Getting It Done: What Determines a Writing Quota?
by Franklin Leo
Writing is hard, and even for the experienced, it continues to be difficult. Whether it’s editing or drafting, there’s always a point when we find ourselves unable to move forward simply because time is such a huge issue.
I’ve instructed and tutored writing to college students for a few years, and I have only recently started to come out more as a furry author, but the number one thing that I hear from other writers or hopeful-writers is that there’s too much going on in their life.
Stephen King says in his memoir On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft that it’s best for one to get around 1,000 words a day down and written into some piece he or she’s working on. That alone is around four pages, and to some, the idea of doing so much so soon comes off like a triathlon equal to NaNoWriMo.
What matters, however, is that you get something down — anything down. Students tell me that they could only get a paragraph written. In college, that’s quite a bit, I tell them. Some often tell me that they could only get a sentence or two down because they had to do some reading. That’s okay as well. Reading and writing go together. You simply can’t do one without the other, I say.
I also tell them that some days, it’s okay to write more than other days. Some days, it’s okay to write nothing. What’s important is to discipline and let yourself write as much as you can, understand that there is no punishment for writing too little, and being there for yourself when you need it. Writing is part therapy and part communication. Try to write as much as you can, but also allow yourself the freedom that the work demands.
Personally, I stand by the 1,000 word quota, simply because it works for me. I enjoy it, I get good enough results from it, and it makes me feel accomplished. Have I ever questioned my own methods? Of course. Working as a writer is like working as your own personal trainer at the gym. You need to know how much, when, and in what way to push yourself. I continue to keep my quota going as long as I can, but with work and class (as well as different stories going on at the same time in my head), it’s just impossible to do everything that I wish.
What works? Again, it really depends. For someone, writing a couple of sentences before bed can be enough to get him or her going until the next day. For others, they may feel that 2,000 words a day is worthy of any acknowledgement. Working with others, as well, forces you to work as much as you can; several times, I’ve had other writers tell me that I’m just not writing enough, which is nice because they hold me accountable when I myself am unable to do so. Beating yourself up about it, however, is something a writer should never do. By changing writing into something that you have to do rather than what you get to do, you ultimately take the fun out of it. You ruin your chance of wanting to return to a story because it honestly gripped you. For a writer at any level, that there is the kiss of death, whiskers and all.
My students come to me every day when I’m in my school’s lab, and I get to hear how they enjoy writing now because they realize it’s not work — it’s fun when they allow for it.
That’s all you can ever do. Allow for it, and be proud of those moments when you do. That there will build you a quota and keep you pressing forward amidst a hectic schedule and series of setbacks.