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Right now I seem to be in a season of trying new things.
Most of it is work related. There’s always something to be learned about blog design, building a community, and of course, writing!
One cool new things I just began is a challenge by Jeff Goins to write 500 words a day for 31 days. One of my goals for this year is to become a better writer (or at least practice writing more!) and this seemed like a good way to do it. It’s only 500 words, right?
The idea of writing 500 words takes me back to college orientation classes where we were often required to write reflections “at least 500 words” long. These reflections were meant to help us along as we got used to the college work load and atmosphere. They were designed to help us process things, as a sort of regulated journaling on various theories of education and calling and how they affected our lives.
I don’t know how much these reflections actually helped us, I don’t recall putting a tremendous amount of effort into them. In fact, I’m pretty sure most if not all of my reflections were recycled long ago.
However, the idea of consistent reflections, of writing 500 words, comes back to me now as I sit here at word 210 wondering what in the world I’ve gotten myself into and how I am ever going to write 500 semi-decent words every day this month!
500 words is both short and long. Short enough to be attainable, long enough that you can’t just sit and type it out in ten minutes. It’s enough space for a story or a cohesive argument. Enough space to actually get you somewhere.
I’ve been reading a lot about writing this month, especially from Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write. I love her up front and practical way of looking at writing. Instead of seeing it as some magical inspiration that only comes to a few chosen people, she declares that really, we are all writers!
The key to being a writer is pretty simple. You have to write.
This month, writing 500 words a day is my way of disciplining myself to be a writer. I can’t call myself a writer and then wait for an epiphany of words to come flowing in any more than I can sit down at my piano and expect to play Rachmaninoff’s piano sonata no. 1 without practicing at all.
So this month I write. Every morning I will show up and plunk out 500 words. Some days will be good and some days will likely be really really awful.
I can comfort myself with the fact that these 500 words are my scales for writing. Just as I have often played through a multitude of scales before practicing my pieces, this month I will write these 500 words to prepare me for my other writing.
So what can writing 500 words do for you?
Take a quick look at your life. Do you have a goal that needs practice? Do you want to become a better writer, musician, or entrepreneur? What’s your equivalent of 500 words? What do you need to do to practice, to sharpen your skill and get closer to your goal? Think of that as your 500 words.
Whatever your 500 words is, doing it consistently can teach you to be disciplined, to treat your craft as something that is worth taking time for.
Even though I’ve only been writing 500 word for a few days, I’ve seen an improvement. Not necessarily in my writing, but in my attitude towards it. It’s something that I have to do, something that I’ve decided IS going to happen, whether or not I feel like it.
This decision makes the writing more fun, even on days when I would rather be doing lots of other things, knowing that I will feel a sweet sense of accomplishment on typing out that last word keeps me going.
Remember, writing 500 words, whether good or terrible, is better than not writing at all. You can’t learn if you don’t practice.
So go practice. Go get those 500 words.
What are you practicing right now? Is there something like 500 words that you can use as a guide to help yourself practice?