What is your daily word count?

Welcome to the second day of Get Serious About Writing!

Today’s topic is daily word count (or daily pages or lines or whatever other metric you want to use). I used to think that this would fall into place once—well, once everything else had fallen into place.

But I had it all backwards. The daily writing comes first, and that is the base for everything else.

In a later post in this series, we’ll take a closer look at the book The Confidence Code, by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman (a book not for women only), but for now, one important message of the book is that confidence comes from doing rather than thinking:

“[W]e need to stop thinking so much and just act.” Read more

We make a mistake by thinking (I could really stop there, couldn’t I?) that we will write more when we feel good about our writing. The truth is that we will feel good about our writing when we write more. So before we understand why we put off taking our writing seriously, before we tackle social media or where to submit for publication (if that’s what we want), we need to write enough so that we know we are writers. That’s where it all starts.

Going back to our thought from yesterday about how we are doing this for our future selves, imagine how you will feel at the end of August when you have written every day, even if much of it is imperfect? I know the very thought puts a smile on my face.

Daily Word Count Guidelines

What you write doesn’t matter, as long as it’s new content, not just the same words dressed up in a different font. In fact, word vomit is exactly what you want. No editing. No second guessing. Nothing too pretty.

How you write doesn’t matter. Pen and paper, tablet, laptop, phone—it’s all good. I have a friend who dictates almost all of her writing (and even did so for NaNoWriMo) using voice recognition software. That wouldn’t work well for me, but it’s a boon for her. I have had success writing myself emails with my daily output as the text—the very act of writing an email loosens my internal editor for some reason (probably why I have so many typos in my emails!).

The specific number doesn’t matter, as long as there is a number. If the word “goal” trips you up, think of it as one of your “dailies,” as I do (another concept for a future post, but, in short, it’s something you do every day, like flossing your teeth or sorting the recyclables). And don’t aim so high that you will inevitably beat yourself up for not succeeding. The book I had the most fun writing began with a 250-word-a-day gift from my son. Ernest Hemingway was happy with 500 words per writing session. If you set a small word or page count, most days you will probably exceed it (and if you have a day when you didn’t write until late, it’s easy to fit in 250 words before bed rather than give up on a more unrealistic goal of 2000 words).

Have a plan for missed days. I personally think that daily writing is important, but any regular schedule is what really matters (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for example, or Wednesday and both weekend days). But what will happen if you miss a day? You will (let’s hope not too often), so have a plan for that. For me, it is dangerous to skip more than one day of anything I want to do on a regular basis, whether it is writing or physical exercises or sticking to a cleaning schedule. If I skip more than once, I’m off and running with a new habit: that of not doing whatever I wanted to do. I wish I were different, but that’s just the way it is, so if I do skip a day, I move heaven and earth to get back on schedule right away, and—this is vital—refuse to let perfect be the enemy of the good.

Today’s questions:

Do you have a daily word count or other goal? What has worked for you? How do you deal with the inevitable missed days?

As usual, my response is in the comments. We will revisit this topic a bit later in the series. Happy writing!

See also