It’s mid-January and the resolve behind those New Year’s resolutions has dissolved, replaced by reasonable excuses.
Most of these dismissive rationalizations involve time, or rather the perceived lack of it. I tried, we tell ourselves and others. I want to lose weight. But I just can’t seem to find the time to exercise. I’m unhappy at work. But I’m working so many hours I don’t have time to look for another job.
Writers tap into our natural ability to create very persuasive rationalizations to let ourselves off the hook. Every book written on writing advises us to get into the habits of writing daily and reading what other authors are writing. But reading just takes away time from my writing, we’ll argue. And how many words do I have to write every day? A hundred? Five hundred? A thousand? What’s the magic number?
As with any goal in life, weight loss and job search included, the answer is: It depends.
What do you hope to accomplish? How high is the bar that you’ve set for yourself?
For the sake of comparative example, let’s say that on January first you dug that guitar case out of the back of the closet you’ve resolved to clean out. The clasps snap open. You lift out the instrument, tighten the slack but still intact strings, stretch clumsy fingers over the frets, and strum. This is the year that you’re going to learn to play.
OK, why and for what purpose? Will you learn tunes on the guitar for solitary enjoyment or to entertain family and friends? Or do you have visions of performing live onstage? How big is the stage? Is it in a local bar? Are you touring cross country with a band? Or is the world your playground? Do you see your name mentioned with The Edge and Eric Clapton on Rolling Stone’s list of top 150 guitarists of all time?
Each level of accomplishment you set requires higher levels of resolve, commitment to your craft and passion for your dream. There’s nothing wrong with writing for pleasure or to cross write a novel off your bucket list and self-publish copies for family and friends. But how badly do you want to see that title and your name on the New York Times bestseller list? What books will you read to know all you can about the process of connecting readers with words on the page? How many words will you write every day to make those connections?
That depends on you.