Thursday, April 2, 2015

Word Goals Versus Writer's Block

Anyone who hope to make a living writing knows that you have to put words on a page to be successful.  This leads many of us to set daily or weekly word count goals.  We know that we need to meet these goals if we want to finish a novel on time and create a stash of books for readers to buy.

Unfortunately, the creative process isn't always as cooperative.  This is where striking a balance comes into play.  I'm all for meeting your time goals, but writing crap just so you can get to a certain word count is less than useless - it's wasteful.  I admit to having done this myself, and it has led to me trashing weeks of material once I realized it sucked.  I only wish I would've figured it out sooner so I didn't stray as far down the wrong path and thus have to trash so much.

Some writers might use this as an excuse to not write.  They'll say, "It's just not working today, so I'll take the day off."  The problem is that writing everyday is like going to the gym - take one day off and it becomes easier to take the next day off.

When you hit a wall, the answer isn't to just throw up your hands and stop.  Instead, it's to find the hole in your process so you can work through it.  That might entail sitting at your desk staring at a blank screen or holding a pen over your notebook while nothing goes into your outline, but it's still working.  The layman might see this as daydreaming, but any writer worth his or her salt will tell you that they're deep in thought, and as soon as they figure out where to go, they'll resume writing.

Writing just to write can have its benefits too...just as long as you know that what you're writing is garbage.  So long as you accept that you're exercising rather than putting something meaningful into your book, it's time well spent.  It's when you cross the line into thinking all this work just for the sake of work will be a good read that things break down.

Focus on your writing goals.  Stay on yourself - you'll have to...most writers don't have a "boss" to tell them to get it done - so you can accomplish what you set out to do, but know when it just isn't there.  All of us will be off our game at some point, but it's finding that balance between pushing through and slowing down so our imagination can catch up that's the challenge.

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