Friday, July 19, 2013

The Pleasant Tyranny of the Ledger

A couple weeks ago, ISLF friend Joseph D'Agnese (The Mesmerist) posted an image of his fiction-writing ledger at his blog Daggyland, saying:
Since March I've been on the road a lot with [my wife] Denise. I accompanied her on her book tour throughout the east and southeast, and while I've enjoyed every minute of it, I'm forced to admit that I wasn't very productive at all. I've never gotten good at writing for myself while on the road.

In contrast, I've always been able to force myself to crank out client work and meet their deadlines while on the road. When it comes to my own stuff, I just tell myself I can skip a day. So while my ghostwriting clients can happily say their projects have moved forward -- the scientists, the business dudes, the diet docs all got their proposals done this spring, yay for them -- but on the Joe-fiction-writing front, this is the result: a long line of zeroes.
I can empathize with him. As a fellow freelancer, I understand how the pet projects of others can push creative pursuits to the side. It's hard to argue with a guaranteed paycheck, and there's a sense of satisfaction that comes when someone actually applauds you for your work rather than issuing a form rejection. But I'd never actually kept a ledger of the hours I spent penning narratives.

Now I do. Man, it sure makes a difference.

Without a visual reminder, it's oh-so-easy to let urgent things place their collective foot on the neck of our creative-writing time. Few of us have to invent imaginary worlds, breathe life into interesting characters or weave intricate plots. But when you can see the goose eggs piling up day after day, you have to answer a question: "Am I really a writer or not?" The ledger makes me answer an affirmative every time I see it, forces me to park myself in a chair and start tapping at the keyboard. It's the best sort of tyranny, the kind that pushes me to do what I love.

(Picture: CC 2007 by sixintheworld)


Joseph D'Agnese said...

Very kind of you. Glad it's made a difference.

Loren Eaton said...

It does! Truthfully, it's rather challenging.

Chestertonian Rambler said...

I also *love* Scrivener's daily target wordcount mode. There is something liberating at seeing the bar go to green when you've written your daily 500 words that makes me want to write more tomorrow.

Loren Eaton said...

See, I hate writing to a word count. When I do that, I typically end up with a bloated mess that I have to entirely scrap the next day. Measuring time proves more effective for me.