Two-hundred and sixty-five single-spaced pages in 11 point Helvetica font, one inch margins. 170,743 words. These are the statistics of my 2015 journal. The one that I write in each morning for precisely a half hour. I set a timer.
Why am I telling you this? Most novels clock in somewhere between 75,000 and 125,000 words. At this rate, I could have written one and a half novels. Crappy novels, but novels just the same. For the cost of a half hour each morning.
This August, I’m at a writing residency on Willapa Bay, Washington, just outside of the world’s most picturesque little town, Oysterville. Almost half-way in, I’ve developed a routine – up a little before seven, have some breakfast, write/read/revise until 2:00pm, work on 49 Writers projects until around 5:45, break for dinner. Most nights, I work on my writing for another two to four hours after dinner. Some nights I walk on the beach or the bay, or sit quietly and listen to the wind move through the trees. A few nights, I’ve hung out with the other writers and artists around a bonfire and drank scotch. Go to bed each night with a book in my hand, my eyes on the stars.
It’s a luxury, this deep dive. For the last eleven days, I’ve drafted at least one poem each day, sometimes a few pages of them. If I can maintain this rate and if the revision process doesn’t call for me to jettison most of it, I could conceivably finish the first draft of a chapbook while I’m here. But in my “ordinary” life, I can squeeze in about an hour or two of writing time each day, and only if I get up at 5:30. In my “ordinary” life, I certainly don’t have anyone making me gourmet dinners and bringing lunch to my door in a cute little basket.
But still, there’s those 170,743 pages of journal which have spilled forth this year. All I do is sit down to the computer and start writing. I don’t think, I don’t plan, I don’t get uptight. I just write. Most of it’s junk. Some of it is fertile soil from which a poem may sprout. But when I miss a day, I feel it. Itchy and morose and ill-at-ease in my skin. What started out as a “gosh, I need to write something or I can’t call myself a writer” journal has become the way I shape my day, hone my perceptions, connect with my subconscious.
Half hour a day. You could draft your novel in less than a year if you wrote for a half hour a day. You could draft an entire poetry collection if you wrote a half hour a day. Don’t get me wrong, a month’s residency devoted to writing is pretty sweet, but you could start by devoting yourself to a half hour a day. Thirty minutes. Surely your writing is worth that much.