500 Words

Writers tend to obsess about daily goals.  I’ve set many for myself as a writer: Write for an hour. Write one thousand words. Write for as long as I can stand it. Write until the coffee runs out. Write for as long as it takes me to drink three glasses of wine. Or don’t write at all. Just sit in front of the computer for thirty minutes or two hours or however long it takes for something other than a blank screen to appear before me.

But the goal I keep returning is a modest one: write 500 words.

500 words and nothing more.

There are other writers far more prolific than I am who swear by this schedule—Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene—and every time I try it, I can see why it works. For me, inspiration doesn’t come until I am at least 400 words in. It doesn’t come to me before I start, and it doesn’t come to me right away when I start writing. Lately, it takes the meditative process of writing again just to be able to write, and those first few hundred words feel like the work that I have to do in order to get reinvested in my work, day after day.  It’s almost as if the muse—or at least my muse—won’t show up unless she knows I’m serious. Putting in the work, even a few hundred words, seems to be the proof that she needs to know that I am.

So here’s to 500 words a day, and here’s to proving to our muses that we’re serious about our work.

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