Measuring Up: Embracing How Your Writing Habits Compare to Others

Poetry Notebook
Raise your hand if you had a weekend full of existential crises during which you questioned the validity of your artistic identity.

*raises hand*

Not that my whole weekend was spent wallowing and procrastinating because I didn’t feel creative enough or whatever; in fact I came up with a more solid yet flexible writing schedule for myself and managed to follow it very nicely. But at night I would keep going to bed thinking about the writing habits of others and wonder if my own make me sound frivolous or as if I’m not serious enough.

My current schedule (goals, benchmarks, whatever) are:

  • 1,000 words (minimum) on weekdays
  • 500 words (minimum) on weekend days
  • One poem a weekday, taking weekends to revise the previous week’s best

I wake up whenever I want, usually between nine and ten, and work as long as it takes me to get to my word count (which applies across the board to whatever project I’m working on for the day: short story, novel, creative nonfiction). Sometimes I finish before my noon internet allowance, sometimes I don’t, in which case it can sometimes take even longer. But since it’s all I do most days right now, I don’t pressure myself or feel rushed.

But I hear so much about people (artists, writers) writing at least twice as much as I do on a given day or working a full eight hours like your typical nine-to-five, and of course that starts to make me feel inadequate: Am I not putting as much into this as I should to be considered “serious”? Am I slacking? Should I be working harder if I want to be successful? (Never mind the discussion of what success even means to me at the moment.)

However, I’ve realized that it’s not just about numbers. There are so many factors that go into how a person uses their work time. It’s about knowing how much your mind and body can take; my brain feels so fried after a day of writing the bare minimum sometimes. It’s about acknowledging each project, not just the big one; even after I do my word goal for a day and my poem, I usually spend time on a blog post, a zine piece, or working on prepping for submissions. I think I forget that these things count because I don’t focus on word count and spent hours when I’m blogging or putting together a zine.

Certainly being a writer is first and foremost about the actual writing (and reading), but that’s just not all that goes into it and it isn’t all the typical story/poetry writing. It dawned on me that I need to stop belittling non-traditional writing projects as insignificant because in reality they can actually “boost my cred,” as those crazy kids say these days.

Basically: I need to learn to be easier on myself, more accepting, and more open-minded toward my personal process and projects. I need to remember to embrace the non-traditional and to give myself the credit I deserve. And stop comparing myself to everyone else!

P.S., You’ve probably noticed that pink pen hanging around a lot, especially if you follow me on Instagram. I’ve kind of fallen in love with it as far as pens go and have a total of six floating between the living room, office, and bedroom right now. It’s a Pentel EnerGel, and I guess it’s a special breast cancer one, but I just like how pink it is, plus the flowing consistency of the ink–very good for quick writing.


2 thoughts on “Measuring Up: Embracing How Your Writing Habits Compare to Others

  1. I often fall into that trap with art. Seeing other people’s work, questioning my skill, or even the value of what I’m doing (is it just a big waste of time??) – it can get really discouraging. I usually turn to my journal at that point and right out my ramblings as some self-therapy. But eventually I end up realizing that my art should be about ME, and what I love, and if I’m proud and happy with how I’m developing. But some days, that inner voice just kills the spirit for sure! Good for you for overcoming!!

  2. A true writer enjoys their content.
    Write when you feel like it, and set goals like you did. c:
    Just don’t go overboard with goals, go overboard with your own creativity. c:


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