Too Little

Every time when people ask me how to publish a lot and I say “write 200 words a day,” the reaction always is, “But that’s so little!”

Two hundred words a day means almost 1,500 a week. And that means an 8,000-word article finished in under 3 months. That’s hardly little. In the Humanities, that’s very good.

Somehow, it always ends with me hearing that I write “too little.”

10 thoughts on “Too Little”

  1. If it’s so little, then why don’t they just do it? Two hundred words is a nice bite-sized chunk, especially if the reason someone is procrastinating on their writing is because they need to have too many words.

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    1. Many people have nothing to write about because they don’t read anything and aren’t current with the field. So they have nothing to say.

      Others romanticize the process. The convince themselves they need special conditions, a stroke of inspiration, complete quiet, 3 uninterrupted months with no further obligations, etc.

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      1. This is true even in fiction, I think. My special conditions are reading. If I stop reading, all my writing dries up. Even if it’s not “current,” as long as it’s something someone else wrote, I can focus on my own work.

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      2. “Others romanticize the process”

        This seems like a huge problem, the genius of the 200 words a day is that if you get in the habit of writing a small minimum amount every day then sometimes, more or less on it is own, that will turn into a lot more. But if you wait for the perfect circumstances and internal calm and harmony in the universe so that you can write 5000 words…. that’ll never happen.
        While 200 a day come hell or high water, even if it doesn’t turn into more then you’ve stil got 200 words a day that will add up.

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  2. I need not to be in a situation of extreme physical / social / psychic displacement and discomfort, and if I’m in a situation of persecution I need to realize it, not internalize it. Otherwise, I’ll write 200 words but they’ll all be introductions, a series of different beginnings. I’ll go in circles and not progress.

    I’ve really been yelled at for the 200 words thing, though (my number is 250) — people will not shut up about how it is important to write much more, it is not worth starting if you cannot do at least 7 times that much, you have to be less perfectionistic but write more than 250, etc., etc. They are very strident and militant about this and I am not sure why.

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    1. I know! I only wrote the post because I was attacked about it today. I’m not running after people forcing them to write less. I share my method of asked but it’s not like I’m hurting anybody or preventing them from doing it their own way.

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      1. The other thing that irritates me is the idea that research / reading / reflection is “procrastination.” You only spent a third to half your time writing! You read the rest of the time, or stared at the wall, or went to the library! But how are you supposed to get the 200 words, or however many it is, if you don’t do research? Anyway, the crying about how you must write more than 250 words/day and also read less is done in very piercing tones and I suspect they are actually the tones of envy

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  3. Thanks for the reminder about reading. I’ve been so swamped with new classes and admin work that I forgot I could sit and read for an hour, which I did this morning.

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  4. It isn’t really the number of words that’s important. Imagine if I said you should run a mile a day. If you are training for a run of a certain length you will sometimes run more and sometimes less, and sometimes have a recovery day of no running at all. I would have to know what event you are training for, and when it is going to happen, to even begin to have that conversation.

    Or if I said to meditate exactly 30 minutes a day. It would be more important to make sure you meditate regularly for some length of time and keep it up until it is an ingrained habit.

    What is important is the continuity of effort. 200 words a day would represent a great deal of continuity of effort, but so would 50 words a day, or 750. Really, the number of words will be extremely variable, because some days you will spend research time reading and not writing. For me, a day in which I write will normally produce 500 words, but your mileage will vary.

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