Notes From the Wasteland No. 39 ‘How Many Words Have You Written Today?’

I’ve written twenty four words today. Twenty four. 24. They’re fine words and I will probably keep them but twenty four words isn’t much. At least, it doesn’t feel like much. The most words I have ever written for a single project was ninety-six thousand words. Ninety-six thousand. 96,000. That was for my doctoral dissertation. While I was working on that project I set myself a goal of writing two hundred words a day. This was a modest target and one that really helped me manage to complete the dissertation. Some days I wrote far more than two hundred words, far far more. Other days I wrote less than two hundred words but having a modest daily target allowed me to develop some kind of resilience when it came to writing. I needed this because the whole experience was so challenging that without some form of safety rail I would have crashed over the edge.

There were days when I wished I had never started, when everything around me was falling apart and all I had was these words. It was hard but the daily challenge at least gave me a way to think about something else, even if only for a little while. And so over time the small totals became bigger totals and then one day there was no need for any more of those particular words, I had written enough of them. And that was a strange feeling, very strange. For a while I missed the project hanging over my head like a malignant planet, I was used to always seeing it on my horizon but finally it disappeared from view.

Why am I telling you all this?

I suppose I learned many things through the whole doctoral process and there are many key words that I might reduce the whole process down to – resilience, determination, versatility, etc – but I think, ultimately, the key thing I learned from the whole thing is simply that writing twenty four words is actually pretty good going and if I wait patiently and stay kind to myself there might be some more words to follow.

I’ll let you all know when they arrive.

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