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How to Write 2000 Words a Day – The Ultimate Guide

How to Write 2000 Words a Day – The Ultimate Guide

It’s now well over halfway through National Novel Writing Month, but not too late to talk writing strategy.

Although participants in the National Novel Writing month have to produce only 1650 words a day, that’s never been enough for me. I like 2000.

This is probably because it’s the number Ray Bradbury gave in one of his books on writing. Stephen King gives that number too, but I heard it from Bradbury first (or read it, as the case happens to be).

Whether your write 1650 or 2000, this question remains: why is having a fixed daily goal important?

In the words of … well, me: it’s all about rhythm, baby.

Just as we know there are rhythms for eating and rituals for sleeping, keeping pace with your writing by reaching a particular word count every day is extremely useful for deepening what you are writing in terms of plot, character, and symbolism. It also helps build your creative stamina.

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In essence, the more you write about your story, the more you find out about it. The more you put time into the writing, the more material you have to reshape when it comes time to wrestling that second draft. This is true even if the words you write to get to 2k per day amount to very little in terms of quality. The first time I wrote a November Novel, I wound up throwing half of the writing away. But, had I not produced the clouds that would eventually drift away, there would have been far fewer bricks in the tower of my story that remained.

Here are some practical tips you can use to get your own 2k on paper or on your computer screen every day.

Break Your Sessions into 500 Word Chunks

When writing, you can simply decide to finish 500 words at a time, rather than working towards all 2000, or some undefined number. You could also choose to do 200 words at a pop, or any other number, so long as you avoid the overwhelm of writing them all at once.

Keep Notes for Tomorrow

It was Hemingway who said, “When you’re going good, stop writing.” I’m not sure that this is the best advice to follow, but what he meant was that knowing what you’re going to write the next day is a powerful strategy. Perhaps feeling the pulse of the writing to come is what he was talking about too.

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How’s to keep track of the writing for tomorrow? Keeping a pad alongside your keyboard at all times is a great habit to get into. Carrying a notebook with you is good as well. You can also write notes within your writing document itself and erase each point as soon as you’ve addressed it.

Record Sections of Your Story Using Your Phone

These days, most of us have a phone with a voice memo app. This is a powerful way to use your commute for writing purposes. James Joyce dictated much of Finnegan’s Wake to Samuel Beckett, so there’s nothing absurd about speaking your daily word count as you walk from the parking lot to your office. You can use special software that slows your voice down for word processing the dictation later, or simply outsource the work to a typist.

Practice the Dark Art of Bibliomancy

Bibliomancy is a kind of literary sorcery that helps any time you’re stuck for that next idea. You can practice Bibliomancy by flipping through another novel, a magazine, a catalog or by using the Random function on Wikipedia. Reading the biographies of different kinds of people can help you come up with all kinds of situations that your characters might face.

Forget About Writer’s Block

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Yes, forget about it. There’s no such thing. Thinker’s Block, on the other hand, is a huge problem.

How to overcome it? One method is to write your own name over and over again. This quickly gets so boring that it will literally be only a matter of minutes, if not seconds before you think of something else to write. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not your own name counts toward your daily goal of 2k.

You can also practice writing backwards with your non-dominant hand. Michael J. Lavery talks about perfecting cursive writing in both hands as a method of growing the brain, and having done this for a while after encountering some of his lessons online, I can vouch for his claims. The best part is that writing challenges like this sends oxygen rich blood to your brain that stimulates not only creativity, but also brain health as wealth.

Write It as an Email

It’s a weird trick, but sometimes it helps to write portions of your story in the body of an email. We’re so conditioned to compose this way, that it may come more naturally when you are looking at the familiar composition window that you use several times a day. It’s like the Pavlov effect applied to novel writing.

Use Index Cards

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Using index cards can help in numerous ways. You can use them to help order and reorder major plot points, but also aspects of your characters that you want to introduce gradually over the duration of your story. If you limit yourself to writing out the material needed to knock off one or two index cards at a time, you’ll be done before you know it.

Understand How Plot Works

There’s no end to the storytelling gurus you can read when it comes to understanding plot. Nor should there be. The more often you read everything from Aristotle’s Poetics and Carlo Gozzi’s 36 Dramatic Plots to Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, the better.

In sum, there is really no reason why anyone can’t write 2000 words a day.

That said, it’s important to take care of your health during the process. Get up regularly, stretch, and don’t forget to those other rhythms: eating and sleeping. No point writing a book you’ll never read.

Featured photo credit:  Girl thinking and looking at the paper via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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