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I must have commented in a discussion LinkedIn a few months ago. I think that’s why I keep getting notices from new responses to a deceptively simple question:

how-many-words-to-write-per-day

“How man (sic) words do you write each day?”

For hundreds or even thousands of posts people have been comparing notes. Most of the conversation looks about like the original post above. Some commenters have long explanations of their minimal and sporadic word output and how ordinary life challenges them in their efforts to get words on a page. I wonder if they’re counting the words in their responses as part of their daily totals.

I think when I first responded to that thread all those months or years ago, I tried to estimate how many words I wrote. When I work up a head of steam I know I can rip through 10K or so per day — which later need to be re-written and/or heavily edited. That’s when I have a target or a self-imposed deadline. But that 10K doesn’t count every word I write those days. I stopped trying to estimate.

Through each day even when I’m “pumping” I’m contributing to online forums, answering emails (the interesting ones, at least) writing reviews, texting, and so forth. Most of each day is spent at a keyboard of some kind. If I’m awake I’m putting words into something.

When I get what I think is a great idea for a story, I’ll grab my laptop and bang out a synopsis in 10-15 minutes. I’m not aiming for a word count at those times. I just want to capture the story and see how it looks on paper before deciding how the rest is going to go when I try to actually make it readable. Or if it’s even worth the attempt.

It occurred to me that this sort of “how many” question really isn’t entertained much by people who’ve been doing whatever the activity is for a while — in whatever field interests them. If you’re meant to do what you’re doing you measure your output on your . . . well . . . real output. At the end of whatever time you set for yourself, were you able to deliver what you intended? That is the question. If yes: Good day! If no: Bang your head on the table. Word count don’t matter, G.

I think one major stumbling block to actually “being a writer” is just failing to write, or treating writing as a task that one must measure in terms of wordcount. Most “writers” have a project that they started at some point and think about a lot, and even occasionally dump another thousand words or so into. But most of these projects will never be done. Thus the popularity of the “#amwriting” hashtag on Twitter, and all the people in the Twitterverse briefly (in 140 character or so) explaining that they’re “working on their novel,” presumably at a Starbucks somewhere in plain view of others not so intellectually blessed.

But everyone has a thing.  Even writing as a spectator sport at Starbucks is a thing.

When one takes on a thing and really falls in love with it, one loses count. I don’t know how many miles I put on motorcycles. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone skiing. I don’t know how much vodka I’ve drunk or how many chicken wings I’ve put away. I either never bothered to count, or I lost count long ago. These things have become subsumed into my being.

I suggest that if you want to do something that you find a way to fall in love with it as though it were the love of your life. If you’re timing and counting each kiss, you’re probably with the wrong person.

A photo posted by Bill LaBrie (@billlabrie) on

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