tend to think of myself as a momentum writer, and so far this is looking like a good tool for building momentum. It’s working for me, at any rate.
It’s quite possible this is a terrible idea. It’s not unreasonable to picture a scenario where I get to ten or twenty or fifty consecutive days, miss a day due to some unavoidable problem like sickness or unexpected travel, and lose all that lovely progress. I can imagine feeling somewhat disheartened – demoralised, even – in those circumstances. It could be I’m setting myself for a fall into self-recrimination and bitter disappointment.
We shall see. Hopefully in exactly 99 more days.