Success is not measured by word count.

Yesterday, Laura LaRocca, fellow NaNoWriMo participant and writing buddy, wrote on Facebook, “Onano_09_blk_participant_100x100_1_pngn some days, success is not measured by word count.” That’s where I am at the end of the second week of NaNo. I have written over 19,000 words, but am many short of today’s NaNo word count goal. But the word count I have is so many more than I had two weeks ago, and 6,000 more than I wrote in July when I conscientiously wrote every day for a month. I have been successful in other ways, too. The pile of test papers that I have to mark is diminishing, I worked outside in glorious warm sunshine yesterday, my kitchen is clean, and I watched a mushy movie with my husband last evening while my son wrote up a NaNoWriMo storm and had a blast doing it.

This is a day to be proud of my accomplishments—and to also keep writing and recommit to the next 2 weeks. If I can write every day for a month, just think where I can be if I write every day for the rest of my life.

So, how do I keep the incentive going? Why did I write every day in July and then stop?

In July, I had a group of writerly friends who agreed to a challenge for the month. We each chose our own particular daily writing goal. When we had completed our goal for the day, we sent an email to the rest of the group with the word “done” in the subject line. NaNo makes you accountable to post your progress and lets you see what your writing buddies are doing every day; our “done” challenge worked in a similar way. It was important for us to get our “done” email send by the end of the day, some scrambling to send their emails just before midnight in order to make the deadline.

The idea of “done” came from an article that I read in a writers’ magazine in which an author said she belonged to a writing group who did this. I proposed it as a challenge to our group and everyone agreed it was a great success. And nearly everyone lost the daily writing habit when the month was over.

I’ve already talked to a couple of writer friends about keeping up the NaNo habit after November with our own “done” project and I believe we’ll make it work. We’re a lot of other things, too: moms, wives, knitters, cooks, teachers, TV and nature watchers. But when the writer piece of our personal puzzles is missing, the world just isn’t right. Success for us is sitting at the keyboard every day and fitting that writer piece of the puzzle into our lives. It will be good to be “done.”

13 thoughts on “Success is not measured by word count.

  1. Isn’t it weird the way the writing just drains out of people at the end of NaNoWriMo? Surely there should be some way to form an international writing group from it that would keep going and keep coaching each other.

  2. I especially love your observation that we are many things — in fact more than the sum of these parts. I too am a wife, mother, office manager (full time), knitter, sister, friend. I define myself as a writer, because that is the permanent piece of my particular puzzle. I’ve been a daugher, caring for aging and dying parents. All of these duties have, at various times, taken precedence over writing, but none have dislodged it from my life. It remains that necessary part of my self that cannot pass.

    When counting words, be prolific. When not counting words, enjoy life, and allow that quality of enjoyment to add dimension to your writing.

    Donna Carrick

  3. I agree. I am participating in NaNoWriMo (and I admit I like saying NaNoWriMo as much as I like participating in it!) But I really cannot keep up this pace for the other 11 months of the year. I’m exhausted every night and my house is very messy. And my kids have been somewhat neglected. Perhaps I could set a shorter word count goal for each month or day and mark it DONE. I am proud of all of us who are writing. Keep at it!

  4. I would love to be part of your year-round “done” group. NaNo has taught me a great deal about my potential as a writer, about using the BIC method (Butt In Chair) to just get my words for the day out… and even though it’s been hard sometimes, I don’t want it to end.

    • The more I think about it, the more I think that a post-NaNo “Done” group would be a good idea. Let me think about it and how it could be managed. Maybe a Google group would be the answer. I’m going to work on it and see what I can come up with by the end of November. I’ll post about it here and on Twitter. I’m @hwrightwriter.
      Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. We did something similar a couple months back, using twitter instead of emails. We all had a daily word count goal and had to tweet our wordcount before midnight, using a certain hashtag. If you didn’t make it, you were knocked out.

    It was really inspiring, and because it was such a small, focused group, most of us stayed motivated enough to finish.

    I don’t know if I could do that every day, though. I think eventually under continuous pressure I’d get burned out.

    • I think the writing every day part sounds good, but the consequences for missing?–ouch! I think if I were going to go for something like this on an ongoing basis, I’d be looking for a little give in the system for those days when life gets in the way. A Twitter hashtag might be the place to go with this one. I’m definitely thinking of following up after NaNo. Good luck with your writing!

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