This year I’ve been blogging about various writer topics that cross my mind. Mostly, these essays have been a way to arrange my thoughts on my life and experiences as a writer. It’s essential, I think, to kind of map yourself out as a writer. On the podcast, we talk a great deal about your toolbox as a writer. It’s important to know your weaknesses and strengths as a writer and really, honestly, as a person. It’s impossible to improve and grow without knowing where you need to work.
Yesterday, I had another discussion about writing goals and daily productivity with another writer. The thing is that it’s too easy to compare yourself to others in fandom. You see a writer who is super prolific posting daily on Ao3, and if you allow, it can make you feel really unproductive in response. It’s easy to say—don’t compare yourself to others, but when you see someone on the road to posting a million written words in a single year, it’s difficult not to get a little judgmental with yourself.
When I was younger, my average daily word was around 5k. I’ll say, looking back, that I took that physicality for granted. These days, I couldn’t maintain that on a daily basis merely from a physical perspective. I will say that moving to a mechanical keyboard has really helped me a lot, and writing sprints can make it easier to hammer out a high word count during a single day. But even with all those options in my toolbox, writing 5k a day for several days in a row would wipe me out.
These days, I focus on improving myself during the writing process. I noodle more on plots, characterizations, and the narrative structure. It means that my daily word count average is around 1800 words, but they’re really good words. I’m not micro editing, and I don’t advocate that, at all, because that’s a habit that will wreck your productivity. But I’m really trying to focus on my quality these days from the start, and I think it makes a difference in my writing life.
There’s this video of Stephen King and George RR Martin on YouTube talking about daily writing. Stephen King says his goal for writing is 6 pages a day (which, if calculated 12pt font, double space is anywhere from 1500 to 1800 words depending on font). I learned two things during that short video. Stephen King treats writing like a job. George RR Martin micro edits himself like a motherfucker.
It’s my goal, as a writer, to bring my A-game to the table every single time I sit down to write. It’s what I would encourage in every single writer—focus on improving your skills, and if you only have an hour to give writing on any given day—make that hour count. It may sound crazy coming from someone who has a word count minimum built into her daily calendar but focus on the story you’re telling and not the number of words you’re putting down on paper.
Goals are vital, yes, but don’t keep one that turns into a cudgel.