Word Counts vs. Balance

I recently mentioned that with my WIP (my shortest yet) I have had some difficulty hitting my previous daily word counts. While in top form (i.e., during Nanowrimo when I am pushing myself) I can write upwards of 1,700 words a day, with my current project I am rarely making it over 1,200, and usually call it good after 1,000. So lately I’ve been asking myself: What is this? Is there something wrong with me? Am I settling for less? Am I lowering the standard? Why aren’t I pushing myself to do more, and should I be?

The answer: Perhaps– but I also think word count isn’t everything, and that there is merit in dividing my time more evenly between Writing and Things That Are Not Writing, because the latter feeds the former.

To arrive at a more conclusive answer, let’s examine some of the other ways I’ve been spending  potential writing time during the first draft of this novel, and whether those ways add to or detract from the writing experience.

Non-writing ways I commonly spend potential writing time:

  1. Exercise. Physical health is hugely influential in mental and creative energy. Use of time: GOOD
  2. Social activities. Recreation is fun, different environments are stimulating, and the meeting of minds invites new ideas and innovation. Use of time: GOOD
  3. Netflix. Stories on the screen. It’s like visual reading? Use of time: SUSPICIOUS
  4. Reading. Writing is a language and a craft, and studying it is how you learn. Use of time: GOOD
  5. Tumblr. It’s, er, author social media. And I get to see what my favorite authors are doing! And book news! And agent advice! And clever GIF sets! GIFs = laughter = soul medicine OKAY OKAY OKAY, Use of time: MORTIFYING
  6. Art projects. The right brain wants its turn, too, and there is little more spiritually nourishing/creatively regenerative than music + colors/pens/magazine scraps to paper. Or, you know, Photoshop. Or, uh…learning to make GIF sets for Tumblr… Use of time: GENERALLY GOOD

In the end I feel it is a game of balance. If you push yourself too hard, you will burn out and close up and struggle to get any words on the page. Conversely, if you spend too much time on Netflix or in Tumblrland, you will never write anything.

CONCLUSION: I could probably be getting more writing done. Since timed sprints (particularly 45 minute ones) have been working for me lately, I am going to try to fit in at least one more of those each day. I think we should be mindful of our distractions, but at the same time not give so much of ourselves to our writing that it ends up being counterproductive. Balance is key.

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4 thoughts on “Word Counts vs. Balance

  1. I think you’re so right. I write way less than you – I can’t cope with writing for hugely extended periods, but I get stuff done anyway. I’m about to publish my second novel and I’m hoping to be able to average about 1 novel a year – which for me is good (I published my debut novel last year). So to me it sounds like you’re doing fine. And like you say, you’ve got to have some downtime too. 🙂

    I’ve recently joined Tumblr as a way of promoting my writing but I’ve done next to nothing with it. I’m finding it quite complicated and then there’s the time factor, which I never seem to have enough of despite having a lot of free time at the mo! (I know that doesn’t make sense – it’s just the way things are for me.) I shall look you up on it. 🙂

    • Ooh, congrats on your upcoming release, Elaine!!! What is the book called?

      And yes, I agree– regardless of whether one writes in long sessions or short bursts, by word count or in stolen moments, ultimately it’s the commitment to the story that matters. Showing up: it’s how books are made.

      Tumblr: still figuring out that tricky contraption myself, but as you might’ve guessed I’m having quite a bit of fun with it lately (perhaps too much). It’s so different than WordPress! And I am following you now 🙂

  2. Netflix is pretty amazing. Not tried Tumblr because I’m afraid of something else that will swallow my time as I’m just so awesome at procrastinating!

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