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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 October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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