The Danger Zone

So, it’s four weeks since I started this self-imposed challenge of blogging an average of 274 words a day for 366 days, in order to pass 100,000 words by the end of the year. A good time to reflect on how it’s going, especially as I have a lot of ground to catch up after a few days in a row of writing hardly anything.

The first thing I’ve noticed is that it’s not doing my self-editing any good. My first drafts are full of superfluous words and roundabout ways of saying things, which on a second draft I usually rephrase or cut, even in a humble blog post. Now I find myself letting them slide, because after all, a few more words helps keep the average up. A bad habit, and one that will probably persist until I’m well clear of my target average.

It’s fair to say that I’ve found keeping up the average more of a challenge than posting every day, because a post can be as short as a few words and a single link, and I’m always collecting enough links that I have one or two to post. One thing I’ve been wishing is that I’d factored in some kind of value for posting photos or cartoons. I’ve been putting a gallery together to post here sometime over the next few days, and I’ll be lucky if the effort nets me my daily average. If I were counting each photo as a hundred words (I couldn’t in all honestly count them as a thousand), there would be more incentive to spend time on interesting images instead of random blether.

But that would miss the point of the exercise, which was to force me to start writing again, not just sorting out photos. And for that, it’s the 274-word average that provides the main incentive. Part of the point was to shake off the perfectionist sense that every post had to be better than trivial and ephemeral, that it had to be something lasting, something of quality... well, judging by this month I seem to have shaken that off pretty effectively. But hooray—I don’t want to be a blogging Sibelius, tearing up drafts of his 8th symphony because they aren’t as good as his 7th.

At the beginning of the month, Virge pointed out Beeminder in a comment here as a handy tool for keeping track of goals. It took me a few weeks, but I finally checked it out, and it really is very good. A much handier way of keeping track than writing daily and cumulative totals on a sticky note on my desktop; plus it does nice graphs. Here’s today’s, not counting this post:

Beeminder graph

The red box around it indicates that I’m in danger of falling off my target band, the “yellow brick road” as they call it. You can see that my natural rate of daily posting is a much shallower incline than the one I’m aiming for, and it’s only been a few big days that have kept me on track. But that’s the whole point of having a regular target, and part of the philosophy behind Beeminder: it forces you to put in those extra efforts before they accumulate to impossible ones.

So it’s looking like a very useful tool so far. After this blogging year is over, I might use it for something more ambitious, like a novel-writing year. And after I post this, the red border should switch back to green.

29 January 2012 · Site News

Might as well note the January totals here: 8523 words over 31 days, which was 29 words over the 8494 required to maintain a 274-words-per-day average.

Added by Rory on 1 February 2012.