Falling into the ‘Forced Writing Trap’

As I trawl through the offerings of other ‘writer bloggers’ on WordPress, I regularly come across two personal niggles.

The first is people blogging simply to tell the world EITHER that they are feeling totally uninspired, and can’t write a single word, OR to report exactly how inspired they are feeling, by telling us all EXACTLY how many words/pages they have written that day.

And that is ALL they write in a blog post!

Really?  Is this the kind of stuff you want to waste your words on?  There are only 24 hours in a day … both yours, and mine … please don’t waste them with blog posts like that!  Even if I were your Mum I wouldn’t want to know this kind of stuff!

I’d rather read an opinion, a paragraph of pose, a poem …  Think about it – your blog-post has a short shelf life on the WordPress ‘Recently Posted’ Writing Page. Don’t put off future readers by catching their eye with a mundane post like that! They won’t ever come back!  Complaints about writer’s block, or self-congratulatory back-patting over a couple of paragraphs of writing should be reserved for the private sphere.

Either get a journal … or if you still insist on addressing the blogosphere, then turn it into something positive. Write about how you cure your personal writer’s block, or what helps inspire you on ‘good writing days’ …  At least a reader can take something from those kinds of posts.

My second niggle is what I like to call the  ‘Forced Writing Trap’.

While I understand that every now and again writers may need a metaphorical kick up the bum to write, I’m really against setting a specific goal of words to write each day.

Like any author, I go through periods of hyper-creativity, and phases of zero-creativity. I have days where I stare at a page and am happy to complete a full sentence, and other days where I’m forced to stop simply because my lap-top battery has run out, or it’s 4am and I’m meant to be up again in three hours.

But rather than reprimand myself for not making a word quota, or seeing a super-creative day as meaning I don’t have to write for another three day, I prefer to simply roll with the punches, and treat each day as it comes.

Writing a novel shouldn’t be a series of daily battles, but one long war.  Sometimes that means you don’t write for a week, and other times it means all you do for three days is hack away at your laptop.

I can understand that committing to a ‘5000 words per day’ regime may discipline you to write … I just think that where a novel is concerned, if you insist on writing 5000, or however many, words a day, every day, you are often going to produce 5000 words of crap!

On my zero-creativity days, if I were to force my novel forward 5000 words, what I’d most probably be doing would be setting my book back at least 2 days of re-writing.

Instead, on those days when I sit down at the computer, and can’t see a path through the metaphorical trees, I find other tasks.  I might do administrative chores linked to my book – like numbering and heading pages, or keeping track of the developing stories or character profiles.  Or if there’s a particular topic the book requires me to know about, I might do some research.  Another positive thing I often do when I’m not feeling creative enough to write, is to edit.  I look back over previous chapters, and sometimes simply re-reading a chapter or two will get me into the correct frame to continue with the story.

And if that still doesn’t work … I don’t push it.  I read something else, or heaven forbid … DON’T DO ANYTHING!  Writing shouldn’t be a chore.  We do it because we love it.  It’s the future career we’ve chosen for ourselves … and for the first couple of years at least, we’ve chosen it not for monetary recompense, but for a creative outlet.  So why would you force that outlet?  Shouldn’t it be fun?  And shouldn’t you be proud of what you write?

If I read 5000 words I’ve written, I want to feel proud of them.  I want them to be polished and perfect, and the best 5000 words I could have used to describe that particular scene.  I don’t simply want them to be five thousand random words … because I NEEDED the word count reader to say ‘5000’.

Just to clarify, this isn’t me complaining about those of you blogging everyday.  As I’ve explained before, in The Author, The Journalist and The Blogger I address fiction writing very differently to blog writing, and don’t have any problem with people resolving to write a blog post every day, because the blogs stand alone each day, and a bad day of blogging won’t wreck a whole story.  However, saying that, I will obviously object if all your ‘blog every day’ does is tell me how many words you have or haven’t written that day 😉

On a personal note – I signed up to Script Frenzy … which some might see as a ‘Forced Writing Trap’ – 100 words of a script in a month.  But with Script Frenzy, I simply see it as a task you could give yourself a month to complete.  An inspiration, rather than a set word count governing your day.  And in that light, I have to admit to taking it rather liberally so far … In the absence of Final Draft, I’ve been struggling to form my words into an acceptable script format.  As a result, this month, whenever I’ve felt the need to write, I’ve found myself turning to blog posts instead of the script.  But rather than punishing myself for not fulfilling my ‘Script Frenzy’ commitment, I’m simply happy to be creating something legible.

Should I tell you how many words I wrote today now? 😉

C-C xxx


Filed under Blogging, C-C Lester, Unsigned Author Commentary, Writing

8 responses to “Falling into the ‘Forced Writing Trap’

  1. I completely agree that a daily writing goal forces you to write, and may conclude with a pathetic batch of 5000-words, either in a blog or your project. I’ve never set a goal (never needed to), just for this reason. I enjoy writing, and will do it when I darn well want to.

  2. OH, MY GOSH! I loved this blog post! I am glad that I’m not the only one who thinks this too. I’ve looked through the “Tags” and a lot of blogs are only like five sentences. (Occasionally, I have been known to complain about something too, but I at least try to add an opinion, or a question to my blog).

    Great blog! 🙂

    • ha ha cheers hun 🙂 glad I didn’t offend!!!! I get SO narked off when I click on a blog only to find a couple of inane sentences! I’ve also found that the first couple of paragraphs make or break a blog post for me – unwittingly I huff out loud ‘This isn’t very good …’ and if my boyfriend’s on the couch next to me he’ll ask why, and my explanation is normally that the opening reads poorly and so I don’t have the inclination to read on
      C-C xx

  3. Pingback: Give Yourself an ‘Inspirational Day’ | elementarycircle

  4. You have some very good points! I agree with the idea of editing or doing administrative things on days when you don’t have the writing spark.
    Once I tried to do “X number of words every day”, but it didn’t quite work for me.
    However, I do try to commit to write every so often in order to allow myself to do it. It’s a way for me of saying “it’s all right to take writing seriously” because otherwise it’s very easy for other things to get in the way. So it’s not about forcing myself to write, but about taking the time I need to do it.
    And then there’s NaNoWriMo. That I do because I find it refreshing. Yes, there are less productive days, but overall I get into a certain writing mood that lasts all month and I don’t find that I get writer’s blocks. It’s an almost euphoric feeling to write like that for me, but I couldn’t do it more than once or twice a year.

  5. jolynproject

    I really enjoyed this blog post. I’m always wondering how journalists can write under strict deadlines because I would think, many times, the words are forced out but I guess they manage since it’s not fiction writing. However, I guess sometimes the best work comes out of pressure. Anyway, I am getting a little off topic so I’ll end it by saying great post and great ideas on what to do during off days.

  6. Pingback: Emotional Jump-starts | elementarycircle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s