Running in place!  Does your project feel like a treadmill?   Are you exhausted after two hours of writing only to find you did not budge the word count meter by even a semi-colon?

Yesterday I wrote, deeply, achingly (I actually am physically exhausted after writing) and found after counting the words that I started at 63,000 and ended at yes, 63,000 making the ultimate goal by the end of the month 75,000 words seem insurmountable. And yes, I beat myself up about it.

When I’m in this moment I only remember comments by famous authors who reminisce about how they write 8,000 words a minute and create a book in an hour or so.  Or I think of the authors who claim they just can’t stop putting down word after word, and the books flow from them in waves of inspiration and ease.   I recall statements from authors who claim they write whole books in less than a month, their manuscripts need no revisions and their agents are panting for the next installment of their fabulous story.

I know perfectly well the best way to stop these snotty voices in my head is to stop reading about perfect authors.  But when an author is beating herself up, reason and logic are not in the picture. And reason and logic clearly has no space in the current manuscript either.

Some days we work steadily, never leaving our chair, never abandoning the computer for trivial acts like lunch.  The work involves hunting for the right word, creating the time line or calendar of events. Some days are devoted to moving around the chess pieces of the characters.  Some afternoons are spent drawing a mind map of who is related to whom.  Some days the work looks like a nap. Some day work looks like nothing at all because the book needs to have a time out.

So many activities contribute to writing; it’s unfair to beat ourselves up over not achieving a mere word count.

But word counts are celebrated markers of achievement.  In our current society, we count things and the number is the measure of worth.  Words can be recorded more easily than thoughts or intentions.  That’s why word counts are so insidious. That’s why you may want to avoid counting for a couple days, and just work on the story.

Me?  After an exhausting counting session, black and blue from flogging myself with how much I’m NOT like other famous authors, I realized the word count of my book was really only 73,000 words.   Because that is enough.

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  • cmmarcum
    Posted on April 15, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Enough indeed. I always find myself rowing upstream from the rest of the world. While other boaters speed by me, screaming faster, faster, more, more. I am saying, slow down and savor each word. After all, of the great writers throughout time, how many books did each produce in a lifetime?

    Is it enough to be merely prolific?

  • catharinebramkamp
    Posted on April 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I know the feeling, as if I’m the only person using wind while all the other authors bought special out board motors!

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