Words Per Day

You gotta love these armchair experts, don’t ya?

It wasn’t always the case, but this expectation that a writer needs to churn out a certain amount of work constantly gives me a chuckle these days (though heaven knows that chuckle’s always accompanied by an eye-roll).

I’ve learned over time just how different everyone’s lived experiences are. Those lived experiences help to define what kind of writer you grow into. And it’s not just someone’s socioeconomic status that determines this. Sometimes, it’s their mental health or even simply how that writer works.

I don’t write for more than four hours a day. I know that I produce my best stuff within that window. Some days, however, are spent fine-tuning stuff I’ve already written, which means that I won’t be chalking up a sizeable word count—but fine-tuning as I go is how I get the most out of my stories.

If I sound annoyed or defensive, it’s because I am. I’ve seen and heard these unrealistic expectations, or something like ’em, a thousand times. “You have to write every day or you’re not a writer.” “You have to write this many words per day or you’re not a writer.” “You have to sacrifice a goat in the middle of a forest under the light of a full moon or you’re not a writer.” Yeah, okay, I made that last one up, but it’s about as valid as the other two—which is to say, not at all. It’s a fetishisation of craft—but more than that, it places priority on creating over the creator.

I’m a firm believer that art is never, ever as important as people. That means a responsibility, not to censor, but to be aware of how your art can affect a person or a group of people—and, to the best of your abilities, create work that would do no harm. But it also means understanding that you shouldn’t have to suffer to produce good work too.

(I know, I know. I should just take John Scalzi’s approach and brush it off. But what’s the point of a blog if you can’t have a good rant every now and then, right?)