I’ve written a lot in the last year about trying to achieve consistency in my editing and the mental health struggles that complicate the process. Thanks to a great convention experience in October and an editing reboot in November with NaNoWriMo, I got in a decent editing habit again. The holidays knocked it off track, as I expected, and there are continuing struggles with seasonal depression, but despite both of these things I’m still doing pretty okay when it comes to my writing.

When NaNoWriMo ended on December 1st, I started using another service (WriteTrack) to track my editing progress. A friend recommended it as one I can use year-round and it’s been very helpful to have. I tell it how many words I want to write and when I want to have it done by, and it tells me how many words I have to write every day to get there. The days on my calendar are coded red and green to indicate at a glance whether I met my word count that day, and it automatically adjusts my daily amount if I do more or less than goal in a day.

I’m not usually a big one for tracking and statistics. As I believe I’ve talked about before, that kind of thing tends to overwhelm me and make me feel pressured. Knowing precisely how much I did not achieve on an off day makes me feel bad even if I’ve done well most other days. My brain tends to see a day of failure and take that to mean the whole exercise is a write-off now.

For whatever reason – be it stubbornness, motivation because I have an actual goal, or some random, unknown tweak in my brain chemistry – this time the tracking seems to be helping. I’m taking great pleasure in doing more words than the site says I need to and watching the necessary words per day go down. I’m still not editing every single day, but this week I tipped the scales so that I had more days in January with editing than without. Seeing more green days than red days on the calendar is gratifying.

According to the count, from December 1st  to January 20th I’ve done 50,983 words. Now, to be clear, that’s not 50k words written. Since I’m editing, rather than writing something new, I’m doing a weird count I made up that looks like this:

number of already-written words that I read through

+ number of new words written

+ number of old words cut

= total words for the day

I don’t really have a good explanation for this formula, it just felt like the thing to do and aligned well with the number of words NaNoWriMo wants you to achieve in a day. By themselves, number of new words written and number of old words cut just don’t really reflect the amount of work editing feels like.

For example, yesterday I wrote 643 new words (which is really high and atypical for my editing days) and cut 381 existing words (also high and atypical). So that’s 1024 words total on a very unusually productive day. But I read, re-read and sometimes re-re-read 1948 words and spent almost three hours on it.

Considering I’ve written 570 words for this blog in 25 minutes, you might see how I don’t think 1024 really reflects the work I did yesterday. So I include that 1948 words I considered, moved around, re-considered, moved around some more and then considered again for a total of 2972.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m counting this way, like I’m cheating somehow. But then I ask “Who am I cheating?” I’m not getting paid for this. WriteTrack isn’t getting paid for my word count either. I could put anything down, it affects no one but me. It’s kind of crazy what my brain can find to feel guilty about it. So I’m telling my guilt to stuff it and keeping my higher total that may or may not reflect what any other writer would call their word count. Seeing those numbers is helping me stay motivated and reflecting what I think the amount of work I’m doing is. And that’s the whole point of the exercise, isn’t it?

Time for a true story I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone and so now it’s time to tell the internet. This whole thing reminds me of a game I used to play in my head when I was a kid working on jigsaw puzzles. In my mind, every single piece of the puzzle represented a person or creature on a distant planet. Their society was in shambles, no one knowing how to fix it. They needed help. So every piece of the puzzle I managed to put in place was a person helped, a piece of their society fixed. A completed puzzle was a world saved, a society restored to order. I inflated that simple puzzle so much in my mind, made myself a hero fixing a whole world, one piece at a time. And you know what? It was fun, it kept me working on the puzzle and it harmed no one.

So I guess this week’s lesson, if there is one, is do what you have to. If it’s not hurting anyone, and it helps you get the words on the page, or the brushstrokes on the canvas, or the to-do items crossed off the list, do whatever gets you there. Sing songs, give gold stars, invent games in your mind, and track whatever ridiculous, inflated numbers motivate you.

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