Obsessing Over Word Count

What constitutes a full day of work in the creative world works differently than a large number of other jobs. When I worked in an office a good day was based on how much paperwork I got done. When I worked in retail a full day was really just showing up and being there for a full shift. There are exceptions of course, like lawyers putting in extra time, things of that nature. However in a job that depends on creativity your measurement of success is largely slanted. If you are a painter is it one full painting? Is it just starting the painting? Is it multiple paintings? It varies from person to person and is a bit more esoteric than “this is a good day, this is a bad day”.

With writing it becomes largely about word count. You set a goal for yourself and you attempt to achieve that goal everyday. But just like there were days at the office where I did not do as much paperwork because my motivation was dry or other things kept getting in the way, there are days where reaching what I consider to be a respectable word count is impossible. These days stress me out to a degree I cannot hope to convey to others. I will obsess over how few words I wrote, and how much lower it is than my average.

So then the solution is to not have a word count goal right? But no, life does not work like that. You have to challenge yourself, you have to strive for more. If I don’t say “Megan you need to average x number of words everyday” then what is my motivation? Why wouldn’t I just say, “Eh, I wrote a couple hundred DONE”.

So I am stuck needing to strive for a certain word count, but being crippled by anxiety and stress when I can’t reach it. It becomes then never ending obsession, this pressure on myself and thus on my creative juices that often does more harm than good.

The other factor is that by it’s very nature writing will have days that see more progress than others. When I am first starting a writing project I will naturally struggle more than when I am in a more developed stage. Coming up with an idea and beginning to flesh it out of course will result in a lower word count. Not only that but simply tapping into inspiration vs having to work through “writers block” will change results greatly.

Like most things I’ve been blogging about, this to an extent comes down to my own negativity. Setting a word count, I believe, is an important part of being a serious writer. If you are not putting in a serious effort and outputting a decent amount of words then you are, to some degree, preventing it from being a profession. Yet the nature of the beast requires some freedom in those goals, some understanding, some acknowledgment that not reaching that goal (for various reasons) is not the end of the world.

I feel the need to put a bit more pressure on myself when it comes to word count, yet not punish myself to such an extreme degree for bad days. So I am stuck with the knowledge that word count is a bitch, and the way I treat it is not the healthiest, yet sort of in limbo as to my ability to fix it.

Tell me what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s