The benefits of writing 500 words a day

It’s been seven days since I started requiring myself to write 500 words of fiction every day. I call it my daily minimum word count.

I’m deliberately choosing not to call this daily minimum a goal, because I am expecting more of myself long-term—I’m just not requiring it.

500 words is a number that seems almost too small to accomplish anything, but the benefits of setting such a low requirement have really started to make themselves known.

  1. My daily word counts are looking more consistent. (Last column.)
  2. My story is staying more active in my thoughts and ideas are coming easier.
  3. I’m building a habit of writing every day. (Getting started late and finishing late isn’t the habit I want, but at least I’m finishing the words!)
  4. There’s actually a feeling of success associated with this that’s much stronger than I expected. I mean, I want to write more than 500 words a day over the long term, but I still feel really good about where this is going.
  5. 500 words is actually a decent number of words, so even at this pace I can finish a real novel in just a few months, and that is motivational in a way that racking up a bunch of 100 or 200 word days isn’t. (50,000 words ÷ 500 words a day = 100 days of writing; 100 days is approximately 3 months and 10 days; making this a pace of nearly 4 novels a year.)
  6. I’m writing every day. (Because of #5!)
  7. I’m not getting stuck in an editing loop. There are only so many times I can edit 500 words into something I’ve already written. That means I’ve been moving forward with the story. Do enough 100 word days and you’ll eventually move forward, sure, but it’s going to take a loooong time—long enough to be demotivating.
  8. 500 words has yet to feel overwhelming. Even the night I put off writing until nearly 1 a.m., I felt like I could get the words quickly enough to make it worth trying. It’d be the same with an even smaller word count goal, but see #5 for why I’m not giving in and just going to bed. 500 words feels significant in a way a smaller word count doesn’t. It’s not pointless to bother or a waste of good sleep time. It matters if I get them done. So I did them.

The week’s numbers

517
533
520
1,004
515
503
505

Total words: 4,097
Daily average: 585

These are the most consistent numbers I’ve gotten in a while, and after a week of this, I believe I can make it last.

500 words a day might just be my magic number.

I already know that writing faster isn’t really the answer for me, but writing more sure might be. If I were to replace all 697 zero words days in my word count log with 500, I would have written 348,500 more words to date than I’ve actually written. That’s pretty mind-boggling considering that my highest annual word count since I began writing is 268,191 words. :-)

I’m just going to call this an experiment that has shown me a path to success. It has been an experiment in small wins and training oneself to do more by expecting less.

500 words is my daily minimum and it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

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