The community of 500 words

As a writer, I am fortunate to have a best friend who happens to be a wonderful author. She reads my stuff, gives me notes, helps me see clearly my story, and listens to my whining when I’m stuck. And I do the same for her. And this helps make the solitary endeavor of writing a bit less lonely.

Beyond her, however, I have had no writing colleagues with whom to share. I’ve lost touch with everyone I knew in college and grad school, and moved too many times to maintain the threads of most of what ended up being long-distance friendships (which mayhaps says something about the quality of those friendships). I’ve even forgotten most of the names of classmates from the myriad writing workshops. Much life has happened since those days of yore.

This month, I joined a few writing groups on, of all places, Facebook. One of these groups has a specific focus: Writing at least 500 new words a day. This is a community endeavor organized by Jeff Goins, who laid out the guidelines in a blog post:

  • Write 500 words per day, every day during the month of January.
  • You can write more if you want, but 500 words is the minimum.
  • Don’t edit. Just write.
  • If you miss a day, pick up where you left off. Don’t make up for lost days.
  • Encourage, don’t criticize unless explicitly invited to do so.
  • Blogging counts, but email does not.
  • All of this is completely free.

via My 500 words: A Writing Challenge | Goins, Writer.

Participating in this group has been relatively easy, because the focus is on the process of writing, not what we’re writing (though we get into that, too). There’s no pressure to post your words, and if you do, there’s no unsolicited advice. This has lent the group the feeling of being a safe place for sharing. And I feel like I’ve found some writing peers, perhaps even new friends, with whom I can share, and whose writing I admire and wish to support however I can.

The bottom line for me, however, is that thanks in part to this collective endeavor, this year to date (not counting today) I’ve written over 33,000 words on two books. (I haven’t been counting outlining or blogging, and certainly not emails.) Even though I started the year with the firm intention of getting at least one of my partial novels completed, I really don’t think I’d be so far along now, were it not for this small little promise made collectively, by each of us to ourselves, to write at least 500 words a day, every day.

I’m thankful to have found this community, and grateful for the encouragement from my new friends and colleagues. Credit goes to Jeff Goins for having herded us cats together to do this. I hope this group continues. I think it will, because even new habits can be hard to break.