The Forced Inspiration of Daily Word Counts!

Greetings, SE’ers! Beem Weeks here with you again. Today, I’m discussing daily word counts and forced inspiration.

Side view of authoress with paper and typewriter

I’ve seen it on many blogs, in Facebook groups, and in tweets across the internet: Authors boasting of daily word counts. “I force myself to write at least a thousand words per day,” one claims. Another swears by two thousand words per day—even if the mood has all but vanished! Other writers attempt something within reach, like perhaps a daily word count closer to two hundred—no need in pushing too hard.

Word counts are fine for motivational purposes. I have no problem with daily a limit—so long as it inspires.

But inspiration is often the casualty of daily word counts. Just because an author has forced him- or herself to write two thousand words in a single sitting doesn’t mean all those words are worth another person’s time (or money) in reading.

I speak from experience. I, long ago, had placed a daily count on my writing. I decided that if I had any real hope of being a legitimate author, I needed to complete at least five pages of text each day—whether I felt up to the challenge or not. As a result, I ended up wasting my time and effort. I’d spend hours pouring “great” ideas onto the page, certain that my next novel was writing itself. Of course, later in the day, I’d snatch up that morning’s five pages and proofread. Horror would often fill my blood, polluting my sense of being an author, as I’d read the awful tripe I’d been proud of only hours earlier. Don’t get me wrong; this wasn’t a daily occurrence. Terror would only strike on those days I wasn’t motivated to write—those forced moments of “creativity!”

Side view of thoughtful authoress with paper and typewriter

Any author will tell you that creativity can’t be forced. I learned long ago that if I am not motivated to write at a particular time, then there’s no sense in going through the motions. It took many years to comprehend this situation. My ego and my confidence took a serious beating during those moments of forced writing. I’d read that garbage and become convinced I would never write anything worth reading. I mean, if I couldn’t stomach my own writing, how could I expect intelligent readers to part with their hard-earned money in purchasing my work?

Authoress with tablet computer and books

But here’s the thing: Word counts do work for some people. There are writers out there who, the moment they sit down to create, find immediate inspiration. I’m just not one of them. And neither are many other authors. So don’t feel pressured to write just for the sake of writing. Don’t get sucked into the notion that just because a favorite author demands two thousand words a day from him- or herself that you must match that count. Quality is always better than quantity. I’m notoriously lazy in my production. I’m good with that self-assessment. It allows me to enjoy those moments of creativity even more. Happy writings!

SEBioBox_Beem copy (1)

77 thoughts on “The Forced Inspiration of Daily Word Counts!

  1. I agree, forcing a word count doesn’t work for me. But as you say, it does work for others. If you are not in the mood to write, then it will show in what you produce. Something to consider for sure.

    Like

  2. Great blog post Beem. I really like the way you laid out writing and also giving us real advice that not all Writers find the instant motivation and inspiration to jump straight and write down their thoughts. People are different and the same goes for Writers, we are not the same.

    I believe to be able to write a wonderful story, blog, poem or any form of writing, you need to take time and write about your interests, how you feel that day and when you are ready and not force yourself because that will not produce amazing work.

    As for me, I can’t write 2 thousand words per day, it is just not my style. My words can only reach 300- 600 words which I write in a blog format💯🙌

    Great topic Beem and word counts are not a bad idea as long as the words make sense

    Like

  3. Hi Beem, I think we all have to find our own stride with writing and other creative undertakings. I have patches when I can’t write any poetry and other periods when I write three or four poems a day. I am not a fast writer, I am for 400 words in a sitting. If that was good enough for Hemmingway its good enough for me, but, I often don’t write every day. Well, not on my books in any event, so a book takes me a long time to write.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Word counts are artificial–arbitrary–unrelated to the requirements of a project. If you’re ready to quit for the day at 800 words but keep going to reach a thousand, well, okay, but to what end? The only way this works for me is with steps in a project–or completion. If I have to put up a post tomorrow, then my goal is to finish that project today, even if I feel like quitting in the middle. I could see a novel at a chapter a week as a rough guideline for making steady progress, as this keeps it moving and rewards incremental progress… but if a chapter takes longer, it does. So, my point is, this works better with real increments rather than arbitrary word counts, and it works best as a goose to keep you moving but should be scrapped when quality demands more. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

    Like

  5. Pingback: The Forced Inspiration of Daily Word Counts! – Davina J.

  6. I write daily (I’m retired and have that luxury!) with minor exceptions. I usually have three to five ongoing Vella projects, so writer’s block isn’t usually a problem. I write until the words run out and call it a day. Some days will only see 250 words, but I’m pushing 4500 or more the next day. When my brain shuts down, so do I. I learned long ago that forcing myself means throwing away words and time.

    Thanks for the post, Beem!
    V

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve usually got more than a few writing projects going on at one time as well, Verwayne. My hands can’t keep up!!! I’m not talking about writer’s block here. I’ve never suffered from it. I’m talking about just not feeling the urge to write on any particular day, and trying to force myself to write simply to uphold a daily word tally. My problem is, work requires a lot of time at the computer. After I’m done for the day–at times–I just don’t want to remain sitting at my desk. Thanks for weighing in.

      Like

  7. You make a good point about forcing words when you aren’t creativitly inspired, Beem. I’ve done that for the NaNoaWri challenge. I had a lot of heavy editing and cutting to do later to remove those forced words. It did get me to the end though.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I prefer not to look at word counts, but I do write every day. Sometimes it’s a simple haiku or free verse. Other times it’s an ongoing story. I do go back later and look at pieces I’ve written. Some go further, others often don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks Beem. I have never worked well with word counts. When I managed a group programmers, I ignored my boss who urged “Lines of code” quotas. My response was “I’d rather let someone figure out a better solution in fewer lines of code.” I do sit and try to write, but if it doesn’t flow, there are always other things (like research) to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve never set a daily word count, but I do try to set aside one day a week to write whether I’m in the mood or not. That’s worked well for me over the years, although there are some days it just doesn’t happen. Other times, I might have a great word count for the day and sometimes I walk away with dreck. Even when I know what happens in the next scene to be written, on occasion the words won’t flow. Those days often leave me frustrated.
    Good topic or discussion, Beem!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing that, Mae. I know the feeling of knowing where the scene is going but the words I’m putting down seem so inadequate. But then I’ll come back later and rewrite the scene and it works.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I think with any creative pursuit it serves little purpose to force things when it’s not happening that day. Starting fresh the following day makes much more sense. One can do research, read, exercise, or do anything else that’s likely to provide us with more clarity the next day.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I don’t do word counts. I do butt in chair, and usually that nets me something, but not always a set amount. I start each writing day with rewrites of whatever I wrote the day before, and sometimes, that’s all I get done. But usually, it gets me going and leads me into another scene. I’ll never be one of those writers who get huge word counts in one day. My brain’s too slow. I ponder too much. But I like to think of myself as a tortoise. I eventually finish a book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your points are spot-on, Judi. That’s how I work. I sit and write a page or two. Maybe even a whole scene. Then, I’ll do the re-write the following day. Like you, I am the tortoise in this race. Steady and consistent. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Sometimes I just cannot type quickly enough for all I wish to say. Word counts are no problem at that point. Other times finding the right thing to type is difficult. Were I to force myself? Lol- well let’s just say I have seen the result of forcing myself. I once owned a few fantasy and sci-fi mags, where everything worked to a print deadline. Occasionally an author would withdraw their work, or we found some legal problem with it or other issue and had to fill the space quickly. Bill Willis (our in-house illustrator) and I would have to produce something at short notice with no idea what we were doing. He would be illustrating a passage as I was writing it. We always finished it on time but…. If you read back the mags, you can tell which ones were fully planned from those we “Filled” The quality of both the illustration and story were not up to our usual standard (no fault to Bill- his illustrations were always top notch).
    One of the people that edited one of those magazines before me was the author “Michael Moorcock” who famously authored a novel in eighteen hours, from inception to completion (including editing). Lol- it was not his best novel (Phoenix in Obsidian) and those unexpected “fills” were certainly not my best short stories. So, my suggestion is taking your time and do it right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow! That sounds like a wild ride, Ray. Conjuring a story on short notice is something I’ve done on occasion. I prefer having time to plot and re-write. I have those days as well, where I just cannot type fast enough. The ideas pour from my head to my fingers. Then there are days where the descriptions or narration just don’t click with me. But that’s why we have re-writes! Thanks for adding to the conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve been using a version of the Audrey Driscoll page-a-day method. (I compose on the computer, not in longhand.) It worked very well for my current novel-in-progress. If I missed a daily writing session because something interfered, I didn’t worry about it. The draft was still percolating in my subconscious.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I used to write for a story studio, and while there, I was required to have a weekly word count (which amounted to a minimum of 5,000 words a day). Remember, that was my job, so I wasn’t working nine hours at an office then coming home to spew content onto the page. There were days I wrote over 10,000 words when I had to make up from a bad day earlier in the week. Obviously, there were bad days when 100 words were a Sisyphean task, and I deleted them the next day.

    I was more productive then than I am now, and I have to say, the work was solid. One series (which they own and is no longer in print) was probably my finest work ever. I contribute its success to my consistency in writing. My craft was improving even as my soul was crying.

    Now I don’t hit those same numbers (often), but I have less angst over my words. Where I had an almost robotic drive then, I now feel pleasure again when I write… or I walk away from it. (Sadly, I’ve been walking away a lot lately, which concerns me for consistency’s sake.)

    To me, creative whim and consistent improvement seem to be polar opposites. I’m trying to find the fulcrum of that scale so I can optimize both.

    Great topic for discussion, Beem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for adding your experiences, Staci. I used to spend countless hours writing. It devoured all of my free time–which didn’t bother me at all. I wrote so many of my short stories during that period. But I attribute much of my lack of production these days to laziness. I have all sorts of projects in progress at the moment (2 novels, 1 novel outline, dozens of short stories). I just need to kick myself in the pants! 🙄

      Liked by 2 people

      • This is the first time in my career where I have more than two projects going at once. You’d think it would let me pick and choose whichever was speaking to me at the moment, but instead, it’s like I can’t decide so I ignore all of them. I’ll figure it out at some point.

        If you need a metaphorical kick in the pants, consider it done. 🦵🦶

        Liked by 1 person

      • You sound like me, Beem. I’d like to attribute my laziness to: 1) a six-month vacation since I retired, or 2) being tired after a new release and blog tour. But in reality, I just need a kick in the pants.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. This is such a good topic to address, Beem. We are so hard on ourselves and push ourselves when our heart tells us we need to be doing something else. I don’t focus too much on daily word count. And I cannot force write a story. The inspiration and creativity have to be there, or else I’m wasting my time. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree that the inspiration and creativity must take center stage when writing, Jan. I have tried to force myself to write, but always end up deleting most of the work. If I manage a page or two during a session, I’m happy with it. The work moves forward, and I am usually excited about it. Thanks for stopping by.

      Like

  17. I wonder if the difference between pantsering and plotting comes into play with this, Beem. As an outliner, I have no reason not to set a word count and push forward even when I’m not in the mood. I know what’s coming, and even if what I write is crap, it gets the ball rolling. I get to see what’s working and what isn’t. I see where I need to add more meat, slim down, or fill a plot hole, and perhaps I’ll find out that a scene isn’t needed after all. To me, that’s all forward momentum and part of the craft, even though what I write might be atrocious. I also notice that sometimes a forced word count loosens up the cranky muse, and after the first horrible page, things may begin to fall into place. I guess you can see which side of the line I fall on. Ha ha. And I completely agree that writers need to figure out what works for them as individuals. There is never a one-size-fits-all with this craft. Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You make some excellent points, Diana. I am an outliner. I plot out the details, so I know where the story is going. I guess for me, all those forced pages I end up deleting seem like a wasted session. But, you are correct. These things make us better. First and second drafts, re-writes, editing: It’s all part of the process.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Beem! I have so often felt guilty because I wasn’t setting specific word counts for my writing, and would also skip days here or there, if the spirit didn’t move me to even try. When I’m in the mood, words pour out. (Ask anyone who’s ever received an email from me.) But when I’m not, forget about it.

    I’m so glad you perfectly expressed what many of us either instinctively know and accept, or beat ourselves up over not being able to accomplish. GREAT post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I fully understand the process you’ve described, Marcia. On those days of inspiration, it’s like a faucet flowing. The story pours out through my fingertips. Then, there are those days I’m just not motivated. I think doing something else isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It helps clear my head and move me back toward motivation. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I like to keep a daily word count just to see how I’m progressing. But as you said, forced moments of creativity are useless. That’s one reason I’ve found that NaNoWriMo isn’t for me. While I’ve eventually published two books that were written primarily during that month, the edits took forever. I’d rather write fewer words and have less to “clean up.”

    Liked by 2 people

  20. As someone who often writes to relieve stress, setting strict word counts don’t work for me. Writing under contractual obligations can sometimes make it difficult to avoid, especially if you’re editing one book, promoting another, and trying to get the next book or proposal turned in on time. Sometimes mapping out what I have to write each day to meet the deadline is necessary…but I don’t like it! 🙂 I enjoyed your thoughts today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for adding your story, Jill. I understand the mapping out part. I have notes beside my computer that point me in the direction I need to travel today. They come in handy, though often they are ignored–but I still get things done.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. What a sensible post, Beem. I don’t always feel like writing, and so I don’t. I agree that if you try to force it, it doesn’t come.
    The only thing I am forcing myself to do at the moment is to write a poem a day for 12 months. I started in mid December, and have succeeded so far. Not all are long. Not all are good. Some are only 3 line Haiku. But I tell myself that I can tweak them later, at the end of the year.
    I might not manage it for a year, but I’ve already got over 60 poems.

    Liked by 2 people

    • First, congratulations on tallying over 60 poems, Vivienne. That’s a productive way to write when you don’t feel like it. I do that at times with short stories. If I don’t feel like working on one of my novels, I’ll work on something short. Other times, I would rather listen to music and clear my head. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. When we write from the heart, we share bits and pieces of ourselves irrespective of the genre. This is what brings a story to life. Heart energy. We can’t codify inspiration. If we do, we risk pages turned quickly by the reader. Don’t we all do that? Sections filled with forced writing offer word count, perhaps needed by a publisher, but not by a reader. Thank you for this thoughtful post, Beem. Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. I work like you, Beem. Those ‘forced moments of creativity’ always disappoint and I’ll stop writing sometimes because it’s become a chore and I’m not fired-up and enjoying it. When these moments strike, I catch up on the dull stuff I should have been doing (!) and also seize the opportunity to indulge in the pleasure of reading other people’s books. There always comes a point when that urge to write strikes again and I’m off! As you say, it’s a case of doing what works for you and there’s no size fits all.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Reading other people’s books is a great way to reignite the creative fires, Alex. Writing should never feel like a chore, though sometimes it does. In the end, we just need to find that zone where we are comfortable and moving forward. Thank you for contributing to the chat.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Pingback: The Forced Inspiration of Daily Word Counts! | Legends of Windemere

  25. I’ve done something like that, except that my expectation was a page a day, rather than a specific word count. I write my first drafts by hand on paper. Turns out a page of my scribble is about 500 words. I started each day’s page without reading what I had already written. Once I had a completed draft, months later, I fired up the computer and transcribed the handwritten stuff, changing it as I saw fit. That second draft was the beginning of the editing process.
    It worked for me, but I’m certainly not going to tell anyone else to write this way!

    Liked by 6 people

    • That’s a great work model, Audrey. I wrote the first draft of Jazz Baby by hand on paper. However, most of my work since that novel has been on my computer. I do believe I wrote more when involving pen and paper. I think it motivated me. Maybe I should revisit that mode for some of my short stories!!! Thank you for adding to the talk.

      Liked by 1 person

We'd love to know what you think. Comment below.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s