One aspect of Weekly Words has been the opportunity for me to gauge my writing productivity. Obviously. I have a weekly-word count and everything. But the reason I thought this could be a good thing initially was doing Nanowrimo. Nanowrimo is, as far as I am concerned, a wonderful invention that any writer who wants to test their productivity and self-discipline – or just wants to get some damn writing done – should try at least once.
To be honest, though, it’s never really worked for me as a source of motivation. It’s worked for me as a tool for organising my motivation into achievable, measurable goals, but that’s assuming I am already motivated to do some writing in the first place. Nanowrimo itself has never instilled within me a sense of urgency or purpose – I’m not saying that it’s supposed to, or fails as an experiment because it doesn’t, just noting that, without that motivation, Nanowrimo has never helped me to be more productive than I would have been without it.
Every time Nano or Camp Nano rolls around, I totally buy into the fantasy – this time, I’ll get my shit together, power through a month of hard-core, intensive, hyper-competent-author writing, and have something to show for it at the end. This time, I will get an entire first draft done in a month. And every time, what stops me from doing this boils down to one simple question.
An entire first draft of what?
I love the fantasy of having a project I’m so over the moon about that I can’t wait to write it every day. I’m pretty sure I’ve only had that experience five times in my life – I can literally count them all on one hand. It may be that this goal is far too idealistic. But even then, there’s nothing that I actually want to devote that much time to writing. I have no passion project, no burning curiosity to explore, no experiments just bursting to be conducted – I’m out of juice, and Nanowrimo seems like the kind of undertaking that requires a lot of juice, because that is a pretty tall order to fill.
And in fact, that’s probably the main issue – it’s not so much that I don’t have anything I’m interested in writing at all. It’s that I see the 50k word-count goal and think: I do not have the energy to hit that target. I may be perfectly wiling to try out certain projects that I’m less-than-certain about, but not with that level of commitment. The issue with Nanowrimo is that it’s very all or nothing, and if you decide that the project you’re working on isn’t working out halfway through the month you’ve just wasted however many thousands of words of effort in terms of hitting the Nanowrimo quota. I suppose the idea is that you make yourself commit to it anyway, which is not a bad thing, but it’s also not necessarily a realistic thing – for me, anyway, not in the place that I’m at with my projects. Again, if you have the motivation, I think Nano is a great way to channel your energy productively.
But without it, I think there are more productive things that can be done.
For me, that’s been Weekly Words. The weekly word-count goal was something I had to get used to easing up on, not be so pedantic about – it’s good to have the motivation and sense of urgency and I do think I will try harder to reach that 10k/week average going forward, but I’m also glad that I was able to take a step back and have it as an ideal, rather than a bare minimum standard of productivity or success. And the fact that it’s not any one project that can count towards those 10k words is also very liberating. I think, having opened it up so much, I should definitely take advantage of it – more so than I have been doing. I think that’s partly the week-to-week mentality being quite restrictive in its own way, and reminds me that setting longer-term goals – goals over a month, or even a year – is something I have said numerous times I would try to do more consistently, to alleviate some of the pressure and hopefully make it more likely that balls actually get started rolling.
But overall, lacking the motivation to commit to any one single project, Weekly Words has given me a way to measure my productivity and, importantly, commitment as a writer without having to put all of my eggs in one basket. I used to spend a lot of time agonising over the fact that I wasn’t writing – which I still do, though a bit less so since starting Weekly Words – but more than that, I now realise, I agonised over the fact that I wasn’t working on a specific project. I measured my success and progress as a writer in terms of whether or not project X was getting any attention, and Nanowrimo only exaccerbates that kind of judgmental tunnel-vision for me – there are so many other ways to measure one’s writing capacity than judging based on how much we work on any one single project. I mean, we’re writers. Most of us have a few irons in the fire at any given time, whether we want to admit it or not, and while I think Nanowrimo has many strengths, accounting for that reality is not one of them. And that is reality for me right now.
For anyone who is doing Camp Nano this July – best of luck! Write hard, practice good self-care and, above all, honour the promises that you make to yourself (as long as they are healthy and achievable). As for me, I will wait until the day that I do have that one perfect project that I can’t keep myself from writing to take advantage of what I think Nano has to offer. For now, though, I have too many options to play with right now for me to want to pick any one of them over any of the others – so, I won’t. I don’t need to. I’ve got time, and I’ve got a system that seems to work pretty well for how I want to spend it, even if I do constantly wish I took more advantage of it. But I think it’s going pretty well.
Although having said that, if I was in the position to be revising Mark and Jessie by now, my perspective might have been a little different, so come November this year … watch this space.