I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s not for me. I get in these modes where I find I’m flogging myself for more work, faster, better. This is exacerbated by my community of writers who focus heavily on word count, some doing 4,000 words per day, another doing 20 pages per day.
I’ve found that I can reliably produce 1,000 words per day. I can do more than that sometimes, but not for more than, say, a week or do. But 1K works for me, what with the full-time career and other commitments.
Also, for the past year or so, I’ve been writing this blog. I started out trying to post every day. I didn’t make that goal. I posted 247 times in 2009. That’s 67.7% for those keeping score at home. Almost spot-on 2/3. And you know how the song goes, two out of three ain’t bad, right?
Fairly early on, I began taking Sundays off from the blog. Day of rest and all that. I’d like to tell you I spend the time studying philosophy or reflecting on my spiritual journey, but really it’s more about obtaining fancy coffee drinks and lolling. When I figure out how to make a religion out of this, you all can sign up.
Most days, I post to the blog first. I exercise, then try to keep the blog post to 1/2 hr. I started out trying to keep it to 300-350 words, but I find normally I write about 500-600. That seems to be where I end up. Then I switch to my book or WIP.
Work in Progress, doncha know.
I never called it that before I hooked up with the romanceys. The lit types always refer to their book or their collection, whether it’s done or not. It’s an interesting distinction. For the lit types, it’s always a book, pubbed or not. For the romanceys, it’s a WIP until it’s pubbed. Or maybe contracted.
Anyway, until just recently, I only counted my 1K for working on my book. And then I realized that, not unlike calling a book a WIP, I was devaluing what I write here. As if this is not part of my writing life, not part of keeping the writing juices flowing and honing my skills. Which it absolutely is.
Otherwise, it’s not worth doing.
So I revamped my Progress Count spreadsheet to include my blog word count at the beginning of this week. What? Of course, I have a spreadsheet, in which I track progress on everything I’m working on. Yes, it has formulas and calculates completion dates from today’s date. I celebrate this slice of Virgo in me and let her do these things to keep her happy.
This is why I know my blog tends to be 500-600 words. Which, when I get to count it, means I’m already more than halfway to my daily goal by the time I finish posting.
Which makes me feel good.
Then, when I turn to my book — right now it’s a novella — I’m already halfway there. And interestingly, I put in 1K words on that every day except for one, when I stopped at 891 because work called and I never it made it back. Right now I’m only 135 words shy of making 7,000 words for the week. I’ll likely do more than that, since I’ll work on the novella today.
People often refer to the carrot and the stick method of motivating themselves, usually meaning a combination of treat and punishment. This is actually a misinterpretation of the original saying, which referred to the practice of tying a carrot to the end of a stick and dangling it before a donkey’s nose to keep him moving forward. In that scenario, the carrot is forever out of reach.
With this approach, I gave myself credit, and carrots, early on in the process. And, son of a gun, it worked!
And the writing? It’s good, too.