Going from a million words in 2020 to 1.8 million words in 2021 is sort of a big jump, and I’ve had a few folks ask “why?” Why bother? Or why jump so big? It’s true that maybe a smaller goal would be easier to accomplish, but that’s not really the point of a challenge, is it?
Well, for me, anyway, the main point of a challenge is to have fun.
I enjoy pushing myself, seeing what is possible, what I can do. It’s a blast, seeing where the limits really are and then chasing them out a little further.
So for me, in order to really be interesting enough to hold my attention, a challenge needs to be something extreme, something empowering. I could have just bumped up my goal a bit from last year, but I’m absolutely sure I could manage 1.2 or even 1.4 million words in a year. It’s not that big a leap from a million. It’s not really a challenge at that point.
Still, 150,000 words a month is a LOT! I’m not sure I can manage it, at least to start off. My first day was a bit low, in fact, only a little over three thousand words. It’s a good day’s work, but not enough to meet these new goals. I’m OK with that, though; I’ll keep working hard, learning how to push a little better, and get up to speed in no time.
I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about quality and quantity, how they interact with each other when it comes to writing. My books tend to be about fifty to seventy thousand words long. In theory, I could end up producing something like thirty-six books this year, assuming I meet the target. That’s a lot of books! Even for me, that’s a big jump in numbers. So how do I hope to maintain the same level of quality if I’m almost doubling the quantity of writing I’m doing?
People look at quality and quantity like they’re a sliding scale. Like you can only increase one by reducing the other. But in my experience that’s absolutely not the case.
What I’m doing this year isn’t cutting corners to get more words out. I’m simply spending more time writing than I did the year before.
And that’s how you increase quantity while maintaining quality: increase hours spent.
Sure, there’s other things I’ve done to boost productivity. I type about twice as fast as I did when I started out as a writer all those years ago. That’s a huge help. My drafts are much cleaner and require very little cleanup/typo correction before publication. That helps a lot as well.
But at the end of the day the single biggest difference between someone who writes a single book a year and someone who writes two dozen books a year is the number of hours spent behind the keyboard doing the work. The writer who managed twenty-four books spent about twenty-four times as many hours writing, all other things being equal.
That means being disciplined about the writing, so I stay on task longer and get more done each day.
That means putting aside some things I spent too much time on in 2020, like computer games and Facebook.
In essence what I hope to accomplish here is to narrow my activities to focus heavily on those things which I hold most dear: family, writing, reading, health, travel… These are some of the things which matter the most to me, and I find that I’m at my happiest when my actions most closely align with my values.
More hours working and less hours playing might seem like an odd road to happiness, but it’s proved successful for me so far. I pushed myself harder than every before last year, and 2020 was honestly overall a good year for me, despite it being something of a global dumpster fire crossed with a train wreck. I learned a lot of new things, got a ton of work done, spent a lot of time with family, got my wife out of the job she hated (she’s writing full-time now, too!), watched my youngest make high honors in school, got myself more fit with daily workouts, lost ten pounds, and other similarly good stuff.
It was a good year for me, because I worked at aligning actions with values.
I’ll probably talk some more about that whole actions/values thing as the year goes on, because I think it’s important. In some ways, I suspect that might be the key to happiness, at least for many people. To match our actions to our goals, priorities, and ideals is to become the people we want to be.
So 2021 is going to be the next step in that evolution, for me. I expect to learn a lot, write some great books, and have a ton of fun!