Numbers

I’ve always tried not to focus too much on hitting a specific word count, though it doesn’t always work out that way.

Back in my Belfry days, I’d assigned myself a daily word count of 500, if only to ensure that I wasn’t just turning on the computer, typing a paragraph, and spending the rest of the time playing FreeCell and faffing about with my music library. Once I got into the groove, however, the daily word count goal shifted to 1000. This was around the time I was writing The Persistence of Memories and I knew that with the schedule I had, I could hit it easily.

The downside to that run, which lasted until 2004 while writing The Balance of Light, was that hitting word count started becoming a sport. I’d been so excited by that incessant creative drive that I was pushing 1200 on a daily basis, even weekends. So when the Day Job was getting to me mentally and physically (not to mention a budding long-distance relationship that would soon change my life significantly), I was burning out. And that caused my productivity to suffer.

Nowadays I keep tabs on my word count, but I no longer see it as a sport. I see it more a series of small achievements, like the KonMari cleaning system: a little at a time adds up to quality work as a whole. I keep tabs on the numbers in a little calendar notebook, purely for reference and curiosity. Between the 750 Words site, revision work, and new words for new projects over the course of a day, it adds up. I could hit a few thousand pretty easily on any given day, but I rarely think about it.

For a while I used to take these numbers and crunch them on a spreadsheet, but I soon realized that the actual numbers didn’t interest me in that format. While it was interesting to see how productive I could get during various parts of the year, I’d also get frustrated because I knew I wouldn’t be able to hit the same numbers during a heavy fourth quarter. Besides, I’d completely forget to update the spreadsheet for months on end, so I figured…maybe recording metrics is not what’s needed here.

I just want to write, and enjoy the process. I love having a busy and extremely productive day, especially when I finish off a chapter or a major scene. Adding metrics to my productivity only causes me to think maybe I’m not doing enough. [The Former Day Job may also have something to do with that.] It’s not how my brain works, because numbers don’t mean all that much to me in that context. I’m more focused on schedules anyway. It’s why I have my whiteboard, why I have those ‘assignments’ I hit every day. It all adds up to the same productivity goal I want to hit.

I don’t focus on the solid numbers; I just focus on getting it done.

Keeping Metrics

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I have a small calendar notebook on my desk that I update on a daily basis; it’s where I log my word counts, blog entries, journal entries, and anything else creative.  It’s something I’ve done off and on for years since the Belfry days.  There’s no real reason for it other than I’m curious to see how much work I’ve done over the course of a certain stretch of time.

I do this because, like most creatives, I feel like I barely get anything done on any given day!  This logging of work actually gives me a little dose of reality to combat that.  I may grouse that I only got four hundred words done on a novel project (I’m not happy unless I get at least 500), but when I look at the day’s progress, I see that I’ve also written 800 words on the 750Words.com site relating to another project, maybe a few hundred words on writing blog post that’s not due until next week (like this one, for instance) plus a few hundred more for a music blog post, and cleaned up emails.  And maybe noodled around on my guitar for a bit as well.

And it all adds up, because I’m pretty consistent about it.  Hitting 500-600 novel words nearly every day for six months got me finishing Meet the Lidwells in record time.  And with all those outtakes and notes on the 750, I’ve got a serious amount of worldbuilding done for the Next Project already.

So yeah.  Sometimes I need a slap upside the head to show that I’m doing a ton of work, it’s just spread out over five or six different things.