How Writers Get Things Done

I've been having a burst of creativity lately. Maybe it's because major application season is over and I've got some more free time. Maybe it's because the weather last month forced me to stay inside and get things done. Maybe it's because I've been taking some classes at the university and the assignments have got me inspired. Whatever it is, it's awesome. 

When it comes to writing first drafts, one thing that definitely helps my creative output is when I set quantitative goals for myself. Some of the best writing advice I have ever been given was "Don't Get it Right, Get it Written." Leave the judgement and need for perfection at the door, and worry about revisions and perfection after you've got the words on the page. When I wrote my first play, I made a rule that I had to write 10 pages a week until I reached a minimum of 60 pages. That was how I wrote a first draft in six weeks one summer. 

Recently, I started a project in a whole new genre. Since I haven't written prose in a while, I was struggling to set realistic goals for myself. How many pages of prose can I realistically expect to write in a day? I had no idea and, without some serious guidelines, I would end up writing one sentence and then spending two days "waiting for inspiration". To get myself on track, I decided to take advice from the masters, and now I'm going to share it with all of you! To inspire creative productivity, here is...

Stephen King writes 2000 words a day.


Phillip Pullman, author of the popular series His Dark Materials, says he finishes three handwritten pages every day. In his handwriting that's about 1100 words a day.


Virginia Woolf wrote 500 words a day. If you're typing, double spaced, in Times New Roman font size 12, that's about one and a half pages.


Biographer Edmund Morris writes only 300 words a day, and he's still managed to win the Pulitzer Prize!


There's a pretty big difference between 300 words and 2000 words, but the one thing that these writers all have in common is that they write on a regular basis. What I've learned from all this research is that it's most important to keep in the habit of writing, and to stay on top of your story. So if you can only write 300 words a day, that's better than writing 1000 on a Saturday and then letting your story sit untouched all week long. The trick is figuring out what number will work for you. After collecting all these numbers, I feel a lot better about not being able to write 5000 words a day, and I think I'm going to aim for a minimum of 500. At least until I can quit my day job...

Any other writers out there? What's your magic number?