01 Feb

Your Best Work and Your Worst Work

Banner - TypewriterFor years I’ve been hearing other authors say that there is no great difference between their worst work, and their best work. I’ve always thought this was a load of crud.

Of course there is a difference between my best work and my worst work. When I do my best writing everything flows. It is pure, pristine, shoals of wonderful ideas that weave together into a complete whole. It is living in flow with the Muse looking over my shoulder. The words flow out of me in a never-ending stream.

Except that all of that really is a load of crud.

Last year, after reading Chris Fox’s “5000 Words An Hour,” I started keeping track of my work. When I start to write. Whether I’m writing or editing. How many words I achieve. And it’s really opened up my eyes.

When I look at those statistics, I average around 1500 finished words per hour. Sometimes I may write as much as 2000. Sometimes, as little as 1100. But the differences aren’t that great.

Even if you assume that my best work is when I’m typing at 2000 wph, and my worst work is at 1100 wph, there isn’t all that much spread. Spend another fifteen minutes typing, and I’ve caught up.

And when I go back and look at the quality of the stories, I can’t see any difference. I can’t tell if I had a good writing day or a bad writing day. The words are pretty much the same.

I know that for my longer stories, I have had both good and bad writing days. But everything flows together. There’s no way to tell if the words flowed at 2k per hour or dribbled at 1k. The craft and execution isn’t affected. The stories are at the skill level that I was at, at the time.

This means that there is very little difference between my best and worst work. The difference can be measured in the amount of time that I have to spend to produce usable stories.

That’s it.

Surprisingly, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is really, really good. Because if the reader can’t tell the difference between the Muse magically conjuring words in your head, and the Muse being on vacation while your internal editor is kicking your brain trying to extract some shred of relevance, then you don’t have to worry about quality. The quality is there. It’s based on your craft, not your form for the day.

All you have to worry about is the amount of time you spend writing. That’s it. There is no difference in quality. There’s only how much you produce. And the good news is that the more you produce, the better your quality will be.

Translation: you need to practice before you become skilled, and practice some equally while you’re inspired as when you’re not.

For me, that means that I should build the habits that allow me to sit down at the computer and type. Because in the end, what counts are only two things: whether I produce, and whether my readers enjoy what I write.

And how I feel while writing has nothing to do with either.

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