Woe Is My Word Count

So here we are. You, me, and Labor Day weekend. Most of you are probably celebrating the end of summer. Which I’m not hesitant at all to say, I’ll be glad to see go. It’s been butt-ass hot here in TX, and I’ve had enough.

Enough. :)

That said, my next three weekends, with only an occasional break for dinner with a few of my gal-pals, is going to be spent writing to meet my deadline because I’ve fallen woefully behind. Why have you fallen woefully behind, Dakota, you ask?

Worry and the world at large.

I learned something about my writing process a couple of weeks ago when I was super stressed over a life dilemma I was having—I can’t write when my emotional state’s gone awry.

I know some writers find solace in their writing when life gets to be too much. They escape to the world they’ve created and find respite in their characters. I so admire that.

Me? Not so much. I can’t make the funny if something’s bothering me. In fact, I can’t make the words—at all. My word count suffers and I plummet from 8-10K a day to more like 3-4. Now, I’m the kind of writer who vomits whatever’s in her head, which accounts for the higher word count, but I also delete probably half of that 8-10K because it’s all just shit. Well, it’s all just shit anyway, but you know what I mean. :)

So for about a month, I was only working with 1-2K a day. Thus, getting me absolutely nowhere in terms of reaching the desired goal of 90-100K. And it sucked, folks. Sucked ass. Despite the jokes I make about what I write, I take the mission itself, the work ethic involved, seriously. It’s my job. Period. If I have a deadline, I make it—no matter what. I don’t ask for extensions at the last minute. I don’t put it off. If nothing else, I continue to beat my head against the word count wall in order to get ‘er done.

But being in this office for a solid flippin’ month with dribs and drabs and no direction was driving me insane—especially for someone like me who has a high word count goal. Naturally, I went through assloads of self-flagellation. “It’s over. I’m word dry. I’m washed up.”

But then I realized, I was washed up to begin with—so this particular dilemma was no excuse. :) And I’m a subscriber to the “suck it up and shut up” school of thought, so I couldn’t very well sit around and whine. Not out loud anyway.

Then quite suddenly, I found an answer (sort of) to my life dilemma and the words started to flow again, but allowing my environment and stress to dictate my creativity is unacceptable. My creativity is what pays the bills right now, and it pissed me the hell off to have it thwarted. So I mapped out on a calendar exactly how many words per day I’d need to make deadline by October 30, got busy, and the structure actually helped get me over the hump of wordlessness. The words were less likely to end up deleted because I knew they had to mean something or I’d miss word count.

So now I’d like to hear from you. What in life thwarts your creativity or keeps you from moving forward—like stops you cold and makes you force yourself to find a way around your problem? And I’d love to hear your solutions. Because seriously, who knows if I might need to borrow one of yours? :)


B.C. Brown said…
Much like you, my word count suffers most when my life reaches and and not only smacks me in the head, it kicks me in the ribs once I'm down. :) However, I have found another time in my life when my writing/word count suffers tremendously: when I spent too much thought on promoting.

For the most part, promoting for me is thoughtless and takes little energy. I have something out, I promote in the usual manner; viola, I'm gold. But, rarely, someone does something on a promotion level that catches my eye, something I haven't tried before, and it sets the hamster in my brain to squeaking her wheel. All of the sudden I become obsessed with trying to come up with new and innovative ways to promote. And my word count sinks lower than the Titanic.

Most often it takes other authors I'm friends with to smack me verbally (and occasionally physically) to bring me back to the reality of my life. Without a word count, eventually there will be nothing to promote. And that often sets me back on my course, strapping me in for a serious amount of "make up" work. I've found I practice less and less of this promotion-distraction as I did when I was an unpublished or freshly-published writer, but it does still happen. So when it does I glance up at the poster I had made for my writing room that reads "Work, bitch, work." :)

BC Brown
Alice McElwee said…
For me, it's when life gets so hectic, I shut down. Even though I make the time to write, nothing comes because my brain is thinking of everything else going on.

Like from April - July, my word count was probably 600 words for that entire period. Between finding out about the pregnancy, packing, graduation, flying across the world and settling in...it was just too much and I shut down.

Sometimes, though, I get a good kick in the pants from Cid and Suzan and utilize things on Twitter such as #1K1Hr or writechat.net (when it's not kicking me out). Writing with others seems to help motivate me quite a bit.
Monica Burns said…
I think you're too hard on yourself. Superwoman is not something you can be all the time. It will tear you apart health wise.

While I treat my writing as a job, I also work a day job to pay the bills. So when life is kicking me in the teeth, I can get so depressed there's no climbing out of the well. Even the day job suffers, despite my effort not to let it do so. While I love how adamant you are about the suck it up and do it issue, I know that sometimes life has a way of totally destroying your work ethic no matter how hard you want it to be otherwise.

I'm only just now starting to get my mojo back after a year of turmoil with my youngest being under a doctor's care on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.

As for finding my creativity. I'm swimming again, and I tell myself the story I want to write. I basically flush out the synopsis and actual scenes. That hour in the pool is not only good exercise for the body, but for the mind and soul as well. I'm eager to get this new book on the page.

Hugs and sending you good vibes that your write or die attitude has regain its absolute control over your muse. :-)
vck said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
vck said…
My biggest hurtle is my family always trying to make me feel guilty accusing me of thinking spending my time writing is more important to me than spending time with them.

I've tried to explain that while they are indeed more important to me than anything that going to the movies, out to eat or playing a board game with them is not more important to me when I'm trying to work and they just want me to drop what I'm doing to do what they want to do.

When they were kids I dropped everything I wanted to do, to do everything they wanted to do. But they are adults now. Entertaining them is not my number one priority.

Actually my number one priority right now is getting well enough to even feel like writing. I fell in Feb. Had knee surgery in May and my appendix removed last night.
Dakota Cassidy said…
BC, I suck at promotion, so thankfully, that shiny hasn't kept me from doing what needs doing. I just hang out w/the readers--I'm better at that that talking about my books :) But I can see how you could become caught up in a new way to reach readers. The innovative can take time and suck up a lot of your creativity. :)

Monica--I am hard on myself, but I guess the worry always is, if I don't make my deadline, I don't get paid. And you know how long we sometimes wait to be paid from a publisher. It's hard enough to make ends meet when you get a paycheck every 2-4 months, but if you're late, it only gets worse. If I had to get up and go to an office every day, I couldn't call in and tell them I'm too stressed to work. I'd have to show up and do my 8 in order to pay the bills. I guess that's how I try to think of it. But because writing involves your creativity, not something more cut and dried like numbers to add etc, it makes doing your 8 not always easy. But I'm happy to say, I got a better grip on it, and found a way around it. Hugs, honey!

Alice--yeah, if I find myself overwhelmed, I feel like that, too. But wow--you had some major stuff happen to you. So take it easy on yourself--and rest up for that baby!

VCK--I hope you'e on the mend soon!
Sandy Williams said…
What thwarts my word count? Pregnancy.

I have a deadline coming up in less than two months *crai* and I, too, and woefully far behind. I've had a year to write this book, but I was useless for nine months of it. Things are better now that the boys are born, but I've lost sooo much time! I have to write several thousand words every day (I'm a slow writer in the first place, but my first drafts are pretty darn solid) to meet the deadline. Pretty sure I can do it, but until I do, my stress level is uber high.

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