Odds are, you’re trying to write too many words a day.
You’ve probably heard that you should write a thousand words per day. Or two thousand. Or five. Or ten.
Or maybe you signed up for a program in which you (supposedly) write a novel in a month. But for whatever reason, you’re trying to hit an arbitrary “word count” each day and if you don’t hit it you end up feeling somehow disappointed in yourself.
I tried that routine for a while.
One day in ten hours I pumped out six thousand words and I felt way ahead. Amazing! So productive! If I could do that every day…
So then the next day I spend the same amount of time writing, and wrote exactly one word.
In ten hours.
Of course, I typed in more words, and then revised, deleted, rewrote, and so on, ending the day just one word further into the book.
That was the last time I tried to hit a certain word count. It was just too depressing and the ups and downs of good days and bad days wasn’t helping motivate me.
The whole paradigm strikes me as an odd way to go about producing works of art.
I’ve even heard authors say, “I’ll write until I reach my word count and then stop. It might be at eleven o’clock in the morning, or at eight o’clock at night. I know the book will be eighty thousand words, so that means I will be writing eighty days.”
Think of asking a song writer “How many notes do you write in a day?” Or asking a carpenter how many cuts he makes, or a painter how many times she dips her brush in the paint every day.
I’m guessing most composers, most carpenters, most painters don’t keep track. And yet, when it comes to writers, word count has become a big deal, a measure of progress, and even of proficiency.
A movie director doesn’t say, “We’re going to shoot ten minutes of the movie today and then we’re going to stop. We might get done at eleven o’clock in the morning and then you’ll have the rest of the day off. Every day we’re going to shoot exactly ten minutes of the movie. This film will be precisely two hours and ten minutes long, so it will take us twenty-six days to shoot.”
How could you know exactly how long a film will be until you’ve filmed it? How can you know how long it will take to get a scene right or how many takes you’ll need?