In his book On Writing, Stephen King says that to write you must read and write a lot. Advice which he notes worked for him and that our own mileage will vary. I could follow everything he did and not have the same success. This reminded me of my favorite football player as a kid, Jerry Rice. Rice used to stay in shape by running sandy trails in the California hills. Sometimes other players would do these runs too, but none ever attained the same football success as Rice. For me to succeed in writing will require more than just writing and reading, but for now that’s all I know how to do.
In July I wrote 11,824 words, an average of 381 words a day. To be fair, this word count missed 10 days in the middle of the month as I tinkered with some of the things that track my word count. Prorated, I probably wrote close to 16,000 words, which sounds nice, but what do I do with that?
The other day I was looking at my running stats. Last summer I was on a training plan for a ten mile race at Disney and this year I had been running without a plan. My was body feeling good, but not as good as last year. I opened up my running stats on Runkeeper to compare July 2013 to July 2014. This is what the miles looked like for each run.
You can see that each blue bar from last July is higher than the red one from this year. Those differences added up a total difference of 14 miles, almost a 30% drop in mileage for the month. Even though the number of runs was the same, the total mileage was quite different. The numbers told the story that while I had been running as often, my mileage for longer runs was far lower.
What does all this mean about writing?
Entrepreneur Penelope Trunk writes about having Key Performance Indicators for whatever work you are doing. Having KPIs for running showed that I wasn’t running long enough to run longer races. Having KPIs for my writing will point me in the direction of changes I need to make. One of my favorite bloggers, Jamie Rubin is regularly writing about how he tracks his steps, words, and time usage. At first this seems like overkill, but he’s getting information to influence his behavior.
In her book Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal makes the case that video games do a better job of giving feedback than the real world and this perk of the digital world is something we should try to transfer to our tangible one.
Step 3 of my writing plan was to write in different places and I haven’t found a place yet. It should be non-fiction and be related to things I’m reading and researching about families, time management, living well, and so on. For August then my goal is to apply to 8 other places to write. My writing portfolio is slim, limited to fringe sites online but only after I get small foothold can I get a larger one.
I also want to having a writing goal for each day, for August I will average writing 1,000 words a day. For most writers this is on the low side, but I want to start off with something achievable. August is also when one daughter starts school and we cram our final summer events in.
When King wrote about reading and writing a lot he failed to lay out a more specific path. Rather he dropped me off at the edge of the woods and said, “enjoy.” Like putting one foot in front of the other will get me through the woods, one task after another will move me through the writing journey.
//Photo is a nine by six foot Batman comic cover made out of Lego blocks for the 2014 Cincinnati Comic Con.