Measuring your writing output

Many of us strive to write every day, at least for 10 or 15 minutes, but how do we measure our output? Does it all add up to a full journal, to an essay, story, memoir? We know what drives us to write: the unavoidable, insatiable, need to write. But, maybe you could create a goal for yourself each day, and write to reach a specific result.

Here’s an excerpt from the Barnes & Noble Daybook:

March 12: Jack Kerouac was born on this day in 1922, and on this day in 1948, his twenty-sixth birthday, he enthusiastically noted in his journal his progress on his first published novel, The Town and the City:

Guess what?! — on my birthday today, wrote 4500-words(!) — scribbling away till six-thirty in the morning next day. A real way to celebrate another coming of age. And am I coming of age?…

A few days later, he happily redoes the math: “That’s 13,000 words in the past five days, since my birthday, a tremendous speed I’ve never equaled. Is it my old man hollering at me from the foot of the stairs as I get older?” Other journal entries show that Kerouac often measured his progress by word count. A tally taken in mid-November, 1944, estimated that in the previous five years, since age seventeen, he had logged some 600,000 words — “poems, stories, essays, aphorisms, journals, and nine unfinished novels.”

The next time you pick up your notebook to write, create a page with a few targeted goals. …. (develop your novel’s characters, write an anniversary essay, outline four ideas for articles,  reflect on the change in the air as the seasons trade places…)

Just by stating those goals, you may find your writing will be more focused and will help you attain that next big idea.


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