Writing, Word Counts, NaNoWriMo and Productivity

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First off, I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. I have no problems with it, but it’s not for me, or in line with what I’m trying to do creatively at this point in my life. I am writing a novel, but I’m also writing short stories, essays, music and a blog. One of the best ways I’ve found to break out of a block or slump in anything long-form is to just stop for a while and write something else. When I can’t get my novel to progress or the writing starts to feel unnatural and forced I get up, grab a cup of coffee or tea and start writing an essay on something random like contemporary porn stars or a short story with a wildly different voice. The main idea is to keep writing and just write something else. After a few days I get a clear head and I can come back to the novel or the extended essay and write something decent. If I stop writing because of “block” I just get out of the habit and it becomes much more of an effort to start up again, with results that are often more staid than they would be otherwise.

The one point that all teachers of writing and all books on the subject agree on is simple and generally the least applied: write. Just fucking write. There is nothing that helps train the ability to put words together more than putting words together. Reading might give you a better critical perspective -and lots of aspiring writers need a better critical perspective- but the most perceptive insight isn’t going to do any good unless one has practiced the act of writing itself. There are some mistakes one can only learn by making. One of the main reasons I started this blog (alongside giving myself an onus to organize and record my thoughts on the books I’ve read) was to force myself to write nonfiction consistently, as it’s been one of my weakest expressions for a while now.

Many teachers will mandate that anyone serious about writing do so every day. I’ve found that to be personally impossible, but looking back on the last month or so I find that I’ve written something at least six days out of the week. Some days I might get down 5000 words on the computer; others I might just scrawl a few dozen in a notebook. A daily word count is too constraining for the way I work, but I’ve made it a goal to get in 7-12k words per week. This includes rough drafts, outlines, notes and so forth. A daily word count works well for some, but I find my average daily output actually increases when I’m looking at a weekly goal. More than that, it makes me want to write every day, which has lead to both more and better writing.

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