Writing the Midwest: On setting attainable writing goals

“Writing the Midwest” is a recurring series featuring writing advice from today’s most prolific authors. Whether it’s dealing with writer’s block, knowing when a piece is finished, or how and where to find inspiration, we’re delighted to present to you the very best guidance to help you and your writing. You can find links to the authors’ full interviews below.

On setting attainable writing goals:

Chad Koch: I’ve found that writer’s block can be cured by changing focus from “I need to write a story” to “let’s just write 1,500 words today.” I was actually against this idea for a while because I thought I’d just be wasting time, but I recently did NaNoWriMo and it helped me finish my novel. In a lot of ways just getting something—anything—on the page moves things forward. Switching to word count also stifles your inner critic because now you measure yourself by a number of words, which is black and white (you either hit your word count or you don’t).

M. Drew Williams: I consider my process to be one long, drawn-out method of combating writer’s block. First and foremost, I try to read for at least two hours every day: The less time I spend reading, the less likely I am to gain the inspiration needed to write anything of merit. Throughout my work week, I try my best to jot down a few interconnected lines (or interesting words). By Saturday, I often force myself to write a poem, and even though I am not always successful in my efforts to do so, the effort itself at least gets me one step closer to actually writing a worthwhile poem.

Danielle Lazarin: Believe in process over product. Don’t obsess over the number of words you put down or publications. Committing the time to the work is the most you can do, the little thing you can control. There’s no guarantee that you’ll produce what you expect in that time, but getting comfortable with being in that chair in a disciplined way is the best you can do, and it’s enough—whatever amount of time that is. Over time, that collective work will end up in your product, even if you delete a lot of the words.

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