I’m not immune to making grandiose plans for the New Year – in fact, I think the planning is half the fun – but a quieter goal kept nagging at me: I need to get back to writing consistently. I call myself a pen-to-paper processor; writing out my jumbled thoughts brings clarity better than anything else. In the past, though, I’ve been something of a binge writer. I could write pages at a time when I itched to work through something, then go for months writing nothing. Writing page upon page is cathartic…except that when time is tight, it’s easy to keep making excuses so that the pages stay unwritten. So, in the name of consistency, I came up with this goal: write one sentence per day.
Why one sentence? After all, one sentence per day doesn’t get you far. But one sentence is too small to skip. Almost any excuse sounds silly – “I don’t have time.” It takes literally less than a minute. “I don’t have anything to say today.” That’s a sentence, isn’t it? “I broke my hand.” Well, one sentence isn’t too much to ask of your non-dominant hand. “I almost died.” Okay, that’s a legitimate excuse.
Of course, once you have one sentence down it’s hard to stop there. You don’t usually manage a complete thought in one sentence; that’s what paragraphs are for. That’s the second reason I chose to write one sentence per day; once something’s on the page you’ll usually keep writing. I haven’t stopped at one sentence yet. (Yeah, it’s been less than a week. Small victories, right?).
As simple as this goal is, I still felt it required a few ground rules. Here they are:
- The sentence must be personal writing. This should be obvious, but I’m good at finding loopholes in my own plans, so I’m closing this one up front.
- Write the sentence first thing in the morning. This guarantees that it gets done, rather than putting it off and off and off… Of course, writing at other times of the day is still allowed and encouraged.
- Let it be what it is. Admittedly, I still harbor some grandiose fantasies for this little goal, like having a publishable short story squirm its way out of my daily writings; and some smaller fantasies, like finding great blog post ideas in my journal. But none of those things are the goal, and if nothing comes out of my one sentence per day but journals full of rambling, I’ve still done what I intended.
What about you…are you a pen-to-paper processor?
What keeps you from writing consistently, and how do you overcome it?