What 300 words a day has taught me.


In which I write about not always wanting to write.

To paraphrase Susan Elizabeth Phillips in Ain’t She Sweet: It turns out that being a writer would be fabulous, if only you didn’t actually have to write.

Some days, all I want to do is curl up with my obligatory morning beverage and never move again. The weight of everything inside my head presses me further into my chair, and I start making lists of what else I need to do; besides, y’ know, my job.

“Oh, I’ll write after I put the washing on”… “But the bathroom really could do with a clean”… “I’ll start after I’ve planned this week’s meals.”

I’m even writing this as a way of not facing not working on my story. I’m a procrastinator. Have no fear, I’m not going to write about that topic, as it’s, a) been done to death (go and watch all the Ted Talks about it…after you’ve finished your project) and b) it’s not really what this little article is about.

You see, I know I’m a procrastinator. I’ve known this ever since my mother had to sit me down one dark and stormy Sunday when I was fourteen years old, to explain that I could finish all the homework I’d put off if I made a plan — and stuck to it.

That was the day I learned the importance of writing it down. I figured out that I needed to get all that crazy out of my head, and onto the page, to be able to tackle my demons.

I’ve seen it done in many forms over the years. I’ve read various articles that tell you that if you write lists, draw spider diagrams or create a bullet journal; everything will fall into place. I’m not going to ask you to do that. I’ve tried it all, and while those methods can help, they are by no means magic bullets. No one method will fix all your problems. So, I say: Write something.

That’s what 300 words represents, to me — writing something — achieving a goal. It doesn’t matter that it’s small. You can always write more, after all.

Whether it be the start of your first-ever 6-hour homework jag or the initial 30 minutes of your epic fantasy novel, it’s something. You’ve started!

You’re moving your fingers, or opening your mouth, and letting the words that had been held hostage inside of your head, out. Suddenly, the voice of the side character in act three becomes real to you. You start to figure out that they have a personality all of their own. You begin to ask yourself why they have an irrational fear of oranges or why on Earth they would ever want to take over the high school in a sleepy mid-western town that no one has ever heard of?

300 words starts the ball rolling.

“Great,” I can hear you say, “That’s all well and good, but why should I do it every day? Don’t I get a weekend too?”

To which I shall reply: a weekend is an excuse to take a break from doing something that you don’t like to do or can’t do all the time without breaking down. While I, most certainly, do not always feel like writing, I do always feel like day-dreaming. I’m always telling stories in my head. It’s who I am. It’s what I want to do with my life. Hell, today I heard one of my characters reply (in my mind) to an offhand comment my sister made in our family group chat. The words are always there. They never leave. Why not write them down?

Also, the 300 words don’t have to be about your story. For me, they represent an exercise in writing, in keeping going, in pushing past the cloud of “I can’t” and realising that 99% of the time, it’s actually “I won’t” or “I don’t want to” in disguise.

If writing is to become my job, I can’t let myself give in to those things.

There are very few jobs out there in which you can say, “You know what, I’m not feeling it today. I’m not going to teach my class/answer my bosses telephone for them/fulfil my role that someone is paying me to carry out.” So why wouldn’t I apply that logic to my writing? 

It’s just one small rule. A bargain that I keep with myself. 300 words. That’s it.

If I write 300 words a day for the entire 365 days of the year, I would have a novel that’s 109,500 words long. Even if those 300 words were in journal form, I’d have something that tells the story of someone looking to write a book. If I edited that a bit, I’d have myself a potential tongue in cheek story entitled, ‘How I Almost became a Writer’.

For me, 300 words a day, every day, come rain or shine, means that I can do it. That I will get there. That I am competent. That I will keep moving forwards.

What will it represent to you, I wonder?

I’ve done my 300 words today. Now, go, do yours.

Sophie, signing out.

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