A word on writing chains

I’d like to comment briefly on writing chains, in part because I find them helpful and utterly destroying.

A broad metal chain.
A broad metal chain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writing chains are generally a reference to the number of consecutive, successful days of writing you have. The intent is not to break the chain – to write every day. It is an admirable and motivating force.

Writing chains are good. They help provide focus, a reminder that you must work every day if you want to improve your craft. There is a satisfaction to writing chains that only grows over time, because they are a marker of dedication and success. I may not be much, my stories may not be well known, but I’ve written 11 days in a row (155 of the last 184), and practice makes perfect. My skill is getting better, my story telling improving. There is also evidence that in my stats that the more you write, the more you write. When I started out tracking in July, I was average 4-500 words a day. By December, I was up to 650 words a day. So far this year, and I admit this is a wild streak even by my own standards, but I have been writing an average of 1208 words a day. Sure, that’s not going to net me a book that’s saleable any faster, but that’s despite returning to work and life in the fast lane.

Writing chains can be bad. If writing is  a secondary career, though, then you can’t write every day without losing the meaning of the chain. In your day job, no matter how much you love the work you do, you need breaks. Weekends. Vacations, even. Times when you are not working, but doing something else, something unrelated. These breaks away help provide you with clarity, recharging your batteries so you can return with renewed vigor.

So too it should be with writing, whether you are the rarely fortunate who calls writing their career, or like me, aspiring only to weave a coherent story or two that others might enjoy. I still have a ways to go with the current novel project, so I don’t expect to be breaking that chain any time soon (current estimates have me wrapping up in about a month with the first draft), but after that I completely intend to take a slight break. If nothing else, my brain will need me to take that break, so I can shift gears. I have an inkling of what I’d like to work on next, and it’s a departure from epic fantasy and into space opera.

I’d like to suggest to other folks who are trying to write, that writing chains are a good thing – but they should be relevant to a project, not a calendar. Keeping the chain going while working on a single piece is crucial, in my mind, because otherwise you begin to slip out of character and lose track of where you’re headed. Your brain, which is working on the next bit of creative wizardry even when you’re not aware of it, is going to let go of those unrealized ideas if you sideline your current project(s). However, forcing your to keep the chain alive when you are between projects, just for the sake of being able to say you wrote every day, is beyond my kenning.

But then, maybe my problem is I don’t have enough projects lined up?

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