How to Write 1000 Words in Under an Hour

How to Write 1000 Words in Under an Hour
WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS. Seriously. This is my "office." Will somebody come build me an office?

Dear Julie,

I know you're sitting there in front of your computer trying to decide what to write about and how to write it and how you can make it funny and mostly inoffensive and all of that jazz, but today you're writing for speed. You know how to do that. I've seen you do it.

You can't think about it. You can't edit as you go. You can't second guess yourself. You have to put fingers to the keyboard and just leave it all there on the screen.

But what if it's shit, you say. What if it's the worst thing you, or anyone, has ever written? Well, so what? That's what revision is for.

Remember back when you were a young lass, back before you had children, when you were teaching and got home from work at 4:00 every day? Remember how you had summers and holidays off? Remember how you had your weekends free and you could do whatever you wanted whenever you wanted? Remember how much writing you got done then? Yeah. Bupkis.

That's because you didn't have the pressure. You were at work all day, flitting away your lunch hour on the internet. Then you'd come home and put on the TV or sit in front of the computer again and read Perez Hilton (this was a very long time ago). Most of the time you'd play Sims. Remember that game? I'm sure you do. You played it like it was your job.

But then you went and had that there child of yours, the boy one. And you spent the first year of his life with him napping on you for several hours a day because you were scared if you moved him he'd wake up and nap time would be over. So you'd feed him and he'd pass out and then he'd lie there on your chest while you watched NCIS episode after NCIS episode. You watched all seven seasons of The West Wing that year. You watched Alias (at least through Season 3; you couldn't stomach watching Seasons 4 and 5 again). You watched Season 1 of True Blood and a couple back seasons of Project Runway, which you had never seen before. You watched the first season of Real Housewives of New Jersey. That was a definite low point.

Then, remember, you started getting antsy. You started to realize that you should be doing something with your life besides letting an eleven-month-old drool all over your T-shirt. You started to recall that novel you knew you could write, the novel you knew you should write. So you started the process. You trained the kid to nap in his own crib. It wasn't that hard, and you wondered why you hadn't thought to try it sooner. Then you went to Barnes & Noble (with the kid, not while he was sleeping) and bought a book about how to write a novel in thirty days. You devoured it. And then on September 1 you started writing, two thousand words a day. And in a month, you had a book. Well, kind of. You had a book-length pile of shit, but it was something.

And now you had the thrill of success. It wasn't that hard, was it, writing two-thousand words a day? You had the time. Your kid was still napping for a few hours in the afternoon. It was plenty of time to get your writing done and watch The Daily Show and Colbert. You were living the best of both worlds.

But then you took on another challenge. You started babysitting for your infant niece. And suddenly nap time wasn't such a sure bet. You were juggling the tempers of two small people. Would they both sleep? Would one cry and wake the other one? Would the doorbell ring? Would the dog bark? There were so many variables, so many things that could frak up your writing time, but that just made you more determined to do it. You started another novel (the novel whose name we dare not speak), and you wrote fifty thousand words of it during that November.

Fast forward three years, and now you've reached a new challenge -- the no nap time phase. The boy child is at school all day, but you still have your daughter at home. And she's stopped taking naps. And she's a lot less willing to play on her own than your son is. So now your time is even more precious. Now you have to work even harder to get those words in. You send her upstairs for quiet time while you (hopefully) jump onto Scrivener and start typing your scene for the day. It's a race against the clock -- the clock being her tolerance for playing by herself. Some days you get an hour. Sometimes she falls asleep and you're golden. Sometimes she's calling for you after fifteen minutes.

So, the question is -- how much do you want it? How much do you want to finish that book and revise it and start sending it out to agents? Does it mean more to you than eating a bowl of grapes while reading blind items on Crazy Days and Nights? It should. This is what you want. I know it's what you want.

It doesn't take a lot of time out of your day. We stymie ourselves by thinking that we have this process we need to follow, that the conditions need to be perfect in order to get our creative juices flowing, but that's not true at all, is it? You just need the drive. You just need to put your ass in the seat and close all unrelated windows and dive right into the story and type and type and type until you've hit that word count. It doesn't take as long as you think it does. It takes a precious little amount of time, really. Here, I've been typing for only twenty-five minutes and I'm already at one thousand words. Twenty-five minutes and I have put a thousand words to paper (er, computer screen). Look what you can accomplish when you think you have no time, you jackass.

All the best,


Filed under: News & Views

Leave a comment