Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Exchange Rates

Current Reading: Marching As To War, by Pierre Burton

Inspirational Quote: "Hell, there are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something." -- Thomas Edison

In physics, work has a mathematically precise definition: the force applied to an object over a distance. In the human world, work is a little less... definitive. And that's where I'm having theoretical trouble.

I've set myself a daily word minimum in an effort to increase and stabilize my production. Doing so gives me a goal. If I'm on a roll (which happens), and I don't feel like stopping after I've achieved that goal, then I can continue. If, however, every word is dragged out of the pit of despair howling and flailing and fighting to remain in the dark, I force myself to soldier on until that minimum number of words has been committed. Then I can say "I've done my work," shut off the computer and go do something else secure in the knowledge that I have accomplished a reasonable amount.

This is fine for draft writing, during which I'm producing new words. It's not so great for revisions, during which I sincerely hope I can progress at a greater rate. It's even worse for more business-related activities like cover letters, manuscript formatting, submissions and related correspondence. How can I tell when I've done enough of that?

I like the feeling of accomplishment I get from knowing that I've reached my daily goal, so I've got to work out an exchange rate. An evening's work consists of X number of words of new material, OR a certain amount of revision (Words? Hours? Corrections?) OR a different amount of administration effort (Hours? Pages?), OR some combination of these things. They should all represent more or less the same amount of progress and effort.


slcard said...

I go by hours: two, seven days a week. No excuses (I may not like rules, but I'm insane about personal discipline). Less, and I feel like I never get the ball rolling enough to really accomplish anything, and more is only a dream. Since my son turned five and started staying up past seven o'clock, grabbing the time in the evening is not sensibly possible, not if I also want to maintain my fitness level, a relationship with my husband, and various and sundry other chosen obligations. So, I get up at five, two hours before the rest of my house. As my computer comes on I heat coffee in the microwave, because I've no time to make it fresh with only two fleeting hours to myself. Some days I can write a chapter. Some days a page. I am content either way.

P.S. In case you're wondering how I can suggest I have no daylight time and yet seem to be at this blog site for hours on end (as I have been today, and I know I have on many other occasions as well), it's because I often have to leave my comments in bits and pieces as I respond to the demands of the day. Sorry if I'm messing with your stats.

Ulysses said...

I used to go by hours, but I've found that I'm a dallier. If I set a time limit, I'll spend some of it writing, but then I'll spend some of it examining the ceiling, and dusting under the keyboard, and doing "research" on the web (which usually starts on topic and devolves into my reading up on coming-of-age ceremonies in prehistoric Polynesia.... not productive). In the end, the hours will be put in, but the results will not be consistent or admirable.

I've found the word limit measures productive writing and brooks no delay.

I may have to use a time measure for the other stuff, though. Still thinking.

slcard said...

Forgot to mention and really just have to: I particularly loved this post's quote.