I’ve been capturing my word counts every day for every project with consistency since the beginning of last year. Before that, it was a sporadic practice, without the detail that I record today.
It’s a practice that I have made a mainstay in my writing life. Why? This is the way I know exactly how I am performing, whether I am keeping up with the deals that I try to make with myself, and exactly how many days I might go without writing. Because of it, I know that today is the 8th day in a row that I’ve written and that I’ve been improving my fiction word count during each of those days, getting myself back up to the 1,000 word-a-day minimum goal. I know that I am approaching it fast, and that soon, I will be back to 2018 writing speed.
Tracking progress can be both good and bad depending on what one is trying to measure and why. Diet and weight loss is often an area I see where metrics go awry. People focus more on the numbers, such as weight or calorie intake, than on overarching progress. Of course, results are achieved, but given that weight by itself is a deceptive number, and calories can span from nutrient dense to nearly void of nutrients, one be misled by numbers alone. The same is in most metrics. We should know what we are measuring, why, and what the measurements tell us.
Here, I am using it to keep tabs on myself. Did I write or did I not? How much did I write? Did I write more fiction or non-fiction? Did I put enough effort into it? (1,000 words is where I found my “sweet-spot” of effort.) If I tried to use it for much more than that, it might lead into a situation where the metric becomes more important than what the metric is actually measuring.
For instance, if writing volume for me was more important than the writing itself, then I might be more tempted to write stream-of-conscious rather than trying to abide by plot. This is why I capped myself at 1,000 words-a-day as a goal, to cap my urge to use these metrics to do more. Once, I tried to just get more and more each day, and my writing quality took a dive while overall it spiraled out of control. I realized that 1,000 for me was an achievable goal that I could keep up with, so I stuck there.
And right now—today—I am using these metrics to slowly build back up in my daily writing. I am trying to ensure that I am writing every day. Beyond that, I am just doing a little better each day than the prior day until I reach that goal. Then it will be all about maintaining.
Featured image is of my (currently not working) Underwood Typewriter.