The Magic Spreadsheet, a curse or a blessing?
I know many people have been involved in the Magic Spreadsheet. What is it? I’m glad you asked. It’s a spreadsheet out there on the internet that authors can use to track progress of their writing. If you hit that link, it’ll take a while to come up. Many authors (new and old) are using this thing to get their word counts out there in public. You can listen to Mur Lafferty’s interview with Tony Pisculli here.
I see many benefits from using a spreadsheet. I use one myself. I track the number of words I write on a given day. When I’m done, I love to look and see what progress I’ve made. Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten a spreadsheet that really works for me and I’ve done a forecast of writing goals for the next few years (through 2020 actually). I’ve got it color-coded so I know when I hit my goal, came close, went way over, things like that. It makes me happy to look at when I get a nice string of good days under my belt and I’m really pushing the word count.
I do NOT participate on the magic spreadsheet. I almost did, but I won’t for many reasons. The biggest being that I write much faster than anyone I know that isn’t a professional writer. I don’t say that to boast, but I would hate to post on this spreadsheet and get struggling writers disappointed that they wrote 150 words that day that they’re proud of, and I’ve produced over 3,000 on that same day. I’m not here to disappoint or turn off someone who can only write 150 words a day. If that what you can do, I think that’s awesome. Go get ’em!
But I feel like some will look at the magic spreadsheet as a contest. A race. A way to point fingers at who’s slacking off and who’s doing really well. I don’t write to compete with anyone but myself, so I feel no need to post numbers on a spreadsheet for public consumption. Yes, I will post my numbers here on this blog if you care to look. I’m not shy. I feel bad about my numbers because I know I’m wasting time, procrastinating, doing things other than writing. I could probably write between 5,000 -10,000 words in a day if that’s all I had to do. I type very fast and I love the act of sitting and writing. But for now, I’m happy that I’m averaging 1650 words on the days I’m actually writing. I’ve only written 18 days in January, and I’m at nearly 30,000 words. Yes, I feel like that’s slacking off.
To me, putting my numbers on a spreadsheet like the Magic Spreadsheet would feel arrogant of me. Yes, I know I write fast. Yes, I type very quickly. I only spend about an hour a day actually writing. When I get into a groove, I can type 1500-2000 words an hour. I’ve typed up to 2700 an hour when I’m really moving. This is first draft. I’m not thinking deep thoughts. I’m just getting words on the page and getting the feeling of the story down. It’s not something that everyone can do, but should learn to do.
I’m getting sidetracked.
My spreadsheet isn’t magical. It’s informational. It tells me where I’m at, how I’m doing, and I can see that I need to improve my pace, even though I’m on target for the year. It tells me what I’ve got gaps in my days without a good reason for having gaps. If I’d kept my average word count over the past 29 days, I’d be over 47,000 words for the month. Yes, I’d be writing at NaNoWriMo speed. I get that. Like I said. I’m fast. My spreadsheet tells me that. I’ve had 7000 word days on days that I’ve put in a full 8 hour day, took the kid to practice, and came home and wrote until I was exhausted. Again, this is all personal. I keep track for me.
When I look at the spreadsheet, I see a spreadsheet of shame. I see a lot of people posting very low numbers, but they’ve got a string of days where they’ve written. That’s great. I’d just like to see more than an effort. I realize that some days you can only get in 10 or 15 minutes to write so your word count is low. If you look at Mur, she’s doing gangbusters. But I listen to her podcast and I hear her own disappointment when she has broken her string of consecutive days. She vows to pick it up and try harder and get a longer string of consecutive days. I find that admirable.
But again, this brings me to the spreadsheet of shame. Oh! You were doing so good! What happened? Why’d you break that string of 60 days of writing?
Pfft. Look at the total number of words written. Not the total number of days in an unbroken chain. That to me is far more important. If you’re knocking out big numbers AND getting in a good number of writing days done in a month, success! If you can crank out 10,000 words on Saturday and Sunday only, awesome! You’ll still put up big numbers in a month. But if you miss one day, two days, ten days, you can’t beat yourself up over those missed days. You just pick yourself up and go again. Figure out what you’re really doing this writing thing for. Are you just looking for validation that you do write and you have strings of unbroken days? Or are you trying to complete a story by hitting that keyboard as often as possible and making every moment at the keyboard count?
Don’t get distracted by a spreadsheet. Please. Yes, I keep a spreadsheet, but it’s not a competition. It’s not for bragging rights. It’s not even to prove anything. It’s just for me to look at and see how I’m doing. That’s it. I’m my own worst critic with regards as to how I’m doing and that’s it. I do it to keep myself on track and to keep my goals in front of me so I push myself that little bit harder to get more words down on the page.
Speaking of numbers, here are my counts so far this month. Like I said, I know I can do better and it’s up to me to push and motivate myself. I don’t post my numbers on the magic spreadsheet as I don’t want to discourage those that do use it. What I’d like to make sure of is that people are using it for the right reasons, to actually get themselves to sit down and be productive when they sit and write. To hold themselves accountable to their own, personal goals.
So what is your take on the magic spreadsheet? Do you use it? Have you thought of using it? Am I wrong?
Regardless of my own feelings, I will continue to use my spreadsheet for my own personal use and to keep myself on track. I will post my numbers here on a regular basis. Again, I’m not doing this to brag, to show off, to gloat. I’m doing this more to show what’s possible. The magic spreadsheet doesn’t give me the opportunity to communicate this, therefore I don’t participate.
Speaking of words and word counts…
Until Next Time!