Measuring consistent action – words vs. time

My second 5×15 Writing Challenge wraps up today. Several dozen intrepid writers announced their intention to write for at least 15 minutes a day for five days in a row: Consistent action! And, just like the Challenge I ran at the end of last year, nearly everyone who began the Challenge finished it.

It doesn’t matter what commitment you make to writing—it only matters that you make one. Others commit to a specific daily word count. I’ve never been much for word counts; I usually just write until I’ve said what needs to be said.

In fact, the one time I did ask about word count—my first time working with a famous graphic designer, I wanted to seem extra-professional. Famous Graphic Designer’s response: “I find the best writers don’t think about word count; they just write until they’ve said what needs to be said.” [headdesk] Need I add that although I wrote killer copy for them—the client loved it—I never worked for Famous Graphic Designer again.

But I digress.

I commit to 15 minutes a day of consistent action, writingI commit to time because it’s finite. On a tough day, the process of writing 400 words could stretch from dawn ’til dusk—but 15 minutes only lasts 15 minutes. If I’m on a roll and I have time, I’ll go longer; if my schedule’s packed I know I only have to find a 15-minute window. It’s completely doable.

Consistent action in 400 words (not less)

But here’s a great story of a writer who committed to word count as his measure of consistent action.

Neil Gaiman told this story in his essay collection The View from the Cheap Seats. Gaiman’s friend and fellow writer Terry Pratchett

“…wrote four hundred words a night, every night; it was the only way for him to keep a real job and still write books. One night, a year later, he finished a novel, with a hundred words still to go, so he put a piece of paper into his typewriter and wrote a hundred words of the next novel.”

That’s commitment right there, folks.

Congratulations to the 5×15 Challenge finishers. Keep up the (whether it’s good or not) work. You don’t need to judge your work right now. Just do it. Daily.


Are you jealous? Do you want a reason to write every day, too? And hone your skills in a supportive environment? Check out my 12-week program, Writing Unbound. Special pricing through January 30th.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *