Monday, February 13, 2017

Word Counts for a Working Writer

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          As a working writer, I write almost every day. Deadline for the magazines lasts three days each month so I’m too busy then, otherwise I write.

          Filling a notebook a month is the best way to stay on track. Use an 80-100 page notebook as recommended by Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones. If you write about three pages every day, you’ll fill the notebook. If you don’t, then you will have a lot of pages to fill at the end of the month.

          In January, I had company as well as deadline. Because I wrote only a few paragraphs or a page or two each day, the last week of the month I had to fill 40 pages—which I did. My word count for that week was over 12,000 which also included a blog post and facebook thoughts for the magazines. I had to write fast to meet my monthly notebook deadline.

          Learning to write fast is essential for a working writer. Get all your thoughts down on paper as quickly as you can. This leaves you more time to rewrite, organize, make corrections, and polish your words—the real work of a professional working writer.

The initial act of writing is wild, spontaneous, exciting. When you reread what you wrote, you might not even remember some of these thoughts as they came so fast. Good. Those thoughts are what you really think without any filters. Work with them.

As I wrote in my post on 3/9/15:

 I think anyone interested in becoming a writer should read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury.

These books will also energize anyone who is already a writer. I often pick one of them up, flip open to a random page, read for a while then jump into writing.

           In Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury not only encourages writing, he also shares his story of becoming a writer then working hard to become a better writer. Read his work. His dedication and creativity are astounding.

He’s inspiring—hard not to be when he begins his essay “The Joy of Writing” on page 3 with:

Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer’s make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto.

          Bradbury notes on page 13:

In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon the truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping.

Tiger-trapping. How exciting that makes writing sound! We are brave. Capturing truth. Following wherever our creativity leads us. Zest and gusto indeed!

Write with zest and gusto in a monthly notebook no one else will ever read. You’ll surprise yourself as well as come up with ideas for writing projects. I’ve written many essays and blog posts on thoughts I might never have discovered without scribbling in my notebooks which I take with me everywhere—like Natalie Goldberg, I carry a notebook-sized purse. Writing in public is inspiring in a different way than writing at home. Write wherever you are.

Word counts do matter. Not only in meeting specifications for projects, but quantity leads to quality. In filling these notebooks, you’ll find your voice, your rhythm, and your ability to meet deadlines no matter how short—all hallmarks of a working writer.

My word count for February 5-11 was 7,287.

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