I’m two weeks (alright, thirteen days) into my daily writing challenge and I’ve already learnt a lot. As a bonus, this milestone has also given me an excuse to write a listicle. Interestingly, Google’s spell check doesn’t recognise the word ‘listicle’ and instead tries to substitute it for the word ‘testicle.’ I leave you to decide whether this has any bearing on the content you’re about to read.

So, here are five things I’ve learnt about the writing process in the last couple of weeks. Maybe you will find something interesting here, maybe this is all obvious to anyone who had been writing for more than two weeks. Enjoy.

1. You can write even when you think you can’t

Let me make some sense of that.

Ever had one of those days when you get in from work, you’re physically and mentally exhausted, but you’ve still got to get the dinner on the table, put the kids to bed, and just want to collapse on the sofa and descend into a coma of wild camping videos on YouTube?

Me to. But even then you are capable of writing one thousand words.

You might not be producing Shakespeare, and Milton might be out of reach, but you can write something, anything. Build the framework of a first draft to come back to later, vomit out the notes for that scene that’s been bouncing around your head all day, or rewrite that paragraph you wrote yesterday and hated.

Before starting this challenge I would write when I felt like it — which wasn’t very often. Now I force myself to knock out 1000 words per day minimum — not 999, not 700, 1000 words or more every single day. My body knows I have to do it, there is no alternative.

Write every day, even if your typing finger fell off this morning, even if the roof is on fire and your children will be homeless unless you call the fire brigade. Your purpose is to write.

2. It’s okay to write rubbish…

Seriously. I’ve just completed the first draft of a short story. The finished version is around 5000 words, but I wrote more than 10,000 getting to that stage.

Why is that?

Because most of the stuff I wrote was crap. Rubbish. Nonsense. But without that nonsense I would have nothing to refine and perfect. Do you think Tupac always wrote classics? I’m sure he recorded a load of duds before getting to the good stuff. I’ve never listened to Tupac.

Allowing yourself to write rubbish gets rid of the fear of writing. That first draft is for your eyes only, no-one else is ever going to see it, so give yourself the creative freedom to write a load of bull; it doesn’t have to end up in the final product, and you never know, it might turn out to be something really good. Give yourself permission to write rubbish.

3. Discipline is more important than motivation

Most people wait for motivation to give them the push to do write — but here’s the truth — it doesn’t work that way.

Discipline is everything. Without discipline you will do nothing. Motivation might help you get up early for a few morning and work your way through a few pages, but only discipline will make you do it every day. Without forcing your inner animal to get off the sofa, switch off the TV, and chuck out your iPhone you will never find the motivation to write daily.

4. The more you write the better you get at writing more

It’s only been two weeks I’m already finding the process of writing is becoming quicker. After doing it for 14 days, writing 1000 words doesn’t seem like such a hurdle any more. Instead of making a big deal of it, I now find it easier to grab thirty minutes here and there throughout the day to get the work done.

5. Ideas come: you only need one little spark of inspiration

On several nights this week I’ve sat down with a blank slate and had to write something, and ideas have always come.

In the past I would probably have given up before my fingers even touched the keyboard; what is the point of writing if you don’t know what you’re writing about? But the truth is, ideas come from nowhere when you’re least expecting them.

There are two articles that I wrote this week which came from nothing, which were pulled out of the ether. When I sat down to write I didn’t know they were going to happen, they just formed on the page in front of me.

The first is titled, “Trump. Brexit. Cat Soup”, the inspiration for which came from three photos I took that morning in a supermarket. I hadn’t intended to write about them, but when I sat down that evening with no idea what I was going to write about a quick glance at my phone gave me that little spark from which a 500 word article was poured.

Okay, it might not reach the literary heights of Hemingway, but it’s a coherent, unique post that I enjoyed writing.

The second was, “Someone wants me dead”, for which the inspiration came in the moments before intended to start writing. I was so surprised to come across such a bizarre search query in my website statistics that it sparked an idea for a story that needed telling immediately.

6. Finish something every day

I post a website article every day. Some are well considered and researched articles on important international affairs and others are…well…nonsense.

But there is connective tissue between all of these posts which help motivate and push me to write more:

Getting your stuff out there provides important motivation

Search Queries

Putting stuff out there, even if it’s published in a dark alley of the internet where only accidental tourists will wander into, gives motivation and feedback that I wouldn’t receive just writing a Word document on my laptop.

Take a look at these search queries to the right; these are real phrases that people typed into Google and somehow ended up on my website.

How can you not find motivation in someone typing “horn rimmed spectacles meaning” or “sheba cat food” or “cat soup” and reaching something you’ve written? If that’s not encouragement to start seeding articles with more and more bizarre keywords I don’t know what is.

I desperately want someone to visit KarlRivers.com after Googling the phrase “mounting spoon horse.” And now, given enough time, it will happen.

Writing a website post every day forces you to finish something

Writing a first draft of a novel or short story is great, but you don’t get the sense of achievement that finishing something every day provides. Uploading a post every day, even if it’s only three hundred rambling words of nonsense, gives you that little pop of adrenaline usually reserved for Instagram notifications.

Knowing you’ve got to put together a semi-interesting, coherent post every day makes you seek out inspiration

I’m very aware that I’m only 13 posts into 365 days of articles, which means I still need 352 ideas from which to juice viable content. It might be just going into that shop you never go into, or reading that book that isn’t normally to your taste, or going to that social event that you just don’t want to attend, but the possibility that it might result in a new blog post gets you there.

Look at this photo I took yesterday and tell me there aren’t a hundred things to say about this:

Ben and Holly

So, there are five things I’ve learnt so far, I know there were actually six, let’s just keep that between friends. Let me know your important writing advice in the comments. Seriously, I need some comments.

See you tomorrow.

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