Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A 1,277,500 Word Problem

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

[I wrote this in May. I didn't think it was that good, so I didn't post it. It's at least complete though, and better than the other one that I wrote, didn't think was all that good, but is complete.]

Ugh. What was I thinking? I started this year with a simple goal: write six pages a day. It doesn’t sound like much, does it? It’s only 420 pages every ten weeks. 420! Now I’m starting to sound high. That’s 2,190 pages by the end of the year. Sheesh.

To keep myself honest, I decided that I needed to write about 3,500 words a day, or it didn’t count as six pages. After all, a poem is less of a page than a page of a story. That’s only 1,277,500 words by the end of the year. How hard can that be? Just write one word at a time, right?

This is from my journal:

4-26-11, 1:47 am: According to my calculations, and I think they’re pretty close to accurate, I’ve written 209,723 words since the start of the year. I’m supposed to write 1,277,500 by the end of the year, so I’m about one-sixth of the way, which I think I should have been at the end of February. That’s not good.

I was supposed to write 245,000 in the first seventy days (ten weeks). I’m supposed to be at 490,000 by the end of May 15 (second ten weeks). That translates as about 360 pages of 840 pages.

I expected it not to be happy findings, but that’s seriously worse than I thought.

This is from now:

I’m not sure that things have improved since then. In fact, I’ve all but abandoned many of my year goals because I don’t have much time at home. I’m doing what I can at work, but this year hasn’t shaped up the way I planned. Though I’m starting to do well financially. I guess there is that.

I spoke in my post about the end of the second ten-weeks that I felt that I made a mistake by not using my notebook as much. I have gotten back in that habit of using the notebook, and keeping priorities in mind. I don’t know if I’m doing better than I was last ten-weeks, but I do at least feel more organized now.

One other thought, I’ve gotten back to the process of listing ideas for the blog each day and then picking the idea that interests me the most, which as this shows isn’t always the best idea. I’ll try to link to the first article I wrote about this, but I’m still having problems with the blog “compose” feature, so I’ll probably have to do it manually.

This idea was originally listed as “An 84,000 Word Problem” and it was either in January when I was supposed to have written 84,000 words, or it was later when I finally wrote 84,000 words, but was probably supposed to be at 160,000 words already. So the first point is that a simple synopsis of my thoughts on each of these ideas would be helpful so I remember what I was meaning to write about.

The second point is that if you do lists like this, it is sometimes important to bring back ideas that slipped off the list to see if you’re still interested in them. Sometimes after you write the idea you chose to write you have the four left over that were the best ideas, and you have to pick one that wasn’t the best to put on the list. If the next day you list ten new ideas and none of them are any good, suddenly after you write a good one, you now have a top five with two not so good ideas.

Let’s say that a while back you had a day where almost every idea on your list was good enough to at least attempt writing. In that case, you kept the five that most interested you, but drop nine others that may have been worth writing.

If you’re following this, you can see the potential issue. You might have dropped ideas that are worth trying to write, and a top five with a couple of not so great ideas on it. Really, there should never be a point where you have no good ideas at all on your list, and plenty of dropped ideas that should have been done, but just in case, every so often you should rotate some of the dropped ideas back onto the list. If they still aren’t good, they’ll fall off the list again, but if they are good, you just might pat yourself on the back.

For the record, this one only got put back on because I kept thinking about it, and I do realize that it’s not a great post, but it was what I was feeling compelled to write. Sometimes that’s the best way to go. That’s what having reserves are for.

I was telling a friend about the reserves idea when she was talking about how as a band your set list shapes up to what you want it to sound like when your band writes a good song and can drop one of the not so good songs from the set list. She pointed out that if you have three reserves for a blog, and you have to post one of the three reserves because the one you wrote wasn’t as good that eventually all of your reserves would be bad articles.

I’m not sure why, but my brain didn’t give me the proper answer to that. I thought about the fact that I’d recently posted my last reserve, and it was probably the worst of all my posts this year. I was standing there thinking, you know she’s right. The problem is that I forgot to mention that you gradually build the number of reserves so that you maybe have a good one in there still. I’m supposed to have seven reserves right now, and I suppose I do have most of them, but I’ve got to pull them out of the word processor file and put them in the draft folder on the blog. Just one more example of how I wasn’t focused last ten-weeks.

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