Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Yes, that's the snow from yesterday. And it snowed all day today, too. We have a couple feet of snow on the ground again. At least this time of year you know it won't last for long...
There's something I've known about myself and the way I work for a long time, but every now and then I kind of ignore it. I work very well if I have solid 'reach this number' goals. The number doesn't have to be high. I want to do 500 words a day on one of my novels, and having that rather low goal is enough to kick start me into work. I hate missing a goal. It happens -- after all, life happens and can interfere with writing schedules for good or bad. But 500 words isn't such a problem that I can't do it every day. Sometimes I drop into the Writing Only chat at FM and do 100 word spurts while I chat with others. Sometimes I just sit down and write it out before I allow myself to work on anything else.
At the moment the 500 word work is The Wind and The Sand. But it might be 500 words of worldbuilding for something, but I make it writing-related, rather than class or article material. It's too easy to give over all my time and energy to things that are not part of my own writing career. Having a 'I must work on this' item just gets me focused and into the work. After those 500 words I'll often work on a number of other projects -- class stuff, writing stuff, board updates. But sitting down and doing that initial bit of writing has become a real help at a time when I can be so easily distracted by all the other things going on.
I once tried working to time goals rather than specific word counts. It absolutely did not work for me. It was far too easy to use the hour to write a couple little paragraphs and play around with the idea of writing rather than doing it. I found that in an hour I can change character names a few times, maybe sketch out a small map (which I almost always lost before I actually used it), make lists of things to do for the story... but rarely actually write. As long as I didn't have a number I had to reach, it didn't matter. And those couple of paragraphs were no better than if I had sat down saying I was going to write X number of words.
The trick, though, is to give yourself a low count number of words as your goal. If I sat down and told myself I had to write 2000 words before I did anything else, every single day, I'd have to give up. I do usually write 2000 words, but there are days when I only write 500. There are days when I write 10,000 or more, too. But I don't aim for those numbers. I aim for a very manageable number that I am sure to make, even on difficult days. Then anything over that just makes me feel better.
I should say that my minimum writing number for the entire day is at least 1000 words, averaged at the end of the month. 500 is the absolute minimum per day, and the amount I try to write before I start working on other things.
How I write doesn't work for everyone. And I'm still experimenting on some aspects -- and will likely experiment forever because it's fun to try new methods. But I will stick to the word count goals because that actually gets the work done, and that's the most important part of writing. If you don't finish, you're just wasting your time.