Monday, June 3, 2013

Writing by the Numbers

I often say that one of the reasons I became a writer is because I don’t do math. Numbers have never had the hold over me that letters do… in fact, it was when numbers and letters started hanging out together with the equal sign that I gave up on any idea that a math-based career was in my future.

However, I do find numbers useful when it comes to keeping myself on track and accountable. The best way for me to stick to a diet isn’t by cutting out certain foods or only eating others, but by coming up with a calorie limit and writing down everything I eat and how many calories the meal contains.

Recently I discovered that writing down my writing goal is a good incentive to keep me writing. I joined an online group in which members report their progress for the week. My goal is 5000 words a week; 1250 words Monday through Thursday. (Strangely enough, my calorie goal is also about 1250.) This was always my mental goal but many days I fell short. Then I started to do a little chart. Here’s my chart from last week:

Week of May 27, 2013. Goal: 87,627

Monday start: 82,627

Monday finish: 83,880

Tuesday start: 83,880

Tuesday stop: 85,290

Wednesday start: 85,290

Wednesday finish: 86,724

Thursday start: 86,724

Thursday finish: 88,201

For some reason, the brain rewards the body with a shot of dopamine when there’s a ritual associated with completing a task. The ritual can be as small as crossing off an item on the to-do list when it’s finished. Getting to cross off a line on a piece of paper can actually be motivating enough to get you to complete the task.

In copying and pasting the chart above, I just realized it would be even more motivating to write down the daily numeric goal. Each day I do find myself going beyond my 1250 goal; albeit by only a few dozen words or so. Even so, those numbers add up. I finished last week 574 words ahead of myself.

This particular book is a first draft, obviously, and I’ll soon be done and in the editing phase. I suppose then I’ll require myself to get through a certain number of pages per day. I’ll have to think about that.

Time to get started on my 1250 for the day. But after I post this, I can cross off “blog post” from my to-do list!

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