On second thought, strike that last caveat. You don't have to be a Gladys in Cleveland to read this. But the rest of the warning stays. This is writer talk -- an extremely specific kind that'll probably hit non-writers like a double dose of NyQuil with a vodka chaser.
I'm going to talk word counts. Specifically, my word counts. Which don't require a ton of counting, because they're usually so low.
Michael was responding to an earlier post about productivity by my old Bouchercon buddy Brian Thornton. Brian had mentioned 1,000 words a day as "a healthy goal" for "working writers." And I agree, I agree...with another caveat: that we define "working writers" as "people who make their living by writing."
That was me, once upon a time, and 1,000 words a day was what I shot for. I usually made it, too, with plenty of bonus words ladled on as gravy. (Still awake, Gladys?)
But then I became a different kind of working writer: one who worked in order to write. (It's hard to write when you're starving, you know.) At my busiest as a pro, I had contracts for three different series at once. Yet though I was producing lots and lots and lots of words, that didn't mean I was making lots and lots and lots of money. I wasn't even making lots and lots, at that point. Or even just lots. It was just money -- barely enough to pay for crappy health insurance for my family with the occasional run to Pizza Hut to celebrate the fact that none of us had to use it.
Then some of us did have to use it, and there wasn't enough left over for one of those soppy slices from 7-11, let alone a trip to Pizza Hut. Long story short (don't tell me it's too late for that, Gladys -- nobody likes a smart-ass), it was time to become the kind of working writer who's not usually working on writing.
actor Geoffrey Owens last week when certain websites did the Simpsons kid "Ha ha!" at him for bagging groceries at Trader Joe's. I came sooooooooo close to bagging groceries at Trader Joe's. Hell, life is weird. I could still end up bagging groceries at Trader Joe's. So could you, Gladys. Don't be the Simpsons kid. Until it's Alex Jones. Then pointing, laughing and going to the produce section for tomatoes to throw is heartily encouraged.
Hmm...where was I?
Oh, yeah. Long story short (and this time I mean it): day job blah blah blah long commute blah blah blah life. All of which has left me with about one hour of free time a day. An hour in which, when I'm really cranking, I produce maybe 350 words. Though it's usually more like 300. Closer to 250 when it's one of my "Holmes on the Range" stories. (Those are a little tougher, for some reason.) Sometimes, when I'm really stuck on something, it can be as little as 100.
Can you imagine that? Getting up at 5:30 in the freakin' morning to write and sitting there for an hour and only having 100 usable new words when you drag yourself away from the keyboard to get the kids ready for school?
Yes, Gladys. I know you can imagine that. Because I wrote this for you.
I'm not a math guy, but this much I understand: even 100 + 100 + 100, if repeated often enough, will eventually = 75,000. Book length. So don't let this talk of 1,000 words a day intimidate you: 100 or 200 or 300 will do the trick if you stick with it.
That's what makes you not just an aspiring writer but a working writer, Gladys. The sticking with it. Not the length of time it takes to get something done.
Now get back to your keyboard -- and tell Mike, Orson and whatever-his-name-is I said hi!