Thursday, November 19, 2009

Obsessed with Numbers

For a bunch of people that claim to be addicted to words, the bulk of us are bunch of unwitting slaves to math geeks. We're all a bunch of numbers freaks.

Whether I'm hammering out words for the latest #wordathon on Twitter, or just trying to meet my daily goal of 1,000 or 2,000 or whatever number I've set for myself, or plowing my way toward 50,000 words in November for National Novel Writing Month, numbers dominate my writing experience.

Some days, I'm even counting how many words I'm writing per hour - which means I'm counting minutes, too! I need to stop.

That got me to thinking. I grew up in love with English class, and I hated math class. I took one math class in college - a wisely chosen course, where the bulk of the grade depended on three papers you wrote during the quarter. So why on earth am I so wrapped up in numbers?

The short answer is this: Well, what the hell. Everybody else I know worries about it, and it's gotten me some good buddies on Twitter. Besides, that's what agents and publishers want to know right off the bat. And it's easier to get locked into a routine if you get that "I'm shooting for 1,500 words every day" routine.

But it still seems bizarre to me. I hate numbers. I hate paying my mortgage (I still do, though), because of what it does to my bank account. And I need to get back to my former math-hating self, even if it's for just a short while.

So tonight I'll be naughty. For my nightly session, I'm just going to write. That's it. I'm not going to check my word count. I'm just going to go until I feel I should stop. And then I'm going to stop, shut the computer and go somewhere and read.

But it will probably be for one night only. I'll probably wake up in the morning and run to the laptop like it's my Christmas stocking to find out what my word count was from the night before, but still.

It's the principle of the whole thing.


  1. This numbers game was one of my greatest disappointents in the writing world. I mean, artists aren't told how mnay strokes they can use in a painting, right? So constricting. But it's the game we play if we want to publish. Regardless, I think your naughty idea is brilliant. Play hookie from the numbers game for a night. Just may try it myself (but then I'll just count pages, soooooo....)

  2. Dude, if you do your session tonight without paying attention to numbers... you might be my new hero!! I'd love to do that... But there's just something so gratifying to me to see my numbers GROW (I keep totally nerdy weekly spreadsheets).

    My professor turns his screen off and just types until he runs out of words. He doesn't edit, doesn't spell check, just writes. He doesn't look at it until the next day. It amazes me!

  3. lol You are right, of course!
    I was never much of a wordcounter before Twitter but I've found #writegoal to be one of the most productive tools I've ever discovered. Even though I rarely get a response, somehow just putting it out there makes me really want to get those words done and going for the wordcount helps me to put aside my internal editor (read: critic). I'd tried something similar with friends and family but there was TOO much pressure involved there and they aren't writers anyway so it just felt like an imposition.
    Let us know how your experiment goes!

  4. I did manage 2,625 words during my non-counting session. But I was glad that I didn't look until the next day.
    I'm sure I'll shoot right back to looking at words again now, since wordcounts are like crack, but maybe I'll throw the non-counting sessions in there more often.
    Thanks for the feedback!