WWN11: The power of productive plodding

This is Friday.

I apologise for opening with such a non sequitur but for those of you who are new here, The Write Way does normally arrive on a Wednesday.

(Largely because Wednesday alliterates with Write Way to be honest.)

And yet, this is Friday.

And yet here we are.

The long and the short of the why is that on Wednesday I woke up with a heaviness of my limbs, aching everywhere and a touch of dizziness. Alas, several weeks of pushing through mild illness had caught up with me at last.

And so I put off writing The Write Way until evening.

Except that as I was settling my son to sleep and listening to the audiobook of Kidnapped, I heard several sounds in quick succession.

A suspicious thump from the next-door bedroom where my daughters were supposed to be sleeping. A cry. The drumming of my wife running upstairs, and then a panicked yell that we had to go to A&E…

The reckless wildness that is my middle-daughter had been settled into her bed for the night.

Or so we thought!

Instead, she decided to start jumping on said bed the second her mother left the room. It ended about as well as you’d expect, with her landing on her head and splitting it open with a two-inch gash above the eyebrow.


Thankfully, it was a quiet Wednesday night, we got seen instantly at the hospital, and the doc was able to glue it back together no problem. She should only have a minor scar across her eyebrow. (If we can stop her picking at it…)

It was all over in an hour or two and we traipsed wearily back home.

And there I was afterwards thinking “I should write the Write Way” and realising my mind was a rare blank.

Understandable, I hope.

It was, all in all, a far more stressful and busy evening than I had planned after a day in bed recovering from flu.

But all's well that ends written.

My daughter is as happy as the metaphorical Larry, except for the annoyance of a plaster over her eyebrow, and I woke up yesterday feeling tired and sore but much better than Wednesday. Today I felt better again.

Somebody once said that being an adult is saying "it'll all quieten down after this week" over and over and then you die. Morbid, but accurate.

Indeed, for many people, being a writer is saying "I'll have more time to write next week" over and over until they die.

Which is sad, because it should not be so.

Why not?

Because someone should have warned you before then. And so here I am, doing just that, and warning you:

If you never learn to write when you have no time to write, you will never write.

There's always another distraction. Always. Another illness. Another child being a numpty and splitting their head open. Another request to help a friend move. Another job needing done. Another busy season at work. Another child putting their little hand on a hot stove. Another TV show. Another book. Another unexpected death.

Simple fact is, dear reader, if you want to write...

You write.

Never wait for permission, and never wait for "some more time".

Just get on with it.

Write for ten minutes, fifteen minutes, every day. Even if that's all you can do you can turn out a pretty good level of production there. I know it feels like you need hours of uninterrupted time but train yourself to think differently.

Author Doug Wilson has this to say on the topic:

Many people put off working on something until they have been able to "carve out" adequate time to work on it. They need elbow room in order to get it done, and since they never get the adequate elbow room, they never get the work done. "I could write the great American novel if i only had three months free and clear..." And of course, three free months, free and clear, are not to be had.


But fifteen minutes a day can be had. That can be found. Here is the power of plodding. Suppose you wanted to write a novel of sixty thousand words. Daunting, right? That's a big steak there. Carve it up into bite-sized pieces. Commit to writing a hundred words a day, no matter what.


After ten days you have a thousand words. After a month, you have three thousand. At this rate you have your novel in under two years - twenty months to be exact. This is not actually a secret for writing a novel; it is a secret for writing a novel that nobody had any idea you were writing.

Douglas Wilson, Ploductivity

Can you write a hundred words a day? That’s maybe twenty minutes, if it takes you time to get going. Maybe think about it as you make your morning coffee, then type it up before you log on to start your day’s work.

Small steps feel pointless, but when you take small steps every single day for years, it adds up to a long distance travelled.

Now, I'm more of a sprinter than a plodder, though I'm working on it. Ideally, I’d like to be both fast and consistent.

And I do think that blazing through a big project is a great way to do it.

But it's also a way to NOT do it if you keep waiting for the time to be right.

At 100 words a day, you might be thinking that two years is a long time to write a novel and you’d rather do it in two months… But two years of 100 words a day is a lot quicker than sitting around waiting for "three clear free months" to write a novel...

...and then getting five or ten years down the line and you still ain't started.

The key is always to start when you’re not ready.

Even though I did my first novel in two months, I never waited "for the right time", I just started. Believe me, it was a terrible time to start. But I wanted it so I went for it.


I am not writing these missives from my epistolary high-horse, riding along the road of 'I got it right'. I am writing it from the ditch into which we have both fallen.

Yes, I wrote a novel in two months. But then I've been busily waiting for "the right time" to write a second... And here I am two years later and I ain't found it yet. So I’ve been learning this from experience.

Which is why I say I’m trying to learn to plod AND sprint. More on that another time.

For now, I just want to encourage you:

Whether you plod or sprint, start now.

Never wait for the right time because it will never happen.

Just start.


James Carran


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