Toward the end of last month, I began to see "I Won" badges being shared by Facebook friends who had hit their NaNoWriMo goal of writing 50,000 words during November. It was neat to get a little buzz off their excitement. But then I began to see links to blog posts that included variations of "I Lost" in the title. Not so buzzy. It's been many years since I've taken part in NaNoWriMo, but I don't recall this Win/Lose thing. I may not have a good grasp of the word "lose," but I can't imagine a universe in which having started a book length project and worked on it at all makes anyone a loser.
Having those "I Lost" images in my mind left me particularly interested when I stumbled upon When Did Writing Become A War? by Lev Raphael at the Huffington Post. Raphael says, "The sensible suggestion that beginning writers should try to write
something daily to get themselves in the habit has seemingly become
interpreted as a diktat for all writers all the time. What we write
doesn't matter, it's how much we write every single day... As if we were the
American war machine in 1943 determined to churn out more tanks, planes
and guns..." "There's nothing wrong with having a daily goal if that works for you as a
writer," he goes on, "but why should you be ashamed or crazed because you don't reach
that daily goal -- what's the sense in that? Why have we let the word
count become our master?"
Focusing on word count as a way to help stay on task or get more done in a specific amount of time are logical work strategies. But the shame thing is counterproductive. Feeling bad about ourselves undermines willpower, and willpower is necessary for that staying on task business.