Optimal Daily Word Count

photo of a stack of magnetic poetry words to illustrate story on optimal daily word quota for a writer
Photo by Steve Johnson

The habits of famous writers are a source of fascination and perhaps inspiration for book lovers and aspiring writers: aesthetics of their writing retreat; curios in their space; rituals performed before sitting down to work; writing tools; and, perhaps ‘easiest’ for the aspiring writer to replicate: their daily word quota.

Should we follow Michael Crichton’s gruelling 10,000 words per day, or keep it easy breezy at Ernest Hemingway’s 500?

To answer this question, I looked at available data on 39 famous writers and drew inferences on:

– Relationship between daily word quota and rewards

– Gender influence on daily word quota and rewards

– Perceived value of effort and output, and its influence on the writer’s psyche

– Optimal daily word count

relationship between daily word quota and rewards: effort vs. reward matrix

‘Reward’ for one’s efforts is subjective and depends as much on the individual writer’s outlook as on the person making the comparison. Generally, writers want their words to be read, and to be read usually requires publication. Expectations of monetary reward and/or fame with publication will obviously vary, so I based ‘Reward’ on rate of publication (based on total number of publications and years between first and last publication, with year of death used where last publications were posthumous). Word quota of the 39 famous writers was based on an insightful  article by Amanda Patterson, founder of writerswrite.co.za.

Sorting the writers into quartiles for both ‘Effort’ and ‘Reward’, it was possible to plot them on a variation of an Action Priority Matrix (APM), a time management tool for prioritising work based on relative effort against rewards. APM divides tasks into four quadrants:

  1. Quick Wins (low effort, high reward)
  2. Major Projects (high effort, high reward)
  3. Hard Slogs (high effort, low reward)
  4. Fill Ins (low effort, low reward)

effort reward matrix for 39 famous writers words per day and publications per year action priority matrix

It is interesting to note an almost even split of writers in opposing quadrants, with the bulk of the group split between the low-effort/low-reward and high-effort/high-reward quadrants (40% and 35% fell into ‘Fill Ins’ and ‘Major Projects’ respectively, and 15% and 20% in the ‘Quick Wins’ and ‘Hard Slogs’ quadrants respectively). I can only assume that this trend (with all things being equal) can be attributed to more daily words generally leading to more potential publishable output, and conversely for less words.

Quick Wins are where you get huge returns for little effort. Proponents of APM focus on these tasks. Only a small number of writers fell in this quadrant, with none in the extremity of minimal effort (500 – 750 words/day) and maximum rewards (2.1 – 20.4 publications/year). The lesson here is that writing takes discipline and work (effort): as attractive as a quick win may be, it is a rarity.

Major Projects are those that reap rewards but are time consuming. The highly prolific writers of the group (2.1 – 20.4 publications/year) have a higher daily quota (> 3,000 words per day)– they’re hanging out in the upper right hand side of Quadrant 2. APM recommends working in this quadrant only some of the time, but as a writer,

is it possible to  immerse yourself in your craft only some of the time?

As an aspiring writer not yet reaping monetary rewards, the deterrent to working in this area is the reality of other obligations and a need to earn an income, but let’s be honest and ask ourselves:

is potential writing time  being squandered on unnecessary activities?

Hard Slogs may make one feel they are getting nowhere. Some writers (as you can see in Quadrant 3) put in huge amounts of daily writing but have a low publication rate. APM recommends abandoning these tasks. This then begs the question:

is publication the only motivator?

Writing surely has other benefits as a conduit to understanding life, meaning and one’s self, and connecting with your life purpose. Only 5% of this group fell in the extreme of this quadrant: maximum effort (3,000-10,000 words per day) and minimal output (0.3 – 0.6 publications/year).

Writers with the lower degree of effort (500 –1,000 words per day) fell largely in the Fill Ins Quadrant (4) with a low reward (0.3 – 1 publication/year). ‘Fill Ins’ by its very name is a space for tasks of the lowest priority, when you probably have something better to do. APM recommends working on these tasks only if you have time to spare, and either dropping or delegating them. For an aspiring writer juggling realities of life and conflicting priorities, that might well be all the time available (and a better alternative to engaging a ghost writer). A little is better than nothing; after all, it has worked for the likes of Barbara Kingsolver, Ian McEwan and J.G. Ballard.

The median effort (1,000 words per day) seems a happy ground for possibility, with writer’s who adhere to this quota represented in each quartile of rewards.

The tipping point of > 1 publication/year seems to be the adoption of > 1,400 words per day.

In reviewing bibliographies, I noticed that writers with high output tended to have a higher proportion of short stories, novellas and articles in their bibliography than more arduous writing projects (novels, memoirs). Among them are Jack London, one of the first writers to become well known for magazine fiction; Earl Stanley Gardner who published 588 short stories or novellas; and John Creasey whose 600+ publications included the use of a phenomenal 28 noms de plume!

gender influence on daily word quota and rewards: mind the gap

What is the story in the distribution of women across the matrix?

Mind_the_gap1

15 of the 39 writers are women (in white to locate them with a quick scan).

A clear majority (47%) of the women fell into the lower quartiles for both effort and reward (‘Fill Ins’, Quadrant 4). This seems to align with biases borne of traditional [binary] gender stereotypes and the patriarchal nature of the industry: difficulty in securing publication; under-representation in shortlisting for awards; impact of child rearing on women’s careers; and, perhaps greater aspirations of work/life balance among women.

Interestingly, the sole woman in the high-effort/high-reward quadrant (Susan Wittig Albert) only dedicated herself fully to writing after abandoning her full time job well after her 3 children had entered adulthood. Prior to being a full time writer, she was already eschewing stereotypes, with achievements that include being the first female Vice President of Southwest Texas State University.

perceived value of effort and rewards: the writers psyche, happiness

perceived-value-vs-effort
Source: Andrezej Marczewski

Using the matrix, it was only possible to gauge extrinsic rewards. To assess the writer’s degree of satisfaction with their reward for the effort expended, I took a leaf out of an interesting article by Andrezej Marczewski, a gamification expert who plots the game player’s emotional experience across the spectrums of perceived effort and perceived value of reward.

Marczewski’s ideas draw on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi‘s Flow Theory, which applies science to that holy grail of creative endeavours: being in the zone, as well as Effort Justification (an off-shoot of cognitive dissonance theory) based on the idea that people place greater value on outcomes achieved through greater effort.

I superimposed Marczewski’s graph on my effort/reward matrix to uncover the writers’ perception of their rewards for effort.

effort reward matrix for 39 famous writers words per day and publications per year with perceived value of reward vs. effort overlay flow theory effort justification action priority matrix

The figure with the overlay indicates a contradiction between perceived value of reward and the the APM approach for prioritising tasks. ‘Valued’ and ‘Satisfied’ fall in the two quadrants that the APM approach advises against (‘Fill Ins’ and ‘Major Effort’: Quadrants 4 and 2 respectively), and the recommended ‘Quick Wins’ (Quadrant 1) apparently leaves one ‘Confused’ –  likely to do with not having clarity on how the effort is translating into such large rewards. This contradiction highlights the limitation of using APM as it takes a narrow view of ‘Reward’. No surprise that we see most of these famous and published authors falling into ‘Valued’ and ‘Satisfied’. Remember the discussion on gender? Well, ‘Satisfied’ seems to be the state of most women writers in the group.

In interpreting the matrix with the overlay, it is important to bear in mind the arbitrary placement of names in the smallest squares of the matrix; it is easy for the placement of a writer in the overlaying graph to shift, e.g. Grahame Greene could be in the ‘Happy’ or ‘Confused’ sections depending on placement within his square (it would have required more of my time to create a more exact placement, time I’ve instead spent writing). The only ‘certainties’ are those in the extremities of the underlying matrix, i.e. the three outer squares that fall in ‘Satisfied’, ‘Valued’ and ‘Insulted’. To assess how much weight to place on the perceived value of reward,  I picked a writer in each of these 3 categories and was struck by how easily I found information in the public domain to support their suggested states:

  • Satisfied: Arthur Hailey dedicated a lot of time to researching his works, which may explain the low output. In an interview two years before his death, he said ‘I have worked hard, but I have also been very lucky.’
  • Valued: Erle Stanley Gardner was, at the time of his death, the best-selling American writer of the 20th century.
  • Insulted: This area overlaps the ‘Hard Slog’ of high-effort/low-reward. Norman Mailer’s obituary noted his masochistic tendencies.

With a little less ‘certainty’ I also looked at the other categories:

  • Rewarded: W. Somerset Maugham was among the most popular writers of his era and apparently the highest paid author of the 1930’s.
  • Confused: Graham Greene had a thing for dividing his works into ‘thrillers’,  ‘entertainments’ and for more literary works, ‘novels’ but this caused confusion to himself and readers, and the categories were eventually abandoned, with all now called ‘novels’. As further indication of confusion- Greene thought it was ‘novels’ that earnt him his literary reputation.
  • Happy: Kate De Camillo is the author of the beautiful children’s book The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. A quote from the book speaks of a writer that gets the stuff of happiness: if you have no intention of loving or being loved, then the whole journey is pointless…
  • Apathetic & Unmotivated: These are difficult to discern, as they are not necessarily states that a person would disclose publicly. It should also be noted that with the arbitrary placement of a writer’s name in their square, it is possible that none of the 39 writers fell into these areas.

optimal daily word count words for the aspiring writer

So, after delving into the bibliography and daily word quota of 39 famous writers; dipping our toes into statistics and matrices; and, applying psychology to discern the writers’ psyche’s,

what lessons can the aspiring writer take away?

Prolific writers tend to have a higher daily quota; no surprises as they have more room to uncover gems among their 3,000+ words per day to add to their publication tally.

1,000 – 1,400 words per day quota is the level where possibilities are open for a range of prolificacy, but even as little as 500 words per day can help you achieve your writing goals and give you satisfaction.

We are a species motivated by rewards. One way to increase extrinsic rewards for your efforts is to diversify your publication venues and writing form to get the occasional ‘Quick Wins’ rather than focusing on just the one ‘Major Project’ of writing that great (insert nationality) novel. Consider also whether you are challenging yourself and working hard to achieve your writing goals as that can make all the difference not only in honing your craft, but also in the intrinsic reward of finding contentment.

Whatever your quota, make it daily!

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92 thoughts on “Optimal Daily Word Count

    1. Says the published poet (whose chapbook I own) with a bunch of adoring fans and no doubt tens of dollars he’s made from his poetry 😂

      What will you do if you quit? Is it an option? I think you’re secretly happy!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Lucky for us. You know, I think flow theory really explains the driver behind why we continue to write when there is no publisher in sight, news of an award nomination or hundreds of ‘likes’. Being in ‘flow’ is that feeling I am sure you know where you are immersed in your creative world and have no room for any other thought, concern or desire. In the study he carried out with a range of artists, Csikszentmihalyi found a lot of them describing a sense of being outside of themselves when in ‘flow’ – that is stepping into a spiritual realm in my opinion and if you are able to get in touch with that, life has more meaning and joy. I think that feeling is what keeps you at it, regardless of what the world thinks or any extrinsic rewards that you do or don’t get for it. To be in ‘flow’ though requires high skill and high challenge, i.e. you have to keep working at the craft and also challenging yourself (which your poetry clearly demonstrates)…If you click on the link where I mention flow theory, it’ll take you to a TED talk by Csikszentmihalyi which I found interesting.

        Liked by 5 people

      2. I’ve also found that flow, to a lesser extent, in playing music – becoming lost in the practice, of working on technique, concentrating, but not thinking too much. Going with the flow, so to speak. 🙂 And thanks for the link. I’ve dipped into C’s books, but it’s been decades.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Interesting that you’ve read his books! Maybe your skill level is higher in poetry than music, hence getting there to a lesser extent through music? I have found ‘flow’ while solving math problems- in fact that is the first experience of flow that I have had, but I think it has now been too many years to experience anything but frustration with math.

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      4. A blessing indeed 🙂 I’m sorry I haven’t kept up with your daily poetry for Tupelo- I usually read from reader while on the train with intermittent internet connection. It is possible to read posts that are in reader from the last connection, but having to click and navigate to a new page is not possible until connection returns.

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    1. Thanks Kathy, and thanks for noticing  it never feels like ‘work’ though when you do something you love- I found the research and thinking on this so interesting. I am so glad you have found motivation through this- although it seems you are already quite driven and dedicated to your writing. Who needs luck when you can tap into ‘flow’?

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much. So glad you found it interesting. Don’t be too hard on yourself. I am sure that the sunshine and summertime fun will have planted seeds for whatever transpires when you sit back down to write. Pre-summer, did you have a regular writing habit/ daily quota?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You know, I really don’t set quotas. I just formulate in my mind what I want to write, then I want to sit down and write it. In this case, I wanted to write a book for kids and address materialism. I am a substitute teacher, and I see how much emphasis the kids place on expensive things, and I wish so much they could see the things that really matter in this world. But of course, I still have the idea, so I just need to get busy. I did manage to get a lot of other things done over the summer, so I will take your advice and not beat myself up over it. Thank you!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I don’t have quotas either- just try to set some time most days for writing- but I’ll need some kinda quota during NaNoWriMo- which is what sent me down the rabbit hole that inspired this post haha. Your book idea sounds great! My son is at the easy age where pleasure is had from the simplest things. His latest fave toy is a ratty old bus that I bought from an op shop. Good luck with that book – you’ll definitely have an interested audience in parents grappling with the demands and desires of children who are moulded into consumers at such a young age.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I’ve read about people who participate in NaNoWriMo, not sure I could force myself to write like that (the pressure, ha ha). I do miss the age where kids derive joy from simple, unassuming things. My favorite thing when I was young was a large, cardboard box. Thanks so much for your comment, hopefully I can get to work on it 🙂

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      4. Where did you read about these people? In psychology case studies? 😂 Ah, cardboard boxes are great fun! We have one in the lounge room that both my son and cat get lots of amusement from. Catch you soon 😊

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      5. Psychological studies, yep…ha ha. I read several WordPress writers personal accounts of the endeavor. Many of them had me at no time to shower or no time to idly waste on Facebook. I don’t know, I may try something like that in the depths of winter and just make myself keep writing.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Nah, I wouldn’t be like that. Even if I tried, my 2 and a bit year old would make sure other things get done. I’ll just do it in the time I already commit to writing (train commute, baby nap time and occasionally in the evening after his bed time). Even if I don’t hit 50,000 I will have still written a lot so it’s win win… 🙂

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  1. If writing success were a technical endeavour, I would have finished my first novel a long time ago. Alas, I write because my brain needs to expel excess information produced in my overanalytical left hemisphere. Some people sleep to do that. But I can’t sleep until I write something. Best wishes for your future projects. May the writing gods and the Force be with you. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is sort of a technical endevour, at least in terms of structuring and the process of sitting down and creating the story within the structure. Coming up with the details though requires a bit of alchemy. I’d read a novel you write any day, without even reading the blurb or seeing great cover art (although I am sure you’d have great cover art for it). Totally agree that writing is great for a brain download. Do you keep a journal, or does your brain dump come out in stories? Thanks for the encouragement – I usually invoke the writing gods by chanting ‘once upon a time’ 3 times and then putting pen to paper…they do the rest 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for responding. WordPress flaked out on me and I wasn’t sure if this comment had made it through. Thanks for the compliment. My brain dump comes out in stories. I usually hear the first few words and then I can get the rest out, or else it keeps echoing and I’ll go bonkers. After that, I recite the section and revise it until it sounds right. As you know, I grew up in Jamaica and we have an oral tradition, so I guess it’s in our/my DNA.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No…it was me, not WP. I’ve been sick for over a week now and slow to respond. First few days home I was a bit in denial about need for rest and finished up writing this post but then the lack of rest caught up with me and I’ve been trying to make up for it since (this is the second ‘excuse’ in this comment stream- probably a bad look, but I swear it’s true!). Back to ‘normal’ tomorrow I hope, and a new beginning with a trip to an ayurvedic doctor.

        That’s really interesting about the oral traditions influencing your writing style. Do you also imagine dialogue in the voice of your characters? Hope you post more of these inspired stories😊 I sometimes have chunks of stories in my head that I type into my phone in a mad rush or dictate if I’m driving. Always funny to go back and look at memos from months or years ago.

        Hope you’re well and that your Tuesday is giving you lots of reason to smile xx

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      3. I am so sorry to hear that you’ve not been well. I hope that you’ll feel better soon. It is frustrating to feel that way. I have had serious adrenal fatigue to the point where I was bawling about it. But last night I finally got some sleep after I tried manuka honey, royal jelly and propolis extract in warm almond milk. I had to set up a large gallery exhibit and thankfully, managed to not staple or nail myself to something. Ha ha ha ha ha ha (My stories are always narrated in my own voice.)

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      4. Ugh it has been horrible and tears have been bawled. Immune suppressing drugs are EVIL. Sorry to hear you’ve not been well, but really glad you found an effective solution. Funny you mention manuka- I’ve finished a whole jar this week, but just with lemon and water- your almond milk mix sounds great. Yikes- that could have been dangerous with a nail gun! Or at the very least interesting angles to hang paintings (I assume) from. Was it an exhibition of your own work?

        Ha- I realise my question was vague, I didn’t intend for it to mean you hear other voices, just wondered if when your story has dialogue if the dialogue is in the other voices- cause for me it can be.

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      5. Ha ha ha ha … I was thinking it would be dangerous if I in fact heard voices but I am not sure that I’m not dangerous anyhow. The exhibition is for 150 artists regionwide, not my own work. I’m curating on Saturday morning. The nail gun was frightful. xooxo

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      6. Your wit plus a nail gun are pretty dangerous! Oh, and tape too!!! Sounds like a huge show! All the best with it. Judging by your eye for detail in pics, paintings a written things yiu post, I’m sure your curatorial skills are top notch. Okay, I’m off to sleep now xx

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Usually, I’m in the paintings for the nationally recognised artists. That makes me lazy to exhibit. I sent you some photos (before the judging panel started) in your email. I hope you enjoy them.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Good morning. I hope you’re feeling rested. It takes hours to sit for portraits and considerably less effort to prepare. Besides, I spend a lot of time planning exhibits and competitions. Most of us don’t get time to work on our own stuff. So, if I get in, somehow, win/win.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Ah ok. I thought you meant you sat for artists but wasn’t entirely clear. Hope one day you can share those paintings 😊. You totally fit my idea of an artists muse, although of course you are also an artist in your own right. Feeling a lot better today . How are you? Is that hurricane raging?

        Liked by 1 person

      10. I hope you’ll continue to feel better. The storm was brutal. My car looks like a pop star with bad extensions. I shook it off. Ha ha ha ha … It’s all over, thank goodness and everyone at work has been spared the worst of it.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Thanks SB- survived the whole day and even managed to finish writing a handbook I’ve been working on since July. I imagine your car wants her dignity back- hasn’t she been loyally getting you from a to b? I won’t tell anyone about the bad hair day…

        How are you feeling?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! You’ve given me a lot to digest, here! I’m bookmarking this post. There are so many ways to quantify creative processing….! I am absolutely enamored with reading poems, stories, and books of all sorts; I love reading about writers and their work habits….maybe if I did a little less of that I could focus better on my own “optimal daily word count”! 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Leslie – how nice to be bookmarked 😊 So many ways, yes- tell me about it! It took a while to focus my thoughts and writing as my mind wandered off on so many tangents. You write beautifully- but yeah, put away the books and write and post more often! 😊 looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts…

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  3. Nicely done, and interesting that the layover of the the second graph doesn’t necessarily match up in obvious ways, but not necessarily a surprise either. Large ‘rewards’ don’t always fulfill, and sometimes the reward is mostly in the creation of the project, more so than a subsequent sale.
    In my painting, it is the joy of creation that propels me, that makes me what to keep doing it. Consequent sales are nice, and do contribute to momentum to a degree, but I have many times of poor sales, yet I keep painting. Not for sales, but for love.
    I often noted that the most successful artists in history, largely seem to be those that are the most unique, the ones that stand out from the crowd. And I think that the ones that really stand out, do so because they are doing exactly what they love, rather than working to any formula or following any set out path. They’re forging new roads, and that’s for the love of exploration. It just so happens that if this new discovered path is exciting enough, it leads to others wanting to share in it and know about it, which leads to the success of popularity. I don’t believe it’s a rule, but a common occurrence.
    Not being a writer, I can equate word count with number of photos taken for example. I have long known that the more photos I take, the more likely it is I end up with a good photo.
    If I get one good photo out of a hundred, I think that’s very good odds. So I take hundreds of thousands.
    But again, the motivation is really love of the process and the desire to share what I see, not what happens after the photo.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Bax. Yes, reward is definitely in the process, the creation, the doing, the journey etc…

      Your analogy with number of photos taken is spot on- the more you do, the better odds of having some that stand out. But more importantly, the ones that might not have made the cut have been just as important in helping you arrive at the ‘good’ ones, in developing your technique, in the process of working through the not-so-rights and the half baked, and in perhaps allowing you to see in a slightly different way that is the precursor of better things- exactly like writing!

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  4. This is a timely post for me Mek. I’ve been struggling with making time for my writing. And even the daily target of 100 words is elusive. I often wonder how productive I would be if I dedicated all my time to writing, but I figure if I can’t do 100 words a day now, that might be too tall an order. Love the superimposed matrices, they speak to my mathematical mind.
    I suppose I need to question why I write before I recalibrate my target.
    Thank you for sharing your analysis and wisdom x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi mGm! So glad you got something out of the post. I don’t actually work to a word count (though I will come NaNoWriMo) but through a number of writing courses I’ve taken, I’ve had it drummed into me that even setting aside as little as 15 min a day can get you a long way. My writing is usually done in stolen moments (commute, toddler naptime). A little here and there makes a difference. I too have wondered about how much I’d do if I devoted all my time to writing, and I take my current circumstance as a test case- if I’m not committed enough now- how will I be with more time and more scope for procrastination? Besides- I have bills to pay. You might be able to find an answer to that question on why you write by using it as a point of departure for some stream of consciousness writing- bet you’ll clock more than 100 words! Thanks for reading and joining the conversation, all the best in arriving at an answer and a regular practice x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s 5am, I’m up and I’m giving it a go. Thanks so much for the gentle push Mek.
        I have been giving thought to why I (want to) write and I guess I haven’t found a impelling reason yet. Therein lies the problem eh?

        NaNiWriMo sounds great, I’m going to look into it.
        Have a wonderful week ahead, don’t forget your brolly! x

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well done! I’d reframe that question from an emotional perspective- how does writing make you feel? how do you feel when you are in the middle of writing something? how do you feel when you have finished writing? Maybe the why doesn’t matter? Let me know what you think, re: NaNoWriMo.

        Your brolly comment made me laugh cause I not many people can give me such timely weather advice in my blogging network. I packed it the night before.

        Thanks, and I hope you have a great week too! xx

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s a great way to look at it Mek: I think I have been feeling hesitant to not get it right and so I have been putting off the writing bit. I do love getting the words out though and right in the middle of the flow is when I feel blissful. I want to get back to that.
        Re: NaNoWriMo, I think I may be a silent lurker for now and see how it all goes. Commitment issues maybe 🙂
        Oh and my brolly is also getting a workout lately x

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Hesitant about not getting it right? So many dreams don’t get realised because of that thought right there. Just write and enjoy the bliss of being in flow. Are we done with rain yet? Our dam here is full, soil moisture is up…now lets have some spring dammit! 🙂

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  5. An intriguing research endeavor with a thought-provoking unfolding of the notions.

    The practice of writing as an art form is inherently built upon the idea someone else will read the work and preferably the more who read it, the better. I’ve written thousands of pages in my journals, but since i wrote them for my eyes only, i don’t consider those journals art. Before the internet, the only way to really get one’s writing read beyond family and friends was to get published by a publisher. (I worked on a self-published zine back in the early ’90s and if we sold three or four at the local book store, we were thrilled).

    Now writers can get a good count of reads without ever having to publish (and enter the capitalistic world of “it needs to be able to sell well”). So in a way, the internet has really impacted writing as an art form. Those who may have changed the way they wrote in order to get published, now can receive the internal rewards that used to be solely available to those who got published. In fact I would argue for those who write poetry, there are those who have never been published today who have had their poems read by more people than the large swath of poets (usually professors) who had their poems published in book form.

    So it is possible to say that internet has allowed the emergence of the flow theory to be more of a factor since internet poets don’t have to consider whether some publisher is going to resonate with the work and accept it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Firstly, I am so sorry for such a late reply. I intended to wait for the weekend to reply- but now 2(?) weekends have passed. Just thought your comment required a little more than a rushed reply on my phone. That is such an interesting point you’ve raised about the influence of the internet in giving writers the ‘reward’ of an audience, feedback etc which pre-internet was only afforded to a small percent. Interesting too about ‘art’ being made with the intention of an audience- I guess it is- perhaps at the heart of it all is our desire to communicate and be understood- and it has to be viewed/read/listened to for that to happen. Do you write your journal completely un-self-consciously? I found it hard to do that when I used to journal regularly- there was always a part of me that wondered how others would view it if they ever read it- so maybe I never had enough abandon for it to be proper journaling, but I still look forward to one day going back and reading bits here and there.

      I’ve read more poetry of ‘unpublished’ online poet than any other poetry my whole life. If a WP poet is influenced by a well known poet, I wouldn’t even know it, except in the case of Robert Okaji when he does his interpretations of Li Po and other Chinese poets.

      With your last point on flow theory, I know what you mean, but flow theory is actually an intrinsic thing, so it has nothing to do with the reception your work receives but the state you get to personally while in the creative process. But I will agree that the internet has helped in giving us a sense the extrinsic rewards that motivates us to keep going, even in the absence of traditional publishing.

      Thanks for such a thoughtful comment Doug! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know if I could trust (if that’s the word i’m looking for) a writer who didn’t have some presence of the Other reading over the shoulder when he or she was writing in a journal. In this sense, we are never really free to express ourselves without the mind at some point meditating on the possible judgment by the Other on what is being put down on paper.

        It does remind me of the time I had my backpack stolen from a Denny’s at 3 in the morning. I had three journals, two of my most recent completed journals and one that was about half completed. I still at times imagine my journals being handed around by the thief who says “check out what this guy was writing”.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Do you mean someone who claims to write without thinking about the Other is lying, or that they possess a quality that makes the untrustworthy?

        A story about meeting the bag thieves years later would be an interesting read…Or maybe a story about the thieves recreating your journalled experiences…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. just my own paradigm bias i suppose, but the impulse to write (as an art form) is based in part in the need to express to the Other. this is true even if the writer is writing in a journal, expecting no one else to actually read it. With the assumption the writer is not lying, to not experience the presence of the Other in the act of writing would imply to me a narcissism and self-absorption that would make whatever was being written not worth reading.

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      4. That brings us back to your initial comment then, meaning that your journal can be considered art (by your definition) 😊

        I agree, I think a narcissists journal would be puke worthy to read, unless a narcissist can be redeemed and has some moments of self awareness. I’d say someone who has abandoned ego may also write without concern about the Other, but perhaps such an enlightened being wouldn’t feel a need to journal…

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      5. not to get to far into the weeds, but i would say an abandoning the ego in a healthy way is another way of articulating the Buddhist losing of the self…the casting off of the self…and, thus, there is no self seeking to express itself in a journal or any other artistic effort. But at this point, things tumble into a definition of art from what could be called a “Western” sensibility…where the art is rooted in the artist as an entity…one can argue that art does not require the ego, even it is a discipline that can help let the individual lose the ego.

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      6. Yes, I had the Buddhist concept in mind. It’s an interesting paradox though- because it may not require the ego but quite often the external rewards which stoke the ego are the motivators to continue ones creative pursuit (until skill and effort gets you into ‘flow’ and you have the intrinsic reward from that sense of being outside of yourself that so many of the subjects in Csikszentmihalyi’s research claimed). I’ve really enjoyed this conversation Doug, thanks! 🙂

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  6. This was really fascinating! You must have spent a long time putting it together, but it does create a lot of food for thought about how much someone ‘should’ be writing in a day. I average about 1000 and I’m pretty happy with that, but I’m also always wondering if I should be doing more (the eternal question, right?)… But this was a great post!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou! Yes, it took a while to compile the publication data, but also to whittle down the million different tangents I could have gone down. I had an intense and really enjoyable couple of weeks where the topics covered here became an obsession. 1000 words is pretty good! I don’t do a word count but hoping to maintain some daily count in November for NaNoWriMo. Best of luck with finishing that novel and making queries next year- I’ll go back and visit your blog soon! Thanks again- I appreciate your reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks e! So nice to hear from you. I appreciate you taking the time to read and give your much appreciated feedback. Do you have a regular writing habit or quota? I’ve not seen any posts from you lately- has instagram stolen your heart? Hope you’re well xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sis! You’re awesome. It’s been a perfect storm! I tried to write a comment after I liked this earlier and then I realized my break at work was over LOL!! Instagram has stolen my affection & attention but my heart is here. I’m in the process of revamping quite a few things. In major transition. I have been commissioned to write several pieces for other spaces but that’s new for me. I’m used to just writing from the heart whenever I want, not because I have been asked to. However I’m extremely humbled by the invitation. Still on the indie radio station too so it’s been nuts. I appreciate you MORE than you know. Trust… Your comment was right on time. Stay amazing💫e

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re so sweet e! I think you are amazing and really miss reading your posts, so get back to where your heart is! Congratulations on the writing commissions- looking forward to reading if you share a link. Catch you soon xx

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Mek, I think as long as you do SOMETHING rather than NOTHING everything will be fine. No need for daily quota unless you are under a hard deadline. After all, you could easily write 3000 words and delete 4000. It is the small chip, chip, chipping away that gets you there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes- I found the 1700 words a day over nov 2016 were not sustainable. Right now I’m doing nothing (at least toward my novel) which is a lot less than even 10 words a day haha. I’ll get back to it soon though…

      Love your new installation! so cool!! the light through the clouds in particular.

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      1. Surely you aren’t lazy- maybe just not interested? Wish I could borrow some of your English language skills…

        Do you think you could muster up the energy to write 50 words for my half a haibun series? Something that gives insight into the narrator’s inner world…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Lazy, with a capital L 😀
        This sounds intriguing though, I’ve done haiku a few times (though if it don’t rhyme, it ain’t poetry for me :)). I need some more input on haibun (beyond what wiki tells me), if you would oblige. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ok. Well it is prose and haiku/tanka. The prose traditionally was a journal but can be fiction too- I think essentially something that gives insight into the inner workings of someone (something at a stretch), with a snap shot of a particular space and time. The haiku or tanka is then meant to be inspired by the prose and add to it but not be a direct extension of the prose…

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for your fascinating blog using statistics in the aid of creative writing. It reminds me of the work that has been done in recent decades in mainland China where some folks had tabulated frequency charts of Chinese characters. That is, rank the characters according to how frequent they appear in publications. It turns out that knowing the top 900 most frequent characters allows the reader to know 90% of what he / she reads. Knowing about 2,600 lets you understand about 95%-98% of what you read. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel that an outright dedication to optimal writing techniques might rob us of those intangibles. e.g., Norman Mailer might seem to be highly inefficient–many words few results, but one of his results is the revolutionary creative non-fiction In Cold Blood.
    John

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John. Thanks for reading and for leaving such an interesting and insightful comment. A lot of vocabulary is built up from contextual understanding- especially when noticing a word for the first time results in it becoming seemingly more present in conversation and text afterward. You are spot on with the intangibles, and I am not familiar with Mailer’s work, but my analysis will not capture innovation in writing and only touches on merit via the number of publications, and the additional infomation I have added (such as whether they were best selling, popular, highest paid etc) to support the categories the writers fell into with the perceived value overlay. I think the holy grail for a writer or any other creative is to be in ‘flow’. There were so many angles I wanted to take in writing this, including exploring the intangibles, but I set a boundary around what was achievable in a reasonable time (I took about 3 weeks to research and write this) and wouldn’t lead to too much subjective waffling. If I were to simplify this whole post into a few words I’d say- the more your write, the more you get out of it. What is your writing practice?

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