I hate thinking about my daily writing quota.
Most writers live and publish by a quota, a magical number of words or pages of work they produce each day. Supposedly,
The truth is, I don’t actually have a quota, not if one insists on the notion of measuring effort in terms of something solid and concrete, like numbers of words. My quota is more elastic, more ephemeral if you will: it’s time spent writing. I write for two hours each day in the late morning, no matter what. (Okay, sometimes I’ll write for 45 minutes a day, or 20, but those days are rare.)
The problem with my type of quota is that I’m a word worrier. I can spend the entire two hours nibbling around the edges of a single paragraph. The next day, I might strike that paragraph and start over. With this method, productivity, as you might imagine, is quite the wild card.
I do have occasional spells when the writing flows–I bound through the pages effortlessly, like Emily Dickinson’s frigate on a following sea. But those happy periods of clear sailing are inevitably followed by a dead calm, and I get bogged down on a single page for days. Or a single sentence,
“Just keep going!” When we’re stalled, this is the sage advice we get from most writing teachers, critique groups, and professional writers, But so far I’ve been incapable of doing that. Sometimes I do leave a placeholder, something like, “Brilliant description of character goes here, but don’t do a generic description dump. Must be something fresh that will make the reader’s eyes widen in recognition.” One can take that kind of thing too far, however. You can wind up with an entire novel of placeholders, and then where would you be? Exactly where you started.
Well, now I’ve depressed myself simply by writing about my quota. What about you? What is your daily writing quota, when and where do you write, and how religious are you about keeping to it?
And if you write ten pages a day no matter what, don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the fact that I’ll be cranky at you for the rest of the day.