I've wanted to do this forever but other commitments kept getting in the way. Until yesterday.
And so, I rose at my usual time of 5:30 (I know, it's crazy to get up that early–but it's what time I naturally wake up) and started writing.
By 8:30, I had amassed 3,000 words. I took a break to shower and read the paper and drink some more coffee.
Back at it by 9:30–and by noon I was up to 6,000. I'd finished a novella I've been working on and was ready for lunch. Not just ready–famished beyond words. Writing that much takes a lot of mental energy.
I have to admit, this is where my energy started flagging. 6,000 words and completing a project seemed like a good day's work to me. And later when I thought back over the day, I realized that in a perfect world, if I were devoting every day all day to fiction writing, 3,000-5,000 words a day would be a great goal for me.
But I really wanted to see how far I could get, so back to the computer I went. I took a break for a client appointment mid-afternoon and then continued writing, finishing up by about 5, when I needed to feed the cats, cook dinner, and get ready for an evening meeting.
My final word count? 9, 247 words.
Yeah, I know, I was floored too.
And my head was about ready to explode as well. I have a bit of a headache today and I suspect it's from staring at the screen so much yesterday.
Now, bear in mind–these are rough draft words, people. Those 9K + words were pure glumping onto the page and will need rewriting and editing and polishing and all that stuff we do before we send our work out into the world.
But–I have over 9,000 more words on the page than I did on Tuesday. And that makes me happy.
By the way–Milli is hosting another 10K day this Saturday. I found the support of the blog and the others participating invaluable–and a lot of fun. (I also learned about Bounty bars, which I am now desperate to try.) I can't participate this Saturday, but I sure plan to set aside time to do another 10K day next month.
What's the most words you've ever written in a day? Does the idea of writing 10K words in a day sound like fun or make you want to run for your life? Please share.
That's what I said in 2006 when my friend Jenny Turner asked me to do a "10K Day."
To be accurate, I didn't say it was impossible for Jenny. I already knew she could do it. I said it was impossible for me.
I had my reasons. I'm a slow writer. I'm a believer in creativity. Creativity is not about hammering out words like some maniac on an acid trip, right?
Funny how hard we can cherish our beliefs–that sometimes turn out to be nothing but assumptions.
There are ten rules for the 10K Day. I know, I know. It already sounds like a forced march of writing, and having rules just makes it sound more militant. But it's an unbelievably fun way to spend a day. And the rules really help. When I followed them on my very first 10K Day, I ended up (to my great surprise) writing 10,277 words. I had started with very low expectations that day, but there's something about the rhythm and momentum of the 10K Day that pulls it out of you.
Breaking the barrier left me feeling liberated in a way I could not have imagined before I tried it.
Here are the rules:
1. No editing or rewriting.
2. No looking back over what you’ve written. Keep forging ahead.
3. No rummaging–either in notebooks or in your computer files–for writing you did some other time.
4. No research. Make it up.
5. Don’t fuss about the rules of writing. Just write.
6. Don’t fuss with structure. You can format, add chapter headings (or whatever) some other time.
7. No struggling. ("Allow yourself to be crappy." – J.R. Turner)
8. Take a 15-minute break every two hours. Use this break to refresh your body, brain and spirit.
9. Report to your writing companions during your break. Use the check-in page that shows the correct date for the event you’re attending.
10. No agonizing over your word count. Yes, the goal is 10,000 words, but not at the cost of your peace of mind. This is not a competition–not even with yourself! Have fun instead.
The problem with assumptions (mine, anyway) is that they usually focus on the wrong thing. In a vague way, if we think it through at all (I sure didn't), when we hear "10K Day" we automatically react by assuming the writing will be the problem. What will I write all day long? Or what if my writing sucks? That type of thing. But a simple plan can take care of the first one–and Rule #7 should take care of the second.
No, what I've noticed (in more than four years of running this monthly event) is that the writing is not the problem. Our waffly boundaries are.
Many of us believe, somewhere deep inside, that everybody else's needs come before our writing. (If you don't think so, watch how you react next time an interruption comes along while you're writing.) There are also myriad distractions in this cyber-world to tempt us away from our writing dreams. The 10K Day asks us to set aside one day a month for our writing. And if we actually DO set aside the whole day–which means rescheduling the needs of others and shutting out distractions–it really is possible to write that many words.
The other trick is to take regular breaks and drink enough water. If your brain gets burned out, you'll have to quit early. That can easily be avoided by taking regular breaks. We recommend every two hours.
The most inspirational thing about the 10K Day is the writer-to-writer support. There are no comparisons made, and everybody's word count is cause for celebration. There's no pressure to reach 10,000. We cheer for anyone and everyone who shows up and gets some writing done!
So. Just one day a month. That's not much for your writing to ask of you. But the rewards can be great.
P.S. Remember Jenny, the friend who introduced me to the 10K Day? She has eight novels published as J.R. Turner. Jenny has used the 10K Day many times over the years to help her write her books.
Want to join us for a 10K Day? We offer a Wednesday and a Saturday every month. Check out November's event dates at 10K Day for Writers.For those who enjoy some extra learning, guidance and support, there's also an online course called Ace Your 10K Day!
Milli Thornton (aka Milliver) is the author of Fear of Writing. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course and Unleash Your Writing!, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Milliver's Travels and Screenwriting in the Boonies and coaches her amazing clients at Writer’s Muse Coaching Service.
As much as I love writing and words, sometimes words are just too left-brained to capture the magic. I guess that's why I've been feeling nervous about writing this post . . . I didn't want to take the uncanny out of what happened by trying to pin it down.
All I know is that I entered a contest here at Charlotte's blog where I was to name a wish – and my wish was granted.
"If you could wave a magic wand and have anything in the whole wide world that you wanted for your next birthday, what would it be? Bear in mind, there's no limits here. You could have anything your little heart desires, such as a bestselling novel, world peace, the entire Amazon catalog in a wood-lined room, a Ferrari, a Grand Tour to Europe, and so on. I'm talking true, mad, deep desires."
The prize (eventually won by Carole Jane Treggett ) was a $20 Amazon gift card. Good enough reason to enter, right? Nobody really expected to have their wish granted, right?
I certainly didn't. Nevertheless, I took the time to get very specific with myself about what I would wish for if I could wave a magic wand. I wrote in Charlotte's comment section:
"If I could wave a magic wand right now, I would suddenly understand deep down in my soul (but also in a conscious way that is not at all mysterious or rollercoaster-ish) how to balance my over-achiever side with my 'I love my creativity and I love to have fun!' side while at the same time making the income I desire to make. Income from my writing and my creativity, just to be completely clear."
I just deleted the paragraph I started to write detailing how my wish has been coming true. It was starting to feel too much like capturing a firefly in a bottle. Because this entire thing hasn't unfolded yet, and I keep bumping down another level to find out it wasn't what I at first thought.
I call it "bumping down" because it keeps feeling like I'm falling off my own cliffs of preconceived notions. Every time that has happened since my wish-casting on July 16, I would feel confused and all out of sync – not to mention embarrassed that I wouldn't be able to write the post I promised to Charlotte. Realism would shift to surrealism and then back to a new reality.
I finally realized I was getting my wish, but it was going to take a while (like any good adventure) and it was going to explode most of what I thought I should be doing (or how I should be doing it).
If you happen to write a wish, and if you happen to have your wish granted, don't be surprised if it seriously messes with your comfort zones. And that's how you'll know you're getting the deepest possible version of your wish.
P.S. Despite my careful wording, it actually has turned out to be mysterious and rollercoaster-ish. But now I get it: that's better than something neatly sewed up and presented as a pre-packaged wish.