I Write When I Want (Word Count)

I’m sure that most everyone with any experience in writing will agree that, regardless of our usual excitement for a project, we’ll always hit at least one wall along the way—meaning a towering Goliath of fortified stone and metal erected between us and our goal. A solution that I frequently see proposed is simply an obedience to some arbitrary daily word count. For writer’s block or motivation loss, this has some value, but can’t be our driving force.

Most writers I know do their writing in their free time. The vast majority of it goes unpaid and even unappreciated. This frequently leads to periods of discouragement or ambivalence. The words don’t come because we just don’t think it matters. If no one reads it, it’s obviously not worth anything.

That’s a load of crap.

I’ve written on this subject in previous articles (The Suffering Writer: A Lesson From the King) and I anticipate continuing to talk about it in the future. If we’re writing just for the paycheck, there are easier ways to pay the bills. I work construction part-time while earning a second bachelor’s degree (also part-time). Do I love construction? Not even close. Is construction easier? It is in some ways, despite the fact that I often come home in a state of total exhaustion. At least I can count on my biweekly check.

My point is that if we expect all of our writing sessions to be these consistently revolutionary experiences, we’ve just bought a one-way ticket to Disappointment City. If we come to our writing after a long day of work or mediating the kids’ fights, we shouldn’t be surprised if we have some difficulty mustering the creative energy to put quality words on paper. That’s okay.

I’ve read a number of authors’ articles on developing a writing habit. Habit definitely has a power to enable what otherwise might be impossible. Where I disagree with many of these writers is in their assertion that we set hard boundaries for ourselves. “I’ll write a thousand (or a hundred) words every day,” we might say.

Why? Sure, big-name writers often have a personal pattern like this, but it’s clear that other factors are involved. Obviously, it takes more than just a rigid writing habit to break into the industry. I’ll use an illustration that might help.

What kind of person do you prefer to talk to? The one whose pointless words gush like verbal vomit, or the one whose every word is calculated and measured to convey meaning? Maybe you’re different, but my attention span is limited. I want the short, sweet, and intentional conversation over the former on any day of the week.

Let’s lighten up on ourselves. Yes, a regular writing routine is essential to developing as a writer. No, it won’t guarantee success, and the exact definition of “regular” still needs to be discussed anyway. Most importantly, if the results are so bad they’re unredeemable, was it really worth it?

Why put numbers on our writing? Why turn a passion into a chore? I’m sure that we can find some small motivation to write just a little bit without turning it into a rigid personal law. What I like to do (especially when my doubts torment me) is to commit myself on any given day to nothing more than reading what I last wrote—and I don’t write every day and I think that’s good. When I do come back, the tiny edits I make start the turning of those great wheels in my head. The rust flakes off as quickly as it built up.

In general, I find that my sense of being pressured is reduced and I stay excited more easily. My writing is freer and cleaner. Most importantly, it doesn’t stress me out.

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