I re-read some of my most recent posts and noticed that they’re all tending toward more ‘inspirational’ rather than ‘writing-ional’. Which is fine, but I want to talk about writing today, so prepare to be not-inspired (in a good way!)
Great writers make writing a habit, much like good musicians make practicing a habit. And smart writers measure their work to try to understand what they are capable of at any given time in order to set and meet specific deadlines. That’s all well and good, but it’s very easy to get caught up in numbers; hell, just look at standardized testing practices. Numbers are good for some things, but they’re just as un-good for others (for all you readers of Orwell).
What do I mean? Well, I’m glad you asked.
On Tuesday, I sat down at my laptop, caffeinated beverage by my side, and proceeded to crank out 3,000 and some words, and also edited and revised a few chapters of my other manuscript, and also planned the upcoming week’s blog ideas, and also cheered triumphantly as I drove mine enemies before me. It was a good day. No, a great day, most easily summed up by those 3,000 words, of which I’m very proud.
Then Wednesday came knocking. As did my head against my desk. At the end of the day I clocked maybe *maybe* 900 words, if you count the hundred or two that I deleted. Yes, I don’t always heed my own advice *slap on hand
It would be really easy to write that day off as unproductive, useless, a general waste of life, yadda yadda. After all, I spent seven hours writing 900 words. Do the maths: that’s 128 words/hour. Bleh!!! I could burp-speak into dragon dictation and finish my story faster than that…
And that’s where you’re wrong, you burp-speakers. Because–just like you can’t measure learning through a single test score–you can’t always judge a writer’s productivity by counting words written per day. That’s a fact I need to keep telling myself from time to time, too.
Because the brain needs to percolate or else your writing will starve. And only Hemmingway likes emaciated prose. Ideas simmer and cook and the concept that is “book” comes more into focus. I couldn’t have had “incredible-Tuesday” without putting down the manuscript over the weekend and thinking about it. This is why it’s easy to dismiss writing as “creative fun” rather than “work”. If someone were to take a peek at me during the percolation stage, they’d have reason to think I was joking around about being an author. I mean, look! He’s just staring at the screen, drooling and drinking a never-ending tumbler of iced coffee…
This isn’t an excuse to have more drool-days. Seriously. It’s just an attempt to explain the process a little more.
So the next time your writer friend gets all spooky and unproductive, don’t freak out and grab your zombie-slaying machete. We’re not un-dead, we’re just thinking.
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