January word count.

I wrote 13,381 words for my latest book project in January.

That’s 500 words that I put down nearly every day. (I started January 3rd, forgot and fell asleep another day, and came a bit short a couple other nights.)

It’s been exciting and exhausting. I would say that most days I have stayed up too late trying to get my words in and have struggled to keep going during the day. I have three or four chapters written, but I’ve also run into wall after wall after wall. I don’t know what I’m doing in large parts of my book. I keep writing words and throwing them away, knowing that I need to come up with a better way to move forward with a chapter, or realizing that I needed time to develop a relationship between characters that will have no place in the finished book.

Not long ago, that would have felt discouraging. It would have felt like I wasn’t making progress. It would have felt like spinning my wheels.

But right now it doesn’t.

A couple months ago, I went to a sketch writing intensive course at Second City in Chicago. The teacher there said something that I loved. She said that the best comedians—and I think the best writers—treat ideas like tissue paper. There’s no need to treat each one as if it’s precious. There’s always more to come.

That’s how I feel about my 500 words lots of days. I’m grabbing for ideas, trying them out, letting something risky play out so I can see if it works, or discarding the clichéd easy option in favor of something more original.

Another thing I’m noticing: pushing myself to 500 feels like what it use to feel like to write 250 back in college. I’m finding it’s actually easier to progress a scene, to keep thoughts coming, to let an idea proof like bread on a warm countertop.

There are changes I would like to make to my current routine. Moslty, I’d like to do my writing first thing in the morning, when I’m not tired at the end of a long day. Also, I’d like to leave myself more time on the weekends for reviews and edits.

But for the rest—the issues with plot, character building, timing, world creation—those will work themselves out with enough writing. As much as it may not feel like it, I’m certain that the only way I’ll get through is to keep on writing until I find the solution.

In the meantime, writing feels right. Sure, I’m low on sleep, stressed and anxious about the half a dozen other plates I’m trying to keep spinning, and not hitting absolutely every one of my other goals for this year. But at the end of every day, I can go to bed feeling like I’m fulfilling my purpose in life, instead of avoiding it.

And that feels pretty damn good.