|You don't have time to stop for tea!|
But the biggest obsessive number for writers? Seems to me to be word count. Come on, how often have you seen a Twitter or Facebook or some other post in triumph or despair for a daily, weekly or whatever, count achieved or missed? There's even a month when it becomes a public obsession in the writing community - November, the famous, or infamous Nanowrimo when authors commit to totals and share war stories. I've never done it myself - far too scary - but I know those who have and lived to tell the tale.
But how many words are enough? And how long is your piece of string, Mrs Jones? You can bet, however good your total is for today, there will be someone who can better it. Do these people eat, sleep, go to the bathroom? When you start out you are told by the finger-waggers, and there are some, even in the writing community, who are, in general pretty nice people, that you must do a certain total, every day, even if it means getting up at even stupider o'clock than you do now. It scared me then and it depresses me now.
Because, you know what - (To use a phrase of the moment, which I've heard continuously on the radio and keep meaning to put into conversations in a book and keep failing to do so, because it is not my speech pattern, except I just did, Result! Yes, I know this is not a book - shall we get back to the point!) I've finally come round to the idea that word count is a very personal and changeable thing. The answer is it's whatever you can comfortably manage while being satisfied with the quality. I'm writing at the moment.(Don't hold your breath, the day job restarts this week.) My daily comfortable word count, derived from years of experience, is somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 words. That's a 'whole' day with those life pauses - eating, taking in the washing, putting out the bins and so on. Other days - it's whatever I can scramble. Last week I looked up at 11 pm and found out I was still writing. I manage about 3,500 that day, but that was an exception.
A very wise fellow author, who I worked with but never met, (the joys of cyber working) who was an award nominee for non fiction, to whom I was moaning that the only time I had to write was on the train into work and was therefore only managing 200 words a day, pointed out that by the end of the week I had 1,000 words. It cheered me up, and I've never forgotten it. Problem comes when the regular word count is zero, but that is another story.
So the point of all this rambling seems to be that you write what you can, when you can. But it probably won't stop you counting the words. It hasn't stopped me.