Friday, December 05, 2014

My Word Count Is Higher Than Your Word Count

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.


Author Jessica White said...

I agree with you. I want to build the habit of writing, and I love letting a little competition keep me in the zone, but no one loses unless they say they are going write and never pick up a pen (or keyboard). I also don't want to write junk words just to hit a word goal. I don't have life energy to waste on fluff that I know I'm going to cut. I want to use the adjectives, names, and conjunctions where they are appropriate not just to fill space. I also don't like going into my writing time blind. I want an idea that's been stewing in my head for a while to work on. New writers tend to think that everything happens when you sit down to write. NaNo is fun, but writing is an art form and unique to the artist so what works for one person doesn't work for everyone. Thanks for sharing your perspective and the article it was good to be reminded.

clpauwels said...

I never have been terribly competitive. I used NaNo as motivation for myself, to create a daily writing routine. Winning was nice (2005, 2006, 2011), but my 29K+ this year, as a continuation of my WIP, was just fine.

Keep writing!