She made me feel like an idiot.
It wasn’t her fault, this blogger. But when she mentioned in a post that she’d written only a “measly 2.8k words today” I felt about two feet tall. Mostly because 2.8k words would be a solid writing day for me. And most of the time I don’t write even that much.
I know intellectually that this blogger writes full time, so she has more time to give to writing than I do. Still, knowing something and feeling something are two different things. And what she said cut through my confidence.
I fell right down the rabbit hole of self-doubt after that. Am I writing enough? Am I ever going to finish? Am I a dumbass? What the heck am I doing wrong?
It hit me so hard, because I’m the kind of person who cares only about the outcome. I scoff at the participation trophy. I’ve been known to say that the consolation prize is for losers. That the old ‘good try’ isn’t good enough. But I’m beginning to see the error in this type of thinking.
Because this type of thinly-veiled perfectionism kills the writing dream. It leads to a fear of failure that often keeps me from showing up to my writing desk at all.
I bet that sounds familiar.
The more I’ve gotten comfortable with the idea that just showing up is enough, the more writing I get done. And that got me thinking. Is my approach to writing still setting me up for failure?
After turning my critical editor’s eye toward my approach to writing, I found something that surprised me.
My word count goal caused creativity-killing stress. Is your daily word count goal doing the same to you?
Here are 7 reasons to ditch the daily word count goal and just write for a set amount of time instead. This is how to make writing fun again.
#1 Fits all Stages of the Writing Process
The daily word count goal is fine when you’re writing your first draft. But what about those days when you’re revising? Outlining? Exploring possiblities? Thinking through a plot hole?
Writing for a set amount of time each day is a great way to track your progress no matter what stage of the writing process you’re in. It also gives you space to explore different story paths and options without the unnecessary pressure of a one-size-doesn’t-really-fit-all daily word count goal.
#2 Strengthens Resolve and Motivation to Write
It’s too easy to feel bad about a writing session when you don’t hit a word count goal you set for yourself. Too many of those in a row and, if you’re anything like me, you start to feel like a failure. That’s when it’s next to impossible to sit down and write your way out of the funk. So set yourself up for success instead.
Because writing for a set time just means every word you write is a win. And that makes it easier to show up every day and write.
#3 Reduces Steps and Simplifies the Writing Process
When you straightjacket yourself to a word count goal, things get complicated. Because what you’re really saying is that you’ll sit down at your writing space, get your head in the game, write, panic when the words don’t come, spurt out a few awful words, worry about whether they’re the right words, and freak out as your day stretches into night and you still haven’t hit your word count.
The word count goal assumes too many steps. But when you write for a set time instead, all you have to do is show up and let the writing take care of itself.
#4 Builds Writing Confidence
Word count goals set you up for a perfectionistic mindset. But not all writing days are created equal. Sometimes you spend more time brainstorming than you do writing. On those days when you know you won’t hit your word count, it’s easy to give up before you get started.
But if you measure writing success by time in, the words don’t need to be perfect. The word count doesn’t need to be perfect. You focus on what you can control, which is whether or not you show up. And if it doesn’t work out one day, there’s always tomorrow’s writing session.
You can be confident then that as long as you keep showing up, eventually it will work out. And that confidence is invaluable for writers.
#5 Trains Your Brain for ‘Writing Mode’
Humans are creatures of habit. And routines establish powerful biological responses. If you write for a set time at the same time every day, your mind will sink gently into writing mode the second you’re ready to write.
#6 Halts Writers Block
What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’… And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come. -Maya Angelou
Sometimes the muse takes her sweet ass time before showing up. So what about all those hours or days you have to write shit until you hit gold?
If you write on a word count goal structure, you won’t get credit for the time you spent fishing for the muse. But you need to give yourself credit for that time, because it supports the resilience you’ll need to write your way through without giving in to the block.
#7 Promotes Creativity
Writing on a word count goal is a runaway freight train headed toward the cliff. I don’t know about you, but when I have a word count to reach, I feel like I can’t stop typing. And that means I don’t have time to think as I’m rushing toward the goal.
But urgency kills creativity. So I opt for the peaceful route. It leaves plenty of room to unearth and follow my vision.
What Do You Think?
Maybe you disagree? Does the word count goal work for you? Or maybe I missed a great reason to write on a time block instead? Share it in the comments.