by Christine Hennebury
Do you base your writing expectations on work habits or on your dreams?
I’m sure most of us hope that our books or stories will become immensely popular and provide riches beyond measure. I’m not going to burst that bubble for you. (Who am I to say if that can happen for you?)
The dream bubble I want to burst is the one that keeps you floating just long enough before it dumps you in the zone of discouragement.
You know the one that I mean. It’s the dream of writing 10,000 words a week when you can only fit in one thirty minute writing session. It’s the vision of going on a book tour in the fall when you have only half a novel drafted and it is already April.
The reason that bubble drifts and burst is because it is not connected to your writing work. It is based in hope instead of in effort and it will keep letting you down because it is not realistic.
I’d like to help you move from that dream bubble and into something more connected to the reality of your life. I want you to have a grip on how much writing you are doing and to start matching your expectations to that.
Assess Your Commitment
Your first step in bursting that dream bubble is to recognize that writing takes regular work. There are successful writers who can and do wait for the muse to visit but generally success (however you define it) depends on consistent effort.
You have to decide that you are willing to put in the effort to reach your writing goals.
It won’t happen by accident nor by magic. You will need to return to the page over and over, one writing session at a time. Even when it’s hard, even when you aren’t sure what to say.
Once you have made the commitment to put in the work, you have to figure out when you can do that work.
How much time *can* you commit?
Take a look at how much time you have available for your writing each day, week, or month. Some of us can write daily. Others can commit to a weekly or monthly schedule.
The speed of your progress will be related to your timing, of course. If you can write more often, you will make more progress. I know that seems obvious but I have encountered a lot of frustrated writers who haven’t quite thought about it that way.
How much do you *want* to commit?
After you have figured out how much time you have for writing, consider whether that is how you want to spend that time.
If you are planning to spend all of your free time in a given week on your manuscript but you also want to soak in the bath or take a walk or read a novel, something has to give. Since writing is the only ‘work’ item on that list, that’s probably what you will drop.
So, don’t commit to writing for a certain amount of time because you *should*, commit to the actual amount of time you want to spend writing.
Now, we are getting closer to reality.
How much can you write in that time?
After you have determined how much time you will spend writing, try to figure out how much you can write in that time. You don’t have to do anything special, just count your words after each writing session and take an average.
Armed with that knowledge, you can assess how long it will take you to finish your project.
If you commit to one hour a week and you can write one thousand words in that time, it will take you two and a half writing sessions to get a 2500 word draft. Then you need to figure in some revision time.
That probably means that, unless you can find more time to write/revise, the contest that closes next week is out of your reach. And that’s okay. There will be other contests, and you won’t be disappointed in yourself for not making the deadline for this one.
Writing is work. Writing takes time.
The more familiar you are with how much time you have to spend at your writing, the realistic you can be about your expectations.
Being realistic may not be romantic or exciting but it does help you make solid progress. Every word you write will bring you closer to a goal that you know that you can meet.
If you match your expectations to your time and effort you will be a very content writer with a very consistent writing habit.
Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her at christinehennebury.com or visit her on Facebook .