Setting up a daily word quota you have to hit can be an effective way to beat procrastination and improve your productivity–of course, provided you’re not like Douglas Adams, who is often quoted saying, I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
Famous quotes apart, some time ago I wrote about procrastination, and I must say I considered my daily word count the most important metric for productivity.
However, lately I’ve been examining a bit more deeply my writing habits and I discovered that a fixed daily quota can be ultimately of detriment to productivity.
Numbers. So precise and yet…so imprecise
For example, in my case I realized two extremely simple facts about myself.
The first is that I usually have more ideas than time to write them all down on paper. In fact, thankfully, writer’s block is something I experience once in a blue moon, to use a hackneyed phrase, and when I experience it, it lasts an afternoon or so, no more.
The second fact I noticed about myself is that I do love writing first drafts. And that I can write between 1000 and 2000 words a day for months without experiencing any particular strain.
As a matter of fact, I love first drafts so much my hard drives are brimming with them. But then, when it comes to editing, things change.
For me editing requires a colossal effort to get started. Even if once I’m hard at it I find it to be a challenging and stimulating activity.
Besides, once I’m done, I love comparing the first draft with the last edit of my works, to see the way I
hopefully managed to say all the things I wanted to say in a much better way. Indeed, I can say the difference between first draft and last edit is like a pill of pure endorphins.
The only downside is that such endorphin-induced euphoria doesn’t last long and the next editing session will see me postponing the work just the same…
Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods
As a result of this discoveries about myself I’m now toying with the idea of more activity-focused daily quotas.
For example, I’m thinking about setting a daily word quota for first drafts, and then complement it with a daily quota of hours to devote to editing.
In fact, if to some extent it is true that the more experienced you are the less you need to edit your first drafts, editing is like the magic potion for Asterix. It can give your writing superhuman strenght and scope.
And that’s of essential importance. Because, to use Mark Twain’s words, The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
And which writer doesn’t want to have at his disposal in his tool-box, a la Zeus, some lightning?
Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods. I love this quote. And I find it particularly appropriate it’s author is anonymous.