Word count goals are wonderful tools, but it is a double edged one. There is a downside to setting a word count goal. The main danger is that the pressure to reach that goal gives the writer ulcers or panic attacks. It can also give the writer a sense of failure which is not what the tool is for. Worse, it can make the writing bland and bloated.
The very worst downside of setting a word count goal is that often when you hit the goal, you stop. This can be very bad. Now, maybe you stop because you’ve run out of time in your writing session and it’s time for you to do something else. That happens. The danger I’ve referring to here is when you hit your word count goal before your session time is up. If you stop then, you are making a mistake.
Never fear, though. If you are having issues with your word count goals, there are cures. If your word count goal is giving you ulcers, remove it. Just write until you feel like stopping. Then stop. That’s the ‘cure’ for the feeling of failure as well. If you find you want to write more, but you’ve hit your goal. The solution there is easy — don’t stop. It’s not a destination, it’s a target. You can write beyond your goal. In fact, it’s encouraged that you write beyond your goal.
Remember to pay attention to how you feel about your word count goal. Do you feel like you will never attain it? Then lower it. Do you feel as though you are padding your writing in order to reach the goal? Stop writing and start revising. The piece may be shorter than you wanted, but it won’t be bloated. Obesity in writing is almost as bad as obesity in human beings. Both need to trim down.
Do you feel anxious about reaching your word count goal? Eliminate it — now. Your goal should not damage you mentally. It’s there to help you. Don’t let it harm you. You’ll know if that happens. Just pay attention to how you feel about not hitting the goal. That will tell you the appropriate action to take.
Another ‘cure’ for depression in reaching the word count goal is to lower the goal. You could even sit down every day to write, think about how you feel, then choose a word count goal to shoot for that day. Or just spend the day’s writing session without a goal in mind at all. It’s all OK.
Word count goals are there to help you. Don’t use them to punish yourself for not having the words. It’s not a prison gate. It’s just a line in the sand. Step over it. It will be OK. Nothing will happen if you either don’t get to it or you race past it. Don’t let it become anything other than something to aim for. That’s the key to it all. Good luck and keep writing.
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