Writing Life: on Building Habits

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard of NaNoWriMo. The spiel: (1) write 50,000 words in the month of November. Real authors always hit that magical 1,667 word count, every day for thirty days straight. It’s a great idea in practice. Just like many other writers, I have a bunch of story ideas in my head at various stages of completion. But while many swear by the program (the website claims over 310,000 participants in 2013), I’ve found that NaNoWriMo doesn’t do it for me.

I’ve tried the program once or twice, and always make it around 15,000 words into the process before the word count becomes arbitrary, I hit a mental block, or just miss a day and fall badly behind. Here’s why NaNoWriMo doesn’t work for me:

1. Focused on one project only (rather than useful writing in general), prone to writer’s block
2. Over-focused on word count and production
3. Harsh penalty for missing the odd day
4. Focused on word quantity over other measures of writing progress.

I propose MacroWriMo as a solution.
MacroWriMo is the practice of writing at a specific time, every day, forever. Call it whatever you want: the habit building is what we’re really after. The daily routine of writing keeps you creative and engaged: like a pianist’s scales keep his fingers loose and limber. I like that NaNo forces writers to, well, write, but I want to adapt that feature to a bigger context. More than I want a specific project done, I want to build habits that will shape me as a writer for longer than just thirty days. Rather than a sprint, I want a daily three-mile run.

Here’s how writing every day solves all of the issues above: