422 is the magic number ⭐
A little goes a long way.
A few weeks ago, Kara of my favorite newsletter Brass Ring Daily shared a website called Pacemaker, which bills itself as “a simple flexible goal planner for writers and students”. Needless to say, I signed up immediately. In less than five minutes, I had a project (New Novel, naturally), and a goal (first draft finished by September 30).
Then it was time for a plan, which is where things got interesting. Pacemaker allows you to choose how and when you want to work, and the site calculates daily word counts based on your preferences to get you to your goal. Maybe you want to write the same amount every day, or take weekends completely off. Maybe you want to write more on Saturdays and less on Wednesdays, or start small and gradually increase your output. Maybe you want to embrace your chaotic good side, and prefer to have a surprise word count assigned to you every day. The choice is yours!
After playing with all the options, I decided to be boring and write the same amount every day, mostly because during quarantine, all my days are more or less the same. But then a funny thing happened. Even though I knew September 30 was a reasonable deadline, and even though I understand how numbers work, I was very surprised to see my daily goal was a mere 422 words.
At the beginning of my quarantine, I vowed to write 1,000 words every single day. Why not, right? I had the whole novel outlined, so I didn’t need to waste time thinking about plot. Thanks to social distancing, I had lots of time and few distractions. Daydreams of the pages piling up, a new book to erase the failures of previous projects, soothed me.
Two days later, the flaws in this plan were clear. Much of my “free time” was spent obsessing over the pandemic, tracking the rise of cases, worrying about my family and friends. Also - and this is the main thing - I’m a slow writer! I like to re-read what I wrote yesterday, or last week. Move a sentence, or change an adjective. Massage a line until it flows into the scene. Stare out my window for five minutes while thinking of the perfect word. The pressure of 1,000 dulls the pleasures of writing: a pandemic epiphany.
And so I discarded my goal of 1,000 words and let Pacemaker guide me. Over the last two weeks, I have learned that 422 is the perfect number, for me, for now. That a few good words are far better than a pile of garbage. That this draft, at this stage, is for me, and I can and should take my time and enjoy the process. That this is no time to toil; we deserve delight. 💛
Snack of the Week
One night this week (which night? who knows! they all blur together) my husband and I unearthed our pasta maker and made fresh egg noodles, following a recipe very similar to this one. We opted for egg noodles because our chickens are laying like crazy right now and we had a surplus of eggs. It was a great quarantine activity - fancy enough to seem special, easy enough to be successful, and so incredibly delicious. A great way to spend an evening in isolation.
At Least Isolation Is Teaching People a Better Way to Cook, Slate. "We lucky Americans who are used to having plenty of food aren’t so much in need of a new recipe for lentil cookies as we are of a paradigm shift in the way we feed ourselves." 🍋
Cal Newport on Surviving Screens and Social Media in Isolation, GQ. "These technologies are life-giving and powerful, and we wouldn’t want to not have them. At the same time, if you're spending your day on Twitter right now, it's shredding your psychological health. It's the physical equivalent of sitting here with drain cleaner, taking shots every hour. But if you're on a Zoom call with your parents or cousins or something, it could be giving you the exact opposite effect!" 🏠
I'm Clinging to Personal Writing More Than Ever Right Now, Man Repeller. "Give me the internet of 2012 but give it to me in 2020. Give me shower thoughts and off-the-cuff revelations. Give me comment sections. Give me headlines that don’t give a hoot about SEO. Give me the Wild West of the digital world, when throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what stuck was pretty much the prevailing modus operandi." ✍️
Humblebrags: Self-Isolation Edition, McSweeney's. 😂
A Tiny Challenge
Find your delight. That's it, that's the challenge.
See you next Sunday! 💌
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