NaNoWriMo Week 3: Breaking Up With Word Count

I have an ‘it’s complicated’ relationship with word count. Some days I’m cool with it, on others I’m not feeling it so much. I’ve always thought that word counts are very arbitrary measures of a writer’s progress…

Progress is not only measured in numbers. It’s also measured by what you’ve learned and improved on, productive habits you’ve cultivated and your attitude toward hard work.Participant-2014-Square-Button

It’s progress when you’ve found tools to overcome writer’s block.

It’s progress when your grammar and language use have improved.

It’s progress when you’re sitting down to write on a regular basis–whether that be every day or every few days.

And it’s progress when you’ve formed a particular mindset toward writing.  A mindset that continues on despite doubt, fear and lethargy.

Each individual is different as well, so each person will have their own measure of success. We cultivate different writing habits: some of us are mourning doves, others are night owls.

Our lives our busy: we’re parents that work from home, we’re high school or university/college students with exams and papers to finish, we are young professionals searching for that perfect job, we are happily retired people cultivating life-long passions or discovering new ones, we’re successful and published authors…

Each day is different for every one of us–so why would our measures of success be any different?

I define my personal best when I look at what I’ve written at the end of the night (not necessarily how much I’ve written) and feel satisfied. I’m ecstatic when a gem of a sentence rolls out unexpectedly, even when I feel the rest of my writing may not be up to par.

I do still like word count–as a friend of course–because it’s there to remind me of how far I’ve come. But as people often say, it’s not so much about the end goal or destination as it’s more about the process and journey.

My advice for this week of NaNoWriMo is to focus on your journey and your process. What kind of writer are you? What habits have you cultivated? What have you discovered along the way?

Don’t sweat the word count. It’s a great part of the process–but it’s not the only part of it.

I had to distance myself from the word count because I began focusing too much on the numbers instead of the words. As I formed  a more neutral relationship with word count, I began to focus more on the dynamics of my story and how I was watching it unfold as I wrote. If I ever get lonely and start missing word count, I have my friends Word War with Yourself and Give a Prompt, Take a Prompt to keep me company.

It’s been a good change.

Hope everyone is having an epic experience with NaNoWriMo!



2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Week 3: Breaking Up With Word Count”

  1. Good for you! I’m not doing NaNoWriMo mainly because I’ve already got a novel in progress. Just checked the word count: I’ve written about 44K words since last April. I’m thrilled. This morning I didn’t add any words to the total. Not a one. What I did was sit for about 45 minutes, pen in hand, paper in lap, and sketch out where each main character was and where he or she wanted to go next. Then I went for a walk with my dog. I blogged about this numbers thing last spring. If you ever want some encouragement, have a look:

    1. Thanks, and that’s great! Those sound like great ways to clear your mind. I like to sketch out maps or sometimes revisit my story outline–some days you just need a breather from a story. Thanks, I’ll be sure to check it out 🙂 Thank you for stopping by as well! I’m looking forward to hearing more about your novel.

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