A Worthy Exercise

When I wrote in college, I always hit a wall at about 2000 words. I could spend days doing research and organizing my ideas, but when I got out my yellow pad and began to write, eight pages was my limit. At that point, I’d said everything I wanted to say. This wasn’t a serious problem in college; I wrote well enough to get passing grades. When I started graduate school, though, I realized (duh) that eight pages wasn’t enough. I had to push myself to say more about the Roman Attitude Towards the Christians During the Fourth Century A.D. or The Significance of the Order of Horace’s Odes.

Being able to churn out lots of words is a skill my students struggle to master. Even after weeks of writing journal entries and stories, a few of my creative writing students can’t seem to put out more than two hundred words at a time. Part of the problem is that they don’t have a lot of experiences to supply them with material.  Another part is that they don’t trust their own imaginations enough to let go and write badly, which is the first step to writing well. Writers know this, but our students have been taught to keep their page clean until they are sure of the right answer.

This new year, I have begun an experiment: write less. My goal is to write one hundred words a day — exactly one hundred — about anything. More

Words, Words, Words

For a writer, word count is a measure of progress. I like being about to say that I wrote a thousand words in an hour. If a published book would magically appear every time I reached 50,000 words, that would be even better.

Instead, I count words. Some days I delete more words than I write, but those aren’t necessarily wasted days. Revision is all about cutting superfluous words.

I try to set myself a daily goal, but it’s hard to know what is reasonable. During NaNoWriMo I averaged 2000 words a day, but that pace nearly ended my marriage. I finished, but of the 50,000 words I produced, about 40,000 needed to be deleted. I swore I wouldn’t do it again; but check back with me in October.

The best thing about NaNo is having a goal and the support of a group trying to achieve the same goal. As I’ve wandered around the internet, trying to avoid facing my NaNo-under-reconstruction, I’ve found a few goal-oriented groups that look interesting. I haven’t joined any, but I book-marked them in case I need inspiration. More

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