Writing 2 Pages a Day

Finish Line

Image by jayneandd via Flickr

Today I’m snark-free. Today I’m completely vulnerable as I admit how much I’ve stood in the way of my career goals. 

My goal is to publish a novel. Some of my activities suggest I’ll get there, some don’t. I’ll start with the things I’m doing well.

If the first step towards reaching a goal is to say it aloud, then I’m on the right path. I’ve certainly  let my friends and family know how much I want to publish a book. I’ve shared my published stories with them. I’d say I get major points for completing stories, sending them to literary journals, and finding editors who want to publish them.

But I want to be a novelist,  not someone who talks about wanting to be a novelist.

Back to the positive: I’ve written two novels in the past four years. They’re not manuscripts I want released to the world.  But I’m proud of myself for finishing them, for revising them a gazillion times, for having a few agents show interest in the second one, and for knowing when it was time to move on. All that’s great. But I put the second book away in December 2009. When I consider what I’ve done in 2010 to achieve my main goal, I’m not feeling so proud.

2010: I tweeted; I guest blogged; I started a blog. To be fair, I’ve made valuable connections with writers on Twitter who give me a sense of camaraderie in an otherwise solitary career path. Several of those connections led to guest blogging gigs, which led to having this blog–a venue that’s forced me to produce words for public eyes at least once a week. 

But writing posts and essays comes with relative ease compared to working on the short stories and novels. Ultimately, the fiction is more grueling, but it’s more satisfying, too.

And that is how I know I’ve been sabotaging myself. I’m afraid to fail at something I want, at something that takes so much out of me. I’m afraid to work my butt off and not succeed. I hear the stories of writers who write ten books before landing an agent. Worse, I hear about the people who get agents, but no book deals. Despite that reality, my goal hasn’t changed. And if my goal hasn’t changed, I have to ask myself what I’m doing to get there.

The answer is: NOT ENOUGH.

Aside from building relationships with other writers and blogging, I spent most of 2010 writing outlines for novels. Again, outlining relates to my goal,  HOWEVER, outlining is not writing–it’s planning to write. I’m two pages into the manuscript that I intended to work on daily starting in 2011. It’s the end of January. I’ll never reach the finish line unless I make some changes.

That was the confession part. Here’s the manifesto: I will write at least 2 pages every day until the first draft is finished. Two pages (about 500 words) probably doesn’t sound like a lot to non-writers, but if you’re a writer who hasn’t produced pages in a while, then you know 2 pages is significant. (Not to mention I have 3 kids 6 and under and a husband).

I know myself–once I have words on the page I’ll work furiously on revisions. It’s the blank pages that make me want to outline for months. The blank pages kill me, but I can’t let them stand in the way of my goals anymore.

I’d love to hear how other people with goals–writing, weight loss, budgeting, or otherwise–keep themselves on task.

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Nina is a columnist at The HerStories Project and Tcjewfolk.com, and a contributing writer at Kveller.com and Greatnewbooks.org. Her essays have appeared regularly at Brain, Child Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Jewish Daily Forward and have been syndicated in The Times of Israel as well as Jewish newspapers across the country. Her short stories have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines, and she loved participating in the 2013 cast of Listen to Your Mother. Nina lives in Minneapolis with her husband and four children.

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44 Responses to Writing 2 Pages a Day
  1. Amy Sue Nathan
    January 25, 2011 | 6:39 am

    Oh Nina, I hear you! It’s a matter of JUST DO IT. And don’t diminish how other activities contribute to your ability to complete your goals. Research, outlining (if that works for you), even people-watching, all contribute to the process. When you sit down to write, with all of that out of the way, maybe you can JUST WRITE. I don’t use word-counts as goals, I give myself a certain amount of time to write and accomplish what I can in that time. And writing novels, even ones you don’t intend to publish, is a great accomplishment. Absolutely. But you’re right, you want to be a published novelist (me too!) that means you have to write a book!!! We know you have the talent. Now you have to put your tuchas in the chair and type. (some cyber finger-wagging here!!)

  2. Erika Robuck
    January 25, 2011 | 7:16 am

    Naming your goal out loud has powerful force. I have no doubt you will achieve it. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

    • Nina Badzin
      January 25, 2011 | 1:19 pm

      AMY AND ERIKA- Thank you for believing in me! The two of you are great examples of “butt in chair.” I admire you both a lot. I don’t regret time on Twitter when I know it’s brought cyber relationships like these into my life.

  3. annegreenwoodbrown
    January 25, 2011 | 7:17 am

    Yep! Stop thinking about it and start doing it. I’m glad to hear you’re two pages in, though! I can’t wait to read them!

    • Nina Badzin
      January 25, 2011 | 1:20 pm

      Anne! I wouldn’t have written those FIRST two pages without your encouragement. I wrote another two today. Yes!!! I did it!

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Backspace, Chris Abouzeid and bellebeandog, Nina Badzin. Nina Badzin said: The post where I admit to sabotaging my writing goals. And my plan to stop. http://ow.ly/3JEyJ […]

  5. Sarah McCraw Crow
    January 25, 2011 | 8:07 am

    Well put! Especially your insight about being afraid to fail — so true. Thinking about the what-ifs can be paralyzing. Sounds like you’re back on the path.

    • Nina Badzin
      January 25, 2011 | 1:21 pm

      Thanks, Sarah. And thanks for RT today. I think the being afraid to fail makes people sabotage all kinds of goals. It’s an easy crutch.

  6. Tracy Hahn-Burkett
    January 25, 2011 | 8:24 am

    Butt-in-chair. Just write. Even if you end up throwing out the first few paragraphs, or pages, because they end up just giving you a little momentum, just start typing and see what ends up on the page. You already know where you want to go because you’ve already outlined; now you just have to let yourself get there.
    It IS daunting. But you’ve already written two books. You can do this. You will do it. And speaking as the queen of being hard on oneself, I can tell you with authority: stop beating yourself up. That added pressure doesn’t help any when you’re staring at those blank pages (or thinking existential thoughts about your life). You’re a Pushcart-nominated mom of 3 kids under 7; you’re doing great!

    • Nina Badzin
      January 25, 2011 | 1:23 pm

      Tracy- We wouldn’t be Jewish mom, blogging buds without Twitter (and writing buds too). Yay for procrastination. ;) But seriously, I know the “butt in chair” method is the only way. I’m not up to four pages total. woo-hoo!!! I’m not being saracastic–I’m elated about that! And I wrote a few extra lines of the next scene to make it easier to dive in tomorrow. I did that for other two books and I wrote and it helped tremendously.

  7. Amanda Hoving
    January 25, 2011 | 11:27 am

    If I didn’t make daily word count goals, I would never, never (never) get anything written.

    The sign taped to my computer cabinet says, “Don’t be a coward. Sit down and write,”and I need that reminder every day.

    Good luck Nina!

    • Nina Badzin
      January 25, 2011 | 1:24 pm

      Amanda, that sign is perfect. If I had an office I’d do the same thing. I should make it my screensaver. That, or ask every Caribou barista in Minneapolis to scream at me when I walk in the door.

  8. Jack
    January 25, 2011 | 11:33 am

    I can’t help but think of two quotes

    Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.
    Samuel Johnson

    And:

    “Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

    I understand Nina. I am my own worst enemy. It is really easy to let life get in the way. But don’t sell yourself short and don’t underestimate the value of your blog. Many of the tools and skills that are required for blogging are the very same ones that will push you over the top for writing your book.

    • Nina Badzin
      January 25, 2011 | 1:26 pm

      Thank you so much for all of this, Jack. Great quotes. And I definitely value the blog. The weekly posts and instant feedback are priceless for a writer. And . . . it’s fun. Fun is nice too!

  9. Elizabeth Flora Ross
    January 25, 2011 | 11:39 am

    You go, girl! Best of luck. It is easy to let other things distract you. And yes, the process can be so daunting I often wonder why anyone, including me, chooses to go through it. I look forward to following your progress. Hope you will keep us up to date…

    • Nina Badzin
      January 25, 2011 | 1:32 pm

      ELizabeth–I definitely will! And by the way, I always think of your name as “Elora” because of your Twitter handle!

  10. Dina Santorelli
    January 25, 2011 | 11:43 am

    You can do it! I wrote 1,000 words a day when I was finishing BABY GRAND. That worked for me. I agree that we writers often spend so much time dancing around writing — telling people that we’re writers, outlining, brainstorming, networking — more than the actual writing. With the daily goal you’ve set, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of the day. And, as a writer, I can tell you that there’s no better feeling. :)

    • Nina Badzin
      January 25, 2011 | 1:34 pm

      You’re so right! I told myself I couldn’t look at the blog comments or Twitter until AFTER I wrote the two pages. I did it!!! Yay! It makes doing it again tomorrow a bit easier. 1000/day is a lot! I’m impressed. With my past two books there were days I did that and days I did a lot more, but in these blank page stages, 1000 words feels like a tremendous amount. I guess I did about 500 today though. I’m thrilled!

  11. Frume Sarah
    January 25, 2011 | 1:36 pm

    Naming the goal (and publicizing it) will hold you accountable. Good for you!!!

  12. liz
    January 25, 2011 | 1:57 pm

    I’m not a writer – just a blogger – so I’m of no help to you.

    But if you have any desire to continue guest posting, I’d be honored to have you!

    • Nina Badzin
      January 25, 2011 | 2:02 pm

      FS- THANK YOU!!

      LIZ- Seriously!? I’d love to! I’m sending you a DM on Twitter asap.

  13. Jennifer K
    January 25, 2011 | 7:16 pm

    In the words of Oprah – You go girl!! So proud of you. You are an amazing mother, writer, wife and best friend. I know great things will happen to you.

  14. dusty earth mother
    January 25, 2011 | 7:46 pm

    Oh girl, there’s nothing worse than a blank page! Sometimes I’ll just make myself write nonsense so I don’t have to look at all that white :-) Don’t give up. Just force it for a while, you’ll be glad you did. And thanks for visiting my blog and the kind words.

  15. joann mannix
    January 25, 2011 | 9:22 pm

    Wow. Wow. Wow. I just had a chance today to sit down and read my comments and you nailed it! Nailed it at 2:00 am. Your words struck me dead center in my heart. It is that fear, you know? I don’t want to fail and so if I put it off and I make excuses and yes, indeed, plan to write, I won’t fail. I won’t get it done, either.

    Here’s big time luck to you and to me. We can do this. I’ll keep checking on you. Thanks for finding me. Your post today was spot on perfect in its clarity.

  16. Nancy
    January 26, 2011 | 12:51 am

    As the saying goes: If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again!!!
    Love,
    Your biggest fan :)

  17. Amanda Burdge
    January 26, 2011 | 3:24 pm

    Nina
    I hear ya! Every day I face unexpected challenges running my own business. “Living the dream” everyone says to me. You’re the boss, can’t get any better than that. But everyday I am riddled with fear that I won’t make rent or worse, payroll! What if I don’t succeed, what if I make a bad decision, how do I handle this situation….everything, and I mean everything is riding on me and the decisions I make. FEAR is a constant reminder that I have no idea what I am doing, and courage is hard to come by. Not sure if you read copyblogger, but Jon Morrow wrote an excellent article on this very subject.

    http://www.copyblogger.com/cowardly-entrepreneur/

    Check it out, it definitely applies to your situation!

  18. Theta Mom
    January 27, 2011 | 7:41 am

    I would consider myself a writer because I am the author of my blog – but you have some serious manuscript goals – so DO IT MAMA!!

  19. tanya
    January 27, 2011 | 9:01 am

    I’m an accountant not a writer so I have no clue what you’re trying to accomplish but I’m pulling for you!! I love your blog! Good luck! I can’t wait to read your book!!!!!

  20. Nina Badzin
    January 27, 2011 | 9:30 am

    I’ve been reading all the comments and appreciating them SO much! 4 pages in the last two days! So far so good. :)

  21. Lara Taylor
    January 31, 2011 | 11:07 pm

    I hear you! I feel like I am in the same. exact. boat! Literally. Told family and friends, call myself a writer, have 3 kids 6 and under and a husband. Have been blogging like a fiend past 2 months, joining up with sites for writers, promo’ing my blog….but the novel has been shunted to the back burner. I guess I need a daily goal too! Great idea! And at least you are aware of where you are and that changes need to be made in order to get ahead! that’s more than some people—and your publishing history is more than a lot of people! Keep that in mind! Also, I am friends with Erika R. up there, that’s how I found you but then I get here and see you are a fellow SITStah! ;) Keep us appraised of your progress!

  22. Shell
    February 1, 2011 | 11:48 am

    I think you are on the right path- I have to set a concrete goal for anything or I slack. Even if it’s something silly like I will do 3 loads of laundry today…otherwise, I throw one load in and forget about it for three days when it starts to stink up the house.

  23. Jacy
    February 1, 2011 | 3:40 pm

    I love that you have put this out there — accountability is huge! I’m behind you 100%, Nina! I have a great quote for you, although I don’t know to whom it should be attributed: “I’m not telling you its going to be easy. I’m telling you its going to be worth it.”

  24. julie
    February 3, 2011 | 9:37 am

    Oh my – so sad I missed this last week – but I, too, am struggling with the whole “being a novelist” thing and sabotaging myself at every step. So I’ve been TRYING not to spend ALL DAY on other people’s blogs reading posts.

    Because I would if I could. It’s the best way to avoid the blank page.

    I wrote a book and actually got an agent to request the full manuscript. She liked it but said she couldn’t sell it. “What else you got?” she asked.

    So I wrote another book. This one she thought she could sell. We signed contracts. It’s not selling. In the meantime, while I get my mind around having to rewrite the second book to make it more marketable, I’m writing a third novel.

    Nobody told me I’d have to write MULTIPLE NOVELS to become a published novelist. Ah the things we didn’t know when we started.

    And the things we’ve learned. Like two pages is a LOT of writing for one day. Especially if you’re prone to revision. As am I.

    But two pages a day seems like a great goal. Mind if I steal your idea?

    Good luck, Nina. I’ll be sending you positive vibes. As long as that doesn’t get in the way of writing our novels…

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    […] amazing what a little public accountability can do. Ten days ago I committed to writing at least two pages of fiction a day, and I went from a measly 560-word draft to a 5400-word one. A novel is about 80,000-100,000 words […]

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  29. Kelly Miller
    April 8, 2011 | 2:46 pm

    I’d suggest stop going backwards and rewriting the words you’ve already written. As hard as it is, don’t try to make that first draft perfect. I know because I did the same thing and found myself in a big rut I couldn’t get out of. I would spend my only three free hours a day working on revisions, not pumping out new papges. And you think you’re being productive but there’s nothing new to show for all your hard work. Save the revisions for the second draft. So what I do now is allow myself to only read the two pages written from the previous day to get my mojo going (not change anything) and then immediately start writing. Try it and see if it helps!

    • Nina Badzin
      April 9, 2011 | 10:25 pm

      I like that idea to only read the last few pages and make no changes . . . just charge ahead!

  30. Jen Klein
    September 15, 2011 | 10:29 am

    I used to have this article by Erma Bombeck (remember her?) on the bulletin board above my computer. The heart of it was along the lines of this: If you want to be a writer, then WRITE. The article stayed up there until the time came that we needed to turn the office into a bedroom, and the bulletin board came down, and I traded in my desktop for a laptop. Now I write in random places around the house, or in random places around the city. But I write. I keep writing. And I know you are doing it, too. I am newnewnew to your blog (which why I’m commenting, like, almost a year after your original posting). I’d love to know — as we approach the end of 2011 — how the rest of the year has turned out for you, writing-wise! Keep going. Butt in chair. :)

    • Nina Badzin
      September 15, 2011 | 10:45 pm

      Hi! So glad you found me . . . no matter when! :) I’d say the rest of the year had ups and downs in terms of writing. Right now I’m 6 weeks away from due date with baby #4, so sitting for long periods is difficult, as is focusing on ANYTHING. But, I’m working on a new book idea now.

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