Focused Living, One Month at a Time

Friday, September 7, 2012

Challenge #14, August 2012: COUNTING CONTENT

I will write 10,000 words total -  all new writing for current and future endeavors

“Writing is learning to say nothing, more cleverly each day.” – William Allingham

Why "10,000" Words?
As I mentioned in the intro, one of the reasons I started this blog was to do more writing, and producing a new post (even if only once a month at this point) is a way to be accountable to this goal – even if I am a bit tardy for August, whoops!  Along with everything else going on (who isn’t busy these days?), I discovered that I really needed to sit down and explore and learn some new focusing methods in order to really get it all done – the writing here, the writing I do for work, and all the writing to come for future projects I have in mind.  These posts are usually about 600-900 words so doing 11-15 of that length over a month (an average of exactly 322.6 words a day) words of new content should be manageable, right?  write?  Hmmm.

How It Went
This isn’t the first time I’ve written as a challenge, but a word count goal is much different than a time goal like the previous version - where I could count all those minutes of massaging and thesaurusizing and rearranging and editing and re-editing.  Nope, this was getting it all out there, no matter how long it takes.
The first 3 days no problem – met (went over actually) my daily goal of 323 words a day.  Then I started slipping and missing days and reconfiguring the new word per day average needed and would catch up by busting out a few 12-1300 hundred word sessions and then I got busy with work and was too mentally exhausted to try and generate new creative stuff also and then I got over, and then, etc.  Let’s just say that by the last three days of the month I had to average more than 1000 words a day to get it all done, which I did.  While on vacation.  In Kauai, Hawaii.  Distraction much?
The hardest part wasn’t sitting down and starting (although that was daunting on a few days), but rather staying focused while writing.  Fortunately I tried a new method that really helped with this – the pomodoro technique. For me, twenty-five minutes is just about the right amount of time to solidly focus on one task before needing a little break.  I will keep using this technique in the future.

What I Actually Wrote
The majority of the actual content will be shared at a another venue in the future, after a bunch of much needed editing…But here’s a brief sample of one piece, from a contest I entered (never heard back):  tell a travel-related story in exactly 50 words.
I plunge into the blue at Ni’ihau.  Eighty feet down the scene unfolds; a curious monk seal plays with our stray bubbles, dozens of colorful fish flutter and nibble on a swirling eel carcass, a sandbar shark circles casually nearby.  Splendor in action, awesome to behold.  Breathe in, breathe out.
The rest of the 9550+ words were a combination of a few other travel essays and planning for my next blog – stay tuned by email or RSS for details early next year…all 5 of you out there.  :)

Unexpected Results and Findings
·      Over 6,000 of the 10,000 words comprised one piece – a story I had a lot of fun writing, actually a rewrite of a famous fairy tale for modern (and slightly wackier) times.  When I started I had no idea it would be that long, but it all seemed to want to spill out of the keyboard, so I went with it.  Did I mention how fun it was to write?  And getting it DONE (I had been meaning to do this for a while) was the most satisfying accomplishment for the month.
·      I really can write anywhere – the couch, the dining room table, the bed.  It really didn’t matter where, it was just keeping my butt down there and focused for a while (and occasionally turning off the wireless connection helped too)
·      That feeling of being in “flow” that creative types describe, I got there a few times, and it was indeed glorious – lost in making something new, with disregard for how it really ends up, but just loving the process itself, gotta go for more of this, it’s better than even a great martini or two or three.
·      Writing a significant volume of creative, high quality content isn’t easy for me, must keep at it regularly to get better and more efficient (duh!).

So who’s the Rooster?
Ahaaaa, I thought you might ask!  Bruce is his given (by me) name – he was the subject of the final piece I was writing, the very last night at 9PM Hawaii time on the 31st - thank goodness I had those extra three hours there instead of being on the west coast!  It was late, and we had paddled and hiked and swam and mai-tai’d and seen more than a few wild roosters and chickens along the way throughout our stay so far in Kauai.  I started thinking about the island from his point of view, Bruce the Rooster, and my last few hundred words composed the beginning of that story.  It needs work, but the subject matter kept me awake and still clicking away drowsily on the keyboard until I got to 10,000 and exclaimed COCK-A-DOODLE DOOOOOOONE! 

And you, any word count or writing stories?  Deadline pressures?  Thanks for sharing, all 5 of you...


  1. I find it's easiest to write once the idea is in my head, then it flows to the fingers. The faster I type the easier it is to get the ideas from brain to "page". Great blog!

  2. I find that if I focus too much on the idea or the story my writing lacks depth, if I focus on something else, like an exercise or journal entry or poem or read something like a Dorianne Laux poem or something and let go of my story my writing is better and I usually end up writing about what I wanted to write about better, or something very different and much better... ;0 Love the idea of tracking words...thanks for sharing!

  3. hence why i always carry a pen, pencil, and some form of paper, everywhere I go. i was at a meeting recently, of the anonymous sort, and scribbled down on the back of a napkin this gem: "Unity means that I never have to say, "I'm sober" again. Brilliant, I thought. For a couple of reasons. One, given that Unity is one of the primary principles of recovery, the meaning of this quote goes reaches far and wide in the heart of an addict. And two, the fact that someone thought of the ironic nature of this notion, and bothered to write it down for others to ponder was a gift that keeps on giving.
    Writing, always writing. Fabulous. Good on ya!!!!