Number of Writing Weeks: 23 out of 52
Total Word Count: 42,420 words out of a goal of 60,000
Average Word Count Per Week: 800
% of Annual Word Count Goal: 70.7%
Other Stats: 47 Writing Days
Wow. So 2022 happened, didn’t it? And man… was I blogging and writing machine!
Yeah. Except not.
I mean, honestly, although I fell suuuuuuuper short of my goal for the year (i.e. 120 writing days total; I didn’t even make it to the halfway point), still the net output in terms of Word Count for the year wasn’t all that bad. About average for me. But the blogging? If I’m once again honest I haven’t even given a second thought to the blog since my last post more than one-year-ago today. If I’m sitting down to write, with how limited my time to do so is, you better believe ninety-nine times out of a hundred it’s actually to write my book.
2022 was another hard year for me, personally. I’ve mentioned before that I’m battling chronic illness (illnesses if I’m still being honest, as in more-than-one) and the fight continued with some wins and many losses. I have a very demanding day-job. I have a family to provide for, a wife and kids that I love and love to spend time with. And I’m an imminently practical and sometimes even painfully realistic person. For all my flights of fancy, at the end of the day writing isn’t a practical pursuit.
And still I do it.
Because besides all those other things that are true about me, deep in my heart-of-hearts, I’m still a writer. And writers write.
Even if, as in my case, only a little.
Without the writing, I feel less of myself. Like a critical part of my personhood is fading into the background. So I pursue it, despite all the forces in life arrayed against me being able to find the time to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Because I can’t let that part of myself disappear entirely. I won’t let the exigencies of life take that away from me.
But the practical side of me that I alluded to above has been working to assert some influence over my thoughts in the past year. For better or worse, I don’t know. By which I mean this: I’ve always wanted to be a published author. It’s been my dream since I first fell engrossed with Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles as a kid. That was the catalyst for a life-long dream. I wanted to do what he did. But practical-me sees the toll chronic illness has taken on me, the taxing day-job, the demands of life that are not going away ever. And practical-me says: the dream is, for all practical purposes, unattainable. It’s not going to happen. That’s… that’s the reality, I guess. Like… I don’t even have one book finished after laboring on it for over a decade. I don’t even have one draft finished. You can’t get a book published if you don’t have a book that’s ready to be published. And real-talk here: but will I ever be finished with this book? I honestly… don’t know.
Maybe in 2023 I’ll get lucky and finish the first draft. But if I’m frank, it’s an ugly first draft. There are scenes and things in the second half of the book that directly contradict the first half, because I hadn’t thought something up yet when I started that I added or changed as I wrote. And rather than go back and fix it then, I decided to make a note in the draft of what I needed to do, and move on. But the as-yet-unfinished draft manuscript is littered with notes to myself about changes I need to make. The second draft will need to overhaul a ton of stuff that I already wrote, throw out whole scenes and write new ones to replace them, and so on. It’s no small task that I face.
So what if I finish the first draft in 2023? At my current pace, it will almost certainly take another 5, 6, even 7 years to polish up the second draft. I could potentially be in my fifties by thy time I finish. By then, I’ll basically be riding the roller-coaster of life down that last big, terrifying drop before the end-of-the-ride. That’s the part of the ride where the threat of cognitive decline may, capriciously, decide to flex itself: the point past which writing anything that’s actually good becomes a vanishingly unlikely proposition. Or at least that’s what I start to worry about…
Yeah. Practical-me is one depressing persona. He’s a nasty little bugger. But he’s my nasty little bugger.
Depressing doom and gloom aside, the reality is I can’t possibly get this book in publishing-ready shape for at least another year or two at the most aggressive minimum. Sure, I could do it faster if I devoted myself full time to it. I’ve done the math, and given my real-life productivity rate (in 2022 I wrote at a rate of almost 800 words per hour, for example) if I wrote for even just 3 hours a day, five days a week I could finish the first draft in a couple months. That would leave me a comfortable 10 months of the year to edit and revise. So yeah… If it were my day job I could conceivably turn this book around in under a year.
But it’s not my day job.
And it’s not going to be my day job.
That, sadly, is my ultimate reality. Which means instead I get to write in the margins, where my family and I are able to find an hour here or sometimes even two hours there to set aside for me to write. Weeknights, though, are increasingly difficult. Those chronic illnesses I mentioned… have taken their toll on my evenings. Which is to say I very rarely have productive evenings anymore, because by the end of a typical workday I’m fresh out of spoons (yeah, those spoons; no I don’t have lupus). Indeed, I’m in negative spoon territory most weekday evenings, which means it’s all I can do to go through the motions of getting ready for bed and going there straight away. So that leaves weekends. And yeah, many weekends I’ll be able to squeak in a couple hours of writing time.
Here’s the positive counter-point: I am still going to write this book. It may never see the light of day. It may never get published. Heck it probably won’t be published. But I am going to write it, just the same, even if I am the only person who ever reads it.
Why even bother, if it’ll never earn me a dime in royalties?
Because I’m a writer. It’s what I do.
That’s the real truth.
I mean… I don’t actually know whether accepting the fact that my book will never be published is a healthy outlook or is just too depressing to consider. But knowing that I’m going to write it regardless: that feels right to me. That feels true.
So. Onward and upward.
Well then: where does that leave me in 2023 with regard to writing goals? Last year I wanted to write on 120 days out of the year. Thanks mostly to my friend chronic illness that fell out in spectacular fashion. Looking back not great. But looking ahead: what can I reasonably do in the year before me?
For one thing, I’m not setting a “number of writing days” goal again this year. Instead, I’m going to look at what I can reasonably commit to doing. Which is this: there are, roughly speaking, 52-ish weekends in a year. I can reasonably expect to find time to write on, maybe, at most between 30 and 45 of them. Let’s go conservative-ish and say 35 weekends with writing time. If I can scratch together 2 hours per weekend of writing, that’s potentially 70 hours of writing in the year. Not a lot, honestly. But I think that’s what I can reasonably commit to.
So that’s the goal. 70 hours of writing in 2023. My goals are typically based on a rate of 500 words per hour, which therefore translates to 35,000 words in 2023. I’ve beaten that target multiple times in the last few years. But my real writing rate is somewhere between 600 and 800 words per hour (in 2022 it was closer to 800; so far in 2023 it’s closer to 600). So with a more realistic rate, I can reasonably expect to write between 42,000 and 56,000 words in 2023. I’m going to zero-in on 48,000 words as my target word count for the year. In summary: 70 hours of writing to tally up 48,000 words. that’s my 2023 annual writing goal.
I’d like to end with a few questions to all the other undiscovered authors out there: my fellow writers who struggle in anonymity. I mean, there’s a slight chance you encounter this blog. If you do, share in the comments:
Do you struggle to write in spite of your anonymity? Do you still dream of one day getting published (or self-publishing)? If not, does this deter you from writing or are you bound-and-determined to write regardless? And if you’re writing regardless of the outcome, do you set writing goals for yourself? What are your goals for this year?
Well. That’s all she wrote. I guess, chances are, I’ll see you all again this time-ish next year! 😉 I kid. But only sorta.