“There are a handful of unfinished stories. And in my head none of them are really dead. Only sleeping.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

but these words are also words
Tue 2017-08-15 01:23:31 (in context)

This is a blog post about self-accountability, self-appreciation, and word count. What words count? All words count. Because I wrote them, and I can count them.

Someone in one of my Habitica guilds created us a new guild Challenge--a set of Habits, Dailies, and To-Dos for us to add to our personal dashboards and compete with one another in completing. Or, more likely (knowing us), compete with ourselves and root each other on. These were, of course, writing challenges--hence my bothering telling you so. The hope was that as a result we'd also see more activity in Guild Chat, which had been mostly hitherto abandoned for Party Chat. This was unfortunate, because not everyone in our Guild is in the Party. Some of them are in other Parties, and you can't be in more than one Party at one time. So our friend created this Guild challenge.

The Challenge included some Habits which were daily word-count milestones: 100 words, 250, 750, and 1500. I wanted to participate, but up until then I hadn't really tracked word count per day--not outside of NaNoWriMo, anyway. I was only tracking hours per day spent on each day's writing tasks.

So I started tracking word count. I added a new column to my timesheet and started noting the amount of words written as well as the amount of time spent on each task.

Purely editing tasks weren't compatible with this, but it's amazing how few of my tasks are purely editing. I started noting how many words I'd added to that week's fictionette. I started noting how many words happened during freewriting. I even started jotting down the word-count of the daily blog post.

And I felt a little uneasy about this. Should I really "count" the words written in freewriting or blogging? Shouldn't I only count words written in new story drafts? Seriously, wasn't I just gaming the system?

Well, no. Not so much. What I was actually doing was giving myself an extra incentive to do my daily writings tasks. Furthermore, I was giving myself an excuse to celebrate having accomplished those tasks. And I needed that excuse, because the very fact of my questioning whether they "counted" revealed a nasty habit of self-sabotage.

I had convinced myself that some writing "didn't count." I'd convinced myself that I didn't deserve to feel proud of myself for accomplishing certain tasks. I could feel guilty for failing to accomplish them, but I wasn't allowed to celebrate succeeding. They didn't "count" as accomplishments.

Basically, it was the same ugly attitude I remember in my grandmother. I was very young and, in the way of the very young, acutely aware of parental injustice real and imagined. In this case, I maintain even now, it was real. I had noticed that she was swift to punish me for breaking her labyrinthine rules of etiquette and politeness, while my behaving well earned me merely neutral treatment. Basically, the best I could hope to earn with my very best behavior was not being punished. This seemed unfair. My very best behavior wasn't easy! I just wanted to know she appreciated the effort. But she said "Why should I reward you for doing what you ought to be doing already?"

(To be fair, this is the same argument we feminists use against men who demand gratitude and and a steady girlfriend as a reward for not having raped anyone. To be even more fair, these men are adults and theoretically no longer in the stage of childhood where they still need to be taught what good behavior is, or where they feel rewarded by any attention at all and so it behooves parents to reward good behavior with positive attention. Also, we aren't their parents.)

So, yeah. I'd come to define certain writing tasks as "what I ought to be doing already," so when I did them, I didn't think it much to brag on. Doing them wasn't enough to save me from the self-loathing of "Call yourself a writer? When did you last work on a salable story, huh? What have you done for your career lately?" ... it was only enough to reduce the self-loathing to "Well, at least you did something. You're not totally hopeless, I guess."

Which is no way to live.

At one point a while back, I had a big difficult email to write--lots of effort, difficult topic, project I had no enthusiasm for---and I resented the way it was going to crowd out my real writing hours. I decided that since it was writing, of a sort, I might as well count it toward my daily timesheet. If I had to do it, I might as well consider its hours as counting toward my 5-hour goal rather than bemoan its putting that goal out of reach.

Today I also had a difficult email to write. And I had a similar epiphany: Maybe I could break through the resistance by reclassifying it as one of this afternoon's writing tasks. I would put it on my timesheet, log the hours spent writing it, and also log the word count. Then I'd actually get something out of the ordeal besides the frustration of having lost the time I could have spent working on, say, my new story for Podcastle's Halloween-themed submission window.

So that's how an extra 3 hours 15 minutes and 1600 words got added to today's tally of writing done and words written. They weren't easy words or hours, so I'm damn well going to count them. (Also I spent about 20 minutes and 400-some words brainstorming on the Halloween submission, so win-win.)

I'm not going to get silly. I'm not going to start counting my hours spent and words written on reading blogs and writing comments thereon. But I'm not going to discount writing accomplishments anymore simply because they aren't the right shape. All the words count because I wrote them. I wrote them because they were worth writing. If they were worth writing, they damn well count. OK? OK.

This blog post is 1,051 words long and took 45 minutes to write. And that was worth writing, too.