I'm often asked what it's like to be a working writer, and how I find the discipline to get my work done. A couple of revolving questions of curiosity include "how do you have the patience to write a whole book?" and "how do you look at a blank page and just make something happen?" The latter is an entirely separate post for another time and another day, but the former is really quite simple.
The truth is that being a writer (at least a sane one), actually involves a bit of simple math. Whenever I'm approached about a new project, I always pose the same two questions. "When is it due?" and "what's my word count?" The answer to these two questions immediately helps me asses the scope of the project and how I need to break down my work in order to adequately (without losing any sleep) deliver and meet my deadline.
I'll be the first to admit that I've been known to be a stellar procrastinator in the past and have even touted that old familiar "I work better under pressure" proclamation that quite frankly, kind of makes me cringe and a little sick to the stomach these days. I do not work well under pressure (does anyone really?), and I've learned how to work efficiently and meet my deadlines without sprouting grey hairs in the process.
The answer to most grievances of a writer can all be easily solved by one simple phrase, "bite sized." Want to write a novel? Ready to write that memoir? It's all very achievable if you give yourself proper goals and self imposed deadlines. This is where that simple math really comes in handy. I'll break down a project that I'm currently working on to give you an idea of how it all comes together for me (with time to spare).
I was recently approached for a ghostwriting project. The client wanted to produce a 200 page book, all 200 pages of which, would be written by me. How daunting right? Well yeah, at first glance, absolutely. But when you do the math, everything starts to be pretty manageable.
A traditional 200 page book (give or take the size of the book, the font and the font size), will typically have about 55,000 words. By deciding on a number of chapters, you can then begin to break the book down into easy, "bite sized" chunks. In this case, my client and I decided on 20 chapters.
If you divide 55,000 words by 20 chapters, you end up with about 2750 words per chapter. My client end I decided on a goal of producing 2 chapters per week which meant that in order to successfully deliver, I would need to write 5,500 words per week. In order to actually accomplish this in a timely, manageable fashion, I would need to only write about 1000 words per day, which then becomes a simple and short, daily commitment.
With this method, at least for me, time management becomes easy and procrastination becomes a thing of the past. I'm also able to easily add a lot more work on my plate and write other articles, and properly adhere to all of my commitments in a stress free, and timely fashion because I break every project down into "bite sized" pieces. So, really if you want to write something, first and foremost, just do it, and secondly, do the math.