Daily life: Wordage galore! | #writerslife #wordcount

"In April 1870, a twenty-eight-year-old [William] James made a cautionary note to himself in his diary. 'Recollect,' he wrote, 'that only when habits of order are formed can we advance to really interesting fields of action - and consequently accumulate grain on grain of wilful choice like a very miser - never forgetting how one link dropped undoes an indefinite number.' The importance of forming such 'habits of order' later became one of James's great subjects as a psychologist. In one of the lectures he delivered to teachers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1892 - and eventually incorporated into his book Psychology: A Briefer Course - James argued that the 'great thing' in education is to 'make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy.'

The more of the details of our daily life we can hand over to the effortless custody of automatism, the more our higher powers of mind will be set free for their own proper work. There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation.

"James was writing from personal experience - the hypothetical sufferer is, in fact, a thinly disguised description of himself. For James kept no regular schedule, was chronically indecisive, and lived a disorderly, unsettled life. As Robert D. Richardson wrote in his 2006 biography, 'James on habit, then, is not the smug advice of some martinet, but the too-late-learned too-little-self-knowing, pathetically earnest, hard-won crumbs of practical advice offered by a man who really had no habits - or who lacked the habits he most needed, having only the habit of having no habits - and whose life was itself a "buzzing blooming confusion" that was never really under control.'"

--Mason Currey: Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work. (Alternative subtitle: How Artists Work.]


I finished writing Breached Boundaries (The Three Lands). It's the longest novel I've ever written: 240,000 words. It's also the longest novel it has taken me to finish: twenty years and six months. Most of it was written in 1995 and 1996. The remaining 55,000 words I wrote this year.

My recent word counts have been unbelievable. I've gone from writing practically zero during November and December (when I was in bed and had plenty of time on my hands) to writing 34,202 words between March 1 and March 20, when I finished Breached Boundaries. With the exception of one month in 2004 when my Internet access broke, I haven't seen word counts like that since the golden era of my writing: 2002-2003, when I was averaging 25,000 words a month.

(Actually, my true golden era was in 1995, when I was writing Three Lands novels at an average of 68,000 words a month. Man, those were the days. I'm not sure whether I got any sleep.)

I'm quite capable of sustaining high word counts for a day or two at a time. (My highest daily count - from 1995, when I was writing Law of Vengeance - is 11,340 words, though I'd probably die of a blood clot if I tried to sit that long these days.) A high daily word count means very little, since I can't sustain it. The trick is to be able to write more than six to eight days a month. I didn't pick those numbers out of my hat; that's what my average monthly rate has been - on the months when I *did* write - since 2003. Between March 1 and March 20, I wrote on twelve days. That is what is driving my word count up, rather than high daily wordages.

What has caused me to write on so many days this month? Four things, I think:

1) I'm offline. That's the main thing. I'm no longer even allowing myself to spend a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the evening reading news and RSS-feed blogs. Instead, I listen to NPR's five-minute news summary once a day, and I keep track of the weather. That's it. Any extended nonfiction reading I save for Sundays. Since my Muse - as I have often complained - is an imitative beast, this means I'm not feeding him nonfiction to imitate.

2) I'm reading fiction. Physical therapy has turned out to be a blessing, because I spend three hours a week at it, with my nose buried in novels. (I forgot to bring a novel to PT one day, and everyone at the PT place commented on it. I might as well have kept my "Bookworm" badge from high school.) At home, I've been reading more fiction too, both books and electronic fiction. (I have AO3 and various e-libraries whitelisted so I can visit them whenever most of the rest of the Internet is off-limits to me.) Since my Muse is an imitative beast, he ends up wanting to write fiction.

3) I'm not publishing e-books. As I'd hoped would happen, that has opened up a massive amount of time in my schedule. I do plan to bring out the occasional e-book - and perhaps, some day, print books - but not having to bring out e-books regularly has freed up lots and lots of writing time for me. Blessings upon the inventors of the Internet, for offering writers the option of online fiction.

4) As I mentioned last month, I've got a daily writing schedule now. I think a schedule would have done me no use at all without the above three items, but even with those three items in place, I know, from past experience, that my writing time would normally be erratic. Not now, because I schedule myself to write every day that I don't have PT in the morning.

(Corrected to add: I've changed my sleep schedule to get up early every day, so now I have time to write daily, whether or not I have PT in the morning. Unfortunately, I've found I don't have enough time in the rest of the day to do heavy editing and layout, so I'm having to use that hour or two in the morning either for writing or for heavy editing and layout. Frustrating. However, including the ten hours or so a week that I spend doing light editing during meals, plus the one to five hours I spend online on writing-related activities on Sundays, that still gives me 20-30 hours a week of writing/publishing time, which is a lot more than many writers have.)

So yay, for this amazing coming together of good things. It's been far too long since I wrote this much.


Unfortunately, I haven't been doing as good a job as getting other work done. Day-job preparations, housework, doctors' appointments, and finances (taxes!) keep sliding back on my schedule because it's hard to find time for all that. It's not as though I'm spending a lot of time on my writing. It's the PT and home exercises and foot icing and foot medicine that are occupying the bulk of my schedule: thirty-five hours a week. I can't even find time for walking, which I ought to be doing a lot of at this stage, in order to improve my foot.


This is turning out to be a splending year for reading. Five of my favorite authors (Manna Francis, Susan R. Matthews, Megan Whalen Turner, Diana Gabaldon, and Naomi Novik) have new books coming out this year, while I still have books from previous years to read by Guy Gavriel Kay, Patricia A. McKillip, and various other authors whose backlists I'm trying to catch up on.

Plus, I'm finally reading the novels that have been sitting unread on my shelves since - I kid not - as far back as my teens, forty years ago. I found a gem last month by Elizabeth Marie Pope (The Perilous Gard) that has been patiently waiting two decades for me to acknowledge its existence.

Instead of continuing to post my reviews here, I've decided to post my reviews at Goodreads (books and e-books) and in the bookmarks section of my Archive of Our Own account (web fiction). So you can go to those places to find my reading recommendations.

Also, if you're at Wattpad? I'm there now. I'm not posting yet (and when I do, it will be some of the same stories I post at AO3), but I'd like to link up with any of you who are there.


I haven't said anything about this topic since January, simply because things have been going swimmingly. I've stuck to my planned budget (basic necessities, professional expenses, and small monthly allowances for entertainment, research, gifts, and charity), except in the following areas:

The gluten-free bread I'd been buying turned out to be way too expensive - seventy-five cents a slice! - so I'm trying to find lower-priced alternatives. The local bakery sells wheat bread for $2.25 a loaf, but I can't eat wheat, darn it.

Considering how much shopping I do at Amazon, I decided that it was worth my while to get an Amazon Prime membership so that I wouldn't have to worry (usually) about shipping charges. As a bonus, I'm enjoying the Prime Music plan; till now, I'd been making do with free music on Pandora and Spotify.

I made the mistake of visiting the local antiques shop to try to find some used shoes there. I walked out with two books, a magazine, and cover art that I didn't really need. This is the confirmation I needed that I have an antiques shopping addiction. I'm staying away from antiques shops till I get this under control (except for my planned April shopping trip for used books).

On a related topic, I decided not to buy any videos this year. That will give me more room for books in my entertainment/research budget category.

I've had physical therapy three times a week since late January, with no end in sight. My transportation budget is totally shot for the year. So is my gift budget, because Jo/e needed a winter coat. Fortunately, leaving aside the aforementioned overpriced bread, I'm spending about a hundred dollars less on groceries each month than I'd budgeted for. So I'm staying within my overall budget regardless.

I am not, however, earning money. In addition to the time problems I mentioned above, my hypomania and related Internet addiction have been continuing to give me trouble. My goal for April is to open my new business and promote the heck out of it. Wish me luck.


May 2018



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