I had to spend some time researching this, because the fact is, I have no idea how to set reasonable goals for myself. In the end, I didn’t find much helpful information out there and that’s probably because the answer depends on who’s asking the question.
In trying to nail down a reasonable goal for myself, I’m looking at a few different things.
- How many hours I have available to write. (Lots.)
- How much of my time is lost to breaks. (So, so much. Too much.)
- How much I can reasonably write in that time. (Not so much if past is a predictor of future performance—but does it have to be?)
I’ve decided that studying the past and looking at averages isn’t a good idea for me. I mean, the whole purpose of this is to give me a number I can aim for each day, but a number that’s not out of my reach. Something that I can legitimately expect from myself, not a number that is a hoped for but not often attained goal. I want this reasonable number to be something that will force me to face facts. Am I putting enough effort into my daily writing?
So, if I answer with as much honesty as I can squeeze out of myself, this is what I come up with.
- I have to explain this answer. Writing is both a work and leisure activity for me. What that means is that I’m just as happy doing it as any other leisure activity, as a general rule. Not to say there aren’t times when I’d rather be doing something else, but it’s at least as important to me as anything else I relax with. So, when I take out sleep time, personal hygiene activities, and chores (the least I can possibly get away with because life is short and I hate chores and I’m actually fairly efficient at getting them done quickly) I end up with about 14 hours.
24 − 8.25 − 1 − .5 = 14.25
It’s too much to expect myself to spend all this time writing, but it’s a place to start.
- I take a lot of breaks. I have reasons for some of those breaks because I like my tea and I have a particular bladder condition that means my days are filled with a lot of pee breaks. If this is TMI for you, you might not want to read my blog because I don’t have a lot of respect for the TMI rule. :D Let’s say I can learn to limit these (change is hard but not impossible). ;) Let’s say I can cut down to 25% of my time lost to breaks. Right now I swear sometimes it’s closer to 50%, but that’s because I’m terribly bad at letting myself start things during my breaks that almost always take longer than I expect. Let’s say I can stop that. So, 25% of writing time is not going to be used for writing.
- My overall WPH average is currently 524 words. More recently, that average has gone up to 641 words per hour. I’m going to use 641, just because I want to.
14.25 × 75% × 641 = 6,850
But answer #1 says I can’t use 14.25 hours. It’s just not realistic. I mean, when am I going to cook, eat, yell at my kids :D, and all the other stuff that inevitably needs to be done every day? So I did a few more calculations. Say it’s reasonable to write during only 50% of that 14.25 hours.
7.125 × 75% × 641 = 3,425
On the other hand, say it’s reasonable to write during 66% of that 14.25 hours, still leaving almost 5 hours for stuff besides those allowances I’ve already made.
9.405 × 75% × 641 = 4,521
I can cut this last one back to a very conservative 525 WPH pace, and I still come up with 3,703 words. That’s a good check figure. It falls somewhere in between my two main results and shows that even if I have a day where my pace slows down, I should still expect something that falls within the range I’ve calculated. Of course, I could keep tweaking these numbers and pretty much make them spit out any result I want. I’m not going to do that. This calculation uses reasonable assumptions and I’m sticking with it.
And there you have it. I should be expecting myself to reach at least something approaching these numbers every day that I write. Just looking at that makes me feel like a complete and total slacker, because I’m nowhere near those numbers on a regular basis.
All that said, I have no intention of using these calculations to create another schedule for myself or set a time-based writing goal. All I wanted to know was what a reasonable daily word count is for me, as a full time writer. It’s a lot more than I thought it would be.
It’s also a little bit inspiring. ;) I can do this.