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.

Blank page: 2014

It all seems rather arbitrary to say today is a new start, tomorrow is the 2nd day, and so on. Every day is a new day, “the first day of the rest of your life,” and all that. Right?

And yet here we are, all of us, looking at this new year full of hopes and intentions and goals and resolutions. The rhythms of the year, of the holidays, of the seasons lend themselves to this. We have passed through the long night of solstice, celebrated festive holidays of lights, spent time with friends and family, and taken the opportunity (hopefully) to decompress from the past year’s daily grind (and the stresses of the holidays). So yes, it’s arbitrary to say, Today starts the new thing. But there it is on the calendar. And it seems like as good a time as any to reassess, refocus, resolve and start afresh.

Which gets me to resolutions. I’ve been kind of noodling on a blog post about this thing we do to ourselves—building up our superegos to compel ourselves to do better, to be better—so maybe some further thoughts on this will go up on my other blog.

Meanwhile, on a thread on Goodreads about New Year’s resolutions, I added my own:

[M]y intention is to practice love of the things I want to be doing. I want to write more, so I will practice loving writing. I know, this all sounds very Buddhist (and maybe it is), but I know that cracking an improved whip on my guilt and conscience doesn’t work for me in the end.

And that just about sums it up. Now I think I’ll get on with embracing my love, and see see what this year brings.