I see it on many sites, in chat rooms, and posted on message boards all 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 post two thousand words on Microsoft Word doesn’t mean all of 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 time, effort, and paper. (Yeah, I wrote all of my original work on paper until just the last couple of years.) I’d spend hours pouring “great” ideas onto paper, certain that my first novel was writing itself. Of course, later in the day, just before bedtime, I’d snatch up the day’s five pages and have a proofread. Horror would fill my blood, polluting my sense of being an author, as I’d read 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!”
Any author will tell you that creativity can’t be forced. I learned years ago that if I am not motivated to write at any 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?
But here’s the thing: Word counts actually 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 himself that you have to match that count. Quality is always better than quantity.