Roma non fu fatta in un giorno.—Rome wasn’t built in a day.—Proverb
OK, so you’ve cleared the crap out of the way. You’ve got your computer all warmed up. Now how to write for two thousand words a day like the fabulous John Scalzi, or fifteen hundred like the equally fabulous me, or for eight hours, like, you know, Jane Austen probably did?
Most folks I know can’t just start up like that. It’s the mental equivalent of running a marathon when you’ve previously been getting all your excercise walking to the fridge. I myself began my writing life as a phenomenally lazy person. But I wanted to write whole entire novels, so I found workarounds.
The best and most successful of these was deciding to write for five minutes a day. I snuck up on my lazy self—and pounced.
There’s no way you can excuse yourself from five minutes of writing. If you get to the end of the day, no matter how many jobs or children or both you have, and you haven’t found five minutes to do this thing you love, you’re going to look pretty silly in the mirror. (Or question whether you should delegate a bit.)
So you find the five minutes, and you write. You do it at the same time every day because that takes less planning, and because other people in your life get used to it. (Few people call me before two any more—they know I will be working.)
Five minutes stops being enough pretty quickly. You get carried away by your work and suddenly you look at the clock and you are late for whatever’s next and it wasn’t five minutes but forty-five.
If you start small, you have a chance to grow. If life intervenes and you get off schedule, you can always go back to five minutes.
If possible, do this every day for five days a week at least. I advocate for taking breaks on the weekend. But being consistent will make you less precious about what you are doing. If you are only capable of writing utter crap on one day, it won’t worry you, because you know that there will be another day, and another and another. After a while you will know that on some of those days you are going to experience the superlative high of making incredible art. If you have a day when you have to miss working because you live with a disability, like me, or because your kid gets sick, or because your boss needs you to work 36 hours in a row, you will know that you will work the next day.
Five minutes a day, at the same time every day if possible. Out of this, a full, dedicated work practice grows; and out of that, novels.