The Magic Spreadsheet, or, Self-discipline = 250 words per day

Photo Credit: Antonio Litterio.

Photo Credit: Antonio Litterio.

One of the hardest parts of being a writer is finding enough time to write. Writers are busy people, with any number of things like day jobs, classes, families, and always being within arm’s reach of the Internet on their plates (although it’s usually that Internet part that causes most of the trouble).

A deadline imposed by someone other than yourself is great. If you have a class paper due, your boss wants that big report, or you need to get your next draft to your editor, you’ll probably get it done. Even maintaining a blog requires some self-discipline. But unless your lucky enough to find a critique group that meets every week, there’s probably no one but you putting deadlines on your creative writing. I’ve tried things like self-imposed deadlines and marking off the days when I write on a calendar, but they only seemed to work halfway.

Then I found the Magic Spreadsheet.

The idea behind the Magic Spreadsheet is simple. If you write 250 words in a day, you get 1 point (you can get bonus points for writing more). If you also write 250 days tomorrow, you get 2 points tomorrow. The next day, you get 3 points. But if you skip a day, you go back to 1 point. In other words, the way to get big points is to write every single day. If you write 250 words per day for 30 days straight, you get 465 points. But if you write 500 words every other day, you only get 30 points. You can compete against other writers, or just compete against yourself.

250 words is just about the perfect number. It’s not much–just 1 double-spaced page in your favorite word processor. Most of the time, you can do it in about 15 minutes, which makes it really easy to squeeze in at the beginning or end of the day, or over lunch. But it’s still enough to be substantial: 250 x 365 = 91,250 words, and that’s a book. So even if you just write the minimum amount, you can write a book in a year.

And it works! I haven’t been keeping track of my points, myself, but just understanding the importance of the 250 word minimum has been enough for me to write for 36 consecutive days. Considering that I’d never done more than 19 consecutive days in the past 2 years, I think that’s pretty strong evidence. Give it a try!

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About Alex R. Howe

I'm a full-time astrophysicist and a part-time science fiction writer.
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One Response to The Magic Spreadsheet, or, Self-discipline = 250 words per day

  1. Julie Israel says:

    What a system! Who’d have thought that such a small increment could be so effective. But it makes sense: as with an instrument or a foreign language, repetition is the key to progress!

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