250 words a day

That’s what I’m doing now. It’s not the 2000 words per day I did on my Stephen King summer, but it’s realistic, attainable and sustainable. It’s also much lower stress.

My job requires me to deal with angry and upset people while keeping my own cool and being nice to them. That creates stress. We also commute three hours a day, which is its own little chunk of stress, as is leaving the dog and cat on their own for – usually – thirteen hours at a time.

We had some added stresses this year, like a couple of weeks with no running water, and several months during which any use of water required repriming the pump, recharging the pressure tank and then turning the pump off so it wouldn’t suck air, overheat and melt important gaskety bits. I could do the dishes or take a shower, but not both on one prime. You get the idea.

I mentioned Gail Anderson-Dargatz last week, and her lovely no-sugar-coating look at the writer’s life. She said that 250 words a day was a good day’s work, and I felt my jaw drop. It took a minute to sink in. Here was a writer who had published more than ten books, telling me that perhaps I didn’t need to be quite so driven as I’ve usually been.

The more I thought about it, though, the more sense it made. Perhaps my recent burnout and reluctance to hit the page had more to do with my frenetic pace than I’d thought.

So my goal now is 250 words a day, when I’m writing something new. When I’m rewriting, as I am (again) with The Swan Harp, I like to get through three or four pages. And it’s working. I feel happy to get back to the page, whether it’s new words or rewriting previous ones. That’s a great feeling.

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2 Responses to 250 words a day

  1. Such good advice from your writer friend. I’m trying to remember … oh, yes. E.L. Doctorow on writing from The Paris Review interviews,


    I would say I’m at work six hours a day, although the actual writing might take fifteen minutes or an hour, or three hours. You never know what kind of a day it’s going to be; you just want to do whatever you set out to do. I type single space, to get as much of the landscape of the book as possible on one page. So if I do a single-space page with small margins, that’s about six-hundred words. If I do one page I’m very happy; that’s my day’s work. If I do two, that’s extraordinary. But there’s always a danger to doing two, which is you can’t come up with anything the next day.

    So yes to the 250. And so happy to see your posts.


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