Many have been told and honestly believe that writing a certain number of words each day is the surest way to becoming a successful writer. Even though I don’t deny it, sometimes I feel it’s a bit more complicated than that.
I think that if you try to keep true to a certain word count, let’s say 1000 words a day, at a certain point you’ll find yourself artificially creating words — writing just to write, or even worse, you’ll find yourself not being able to write a damn thing. I think that a certain number of words is a rather mechanic and cold goal for a writer.
The idea is that you can’t do something that you can’t control. A word count, sometimes, is just that. For various reasons, it can seem unreasonable. Let’s say you’ve set 2000 words as a goal — that’s 4-5 pages in MS Word. It might not seem much, but sometimes it might seem as an impossible task. And you can become frustrated and depressed, just because you simply can’t write those words that day.
Take me, for instance. The most I’ve written in a day is 5400 words. From 9 PM until 5 AM, at which point I started listening to jazz and dancing around the living room. Yeah, I got lucky. Another day I wrote 3000 words, which is still a lot. And one day I worked for 9 hours on a single sentence (it was a rather long sentence, but still…)
So after these experiences I’ve decided to set my writing goals differently. In time. That’s something, after all, that depends on me. I can choose not to go out, I can abandon my social life, and I can write. I try to write 2 hours each day — this translates into 500-1000 words sometimes, other times it amounts to just 2-3 sentences that don’t even make sense.
I’m just not trying to pressure myself into writing a number of words, just ’cause I said so. No, I’m writing as much as I feel like it. Sometimes it’s an entire chapter, other times just a few phrases. Writing is a creative process, and sometimes the creative part abandons us.
Also, what I believe to be very important is the fact that you set aside a few hours to write. You try to find the muse, not the other way around. Even if all you do is sit at that desk and stare around your room, you know you’ve got one, two hours each day that you dedicate to doing what you love doing most. When the kids are gone, when the house is empty and quiet.
One of the most important parts of writing is to set aside enough time for you to write. Sounds simple enough, but probably is more complicated than it seems. After all, it’s a lot easier, especially if you self-publish, to do all sorts of things that are related to writing (anything) than actually write. Marketing, blogging, cover design.
On a similar note, I try to end my writing sessions mid-chapter– that way I know at least a part of what I’m supposed to write the following day. I found this technique to be very helpful with the dreaded writer’s block.
But what about you? Do you keep a daily word count?