In the nutrition world, there’s this ever-worsening problem of people never actually learning how to embrace healthy eating and lifestyles because they get caught up in the numbers. They are so focused on eating a certain amount of calories or food groups or nutrients that they forget to pay attention to what actually matters: the food they’re eating and the exercise they’re participating in.
If there is ever a shift in thought, and we move toward focusing on the food and exercise itself instead of just the numbers, we will see a much more positive trend: an increase in overall health. (I’m sorry, I needed to get that last bit of my latest graduate course out of my system. All better now.)
The same exact principle can apply to writing, too (see? I wasn’t leading you astray). You are never going to make any progress toward your goals as a writer if you keep paying more attention to the numbers than you do the thing you are actually trying to accomplish.
We really need to stop constantly checking that word count. How many followers we have. How many pages we have to write today. How many words “behind” we are. It takes away from what really matters: what we’re actually writing. The meaning of the words that are on that page. The story we are trying to tell.
Does the length of your novel or short story REALLY matter? Is the number of books you sell or the number of posts you publish THAT important? Maybe a little. Just a little. But it’s not ABOUT that. You didn’t decide you wanted to be a writer because you wanted to be able to say, “Oh, yeah, I write 10,000 words a week for a living.” You decided you wanted to be a writer because you wanted to tell amazing stories, regardless of their length or how many people have read them.
Focusing too much on quantity stifles creativity. In some cases, you do have to mind your word count, like if you’re writing an article with a word minimum. Still, focusing on the content itself first is the most important thing. Numbers can and will hurt you.
So how do you stop paying so much attention to them? JUST WRITE. Don’t count pages. Don’t check how many words you’re at. Write until you think you’re satisfied and then trim and adjust as needed. Story first. Numbers last.
Do you have any tips for focusing less on numbers while you write? Share them below.
Image courtesy of morebyless/flickr.com.