15 minutes to write: GO!

Today is Martin Luther King Day, which means (for those of us in the U.S., anyway), it’s a day off.

Ignoring the fact that I’m a freelancer, which means EVERY day is a work day, this means that you’ve got a full 24 hours to devote to your writing.

So go grab a timer, and set it for 15 minutes, and let’s write!

I’m doing this now, because I’ve got 15 minutes left before Sunday flips over to Monday, and I still haven’t written my 275 words for the Poe Level of 365K Club. It’s a good enough incentive to get the fingers flying, if you need one.

But even if you don’t, setting a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and just seeing what comes out is worth the effort. In fact, it’s one of the cardinal rules of the 10 Minute Novelists group.

Why tracking your words matters

I’ve never actually committed myself to writing for a set period of time, nor to commit to a specific word count per day, despite my interest in writing for publication. But this year it finally occurred to me that the real trick to writing for a living isn’t just writing every day, nor even deciding to set a word count, but to the commitment – and more importantly the tracking of that commitment.

When you decide you’re going to write X many words per day, whether that’s 275, 500, or 1,000+, that’s great. But what really makes the difference when you find yourself lost for words, stuck in a corner, or just plain burnt out is the concept of Don’t Break the Chain.

More than just a simple X over the date on a calendar, however, is having a spreadsheet that tracks your daily progress. Some days you win, some days you lose, and some days you just break even… but every entry adds up over time.

My daily progress, thus far
My daily progress, thus far

I’m not sure why this didn’t occur to me sooner. After all, I go to the gym once a week, and religiously chart my progress with an old-school reporter’s notebook. I write down how much cardio I do, how many steps completed, and how much time it all takes. I write down how much weight I lift for each exercise, and how many reps I complete for each set. And although I don’t currently transfer any of this to a spreadsheet, I certainly could.

Indeed, if I wanted to get even more serious about my workouts, I would start a spreadsheet. And I’d compare workouts, week by week. I’d try to track what I was eating, drinking, or feeling before and after.

As productivity and goal-setting expert, Ellen Goodwin, told the San Diego Chapter of the Nonfiction Authors Association this past Friday:

“What gets measured gets moved.”

When you start charting your own ups and down, you’ll start to see patterns. And when you start to see patterns, you’ll start making changes.

And when you make changes, you’ll eventually see success.

So why chart your word counts? Because if you don’t, you’ll never really see your own measurements, and you’ll never make real progress.

Turn off the internet, set your timer, and let’s get started.

And if you need a way to chart your progress, I’d highly recommend WordKeeperAlpha. It’s free, and it makes nice charts of your progress as you go. Plus, you can track progress on a variety of different projects at once, which can help you out a lot if you’re a multitasker like I am.


What’s your best word count in a 15-minute period?


In case you need even more motivation, here’s a list of the Daily Word Counts of 39 Famous Authors. Food for thought!