I’m not really sure what I did on July 6th, 2011, but I can definitely tell you that I didn’t write or revise any fiction. However, that was the last day on which I made that particular mistake. It was sometime in November of 2011 or so that I realized that I’d gone a significant amount of time without missing a day of writing. Ever since then, I’ve tried to make sure that I write something every single day, even if that just means 100 words of free-association. This means that as of yesterday, I’ve gone a full leap year (366 days) without missing a single day of writing. That’s one birthday, one Christmas, one New Years, several visits by my parents, one three-week trip to Spain, six (or perhaps more like eight or ten) transcontinental flights and perhaps an equal number of road-trip days. That’s nights spent in tents and on strange futons.
I’m not saying that I’m some kind of monomaniac. If you look at the frequency distribution below, you’ve seen that on 46 days out of the past year I wrote less than 250 words (which generally takes less than fifteen minutes).
|Wrote Less Than||# of Days|
But I do think there’s value even in those 50 or 100 words (when I didn’t have my computer with me, I sometimes composed using the text message box on my phone). For one thing, there were a number of occasions when I set out to just write 100 words and ended up writing 1000 or 2000 or coming up with a pretty good story idea. Some days are always going to be unproductive, but there are a certain number of seemingly-unproductive days that can be salvaged.
Furthermore, I think it’s just productive for me to get into a mental space where I’m thinking–every single day–“Okay, when am I going to do my writing?” There’ve been a number of very productive days where I did my writing first thing in the morning after I realized that the evening or afternoon would be packed with distractions. The knowledge that I _need_ to make time for this every day has given me better time-use habits.
Finally, I’m no longer as scared of the blank page. There are definitely still moments of terror–days when I think, “My god, I have nothing at all to say and this is the last thing that I want to be doing right now.” But they’re increasingly rare. Two or three years ago, I used to begin every writing session with this sort of anxiety. Now these kinds of fears almost make me feel a little nostalgic. When they come upon me, I think, “My god, I used to feel like all the time.” It’s possible that I am mistaking the direction of causality here (i.e. perhaps a reduction in fear is what caused an increase in writing days), but I think that, to some extent, repeatedly subjecting myself to the blank page (and not allowing myself to escape from it) has worked to desensitize me to this sort of prosaic writing anxiety.