Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Page a Day (February theme) by Claudia Mills

When I go to schools on author visits, I tell the students that I have written all of my books, fifty of them published so far, with my trademark hour a day/page a day system that has served me well for thirty years. I tell them that one paltry, pitiful, pathetic page looks like so little, but at the rate of a page a day, adds up to so much.

"If you write a page a day," I ask the students, "how many pages will you have at the end of a year?"

I now know that the first graders will raise their hands with answers like, "Twenty!" But most of the second graders and all of the third graders know: 365!

"And if it's leap year," I remind them, "you'll have 366! I love leap year, because I get one more day to write!"

This year is not leap year. This year February has in it only 28 days, not 29.

But 28 pages is still a LOT.

In my day job as a university professor, I've recommended the page-a-day system to doctoral students paralyzed  by the dread and horror of writing their dissertation. "Just write a page a day," I advise.

"Are you kidding?" they wail in despair. "I'll never get it done that way!"

"Ahh," I say. "And if you had started writing a page a day six months ago, where would you be now?"

And then they get it.

I've had  months where I hardly spend anything on my credit card - no plane tickets, no hotel bills, no major purchases of any kind - and yet when I get the monthly statement, the balance astonishes me. How could I owe over a thousand dollars just from Chipotle here and amazon.com one-click there? Enough little bits add up to a whopping big total. (The same financial principle works for saving as well as for spending, but I've had fewer opportunities to test that first hand.)

February is the shortest month. It's often the coldest month. In one of my favorite books ever written, Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy's father comments re February, "When the days begin to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen."

But cold weather is cozy weather for writing. And a page a day written over the brief span of those 28 days (preferably while  curled up under a quilt and drinking hot chocolate) adds up to a bountiful harvest of pages come spring.


  1. There's a saying that I love, I think it's Swahili: Drop by drop the bucket gets full.

    I needed this reminder — thanks!

  2. I didn't know that Swahili saying. Love it!

  3. Great words to take us through the dog days of winter.

  4. Oh, I needed to read this today -- what a great system! I've switched to something similar, and it does wonders for staving off the guilt trips I take myself on for not "getting enough done."

  5. A page a day; an hour a day...I love it! I need to stamp this on my forehead!