Your word count means nothing to me

A “sadistic” writing app, The Most Dangerous Writing App, recently appeared on my social media feed. It registers when you’re not writing – 5 seconds of no typing – and starts deleting what you’ve already written.

At first, I laughed and moved on. I thought it was a bit of a joke, that no-one would really use it for academic work or their thesis. If anything, I thought that people would see it as a critique of being blinkered to anything but words on the page and other ‘writing productivity’ ridiculousness.

I was wrong.

People started talking about wanting to use it at their next #shutupandwrite session, to see how it ‘might whip them into shape’. They felt they needed something to make them take their academic writing more seriously, and this app might be it.

I went a little #headasplodey.

I have a confession to make: I think that there is such a thing as over-writing (aka writing too much), that ‘write early, write often’ can have bad consequences, and that vomiting words on a page is not necessarily a practice to cultivate.

Before you come at me with your flaming pomodoros and pointy word-count bars, hear me out.

If you’ve read my posts on Research Whisperer or elsewhere (e.g. RED Alert), you’ll know that I’m a huge #shutupandwrite fan. I’m not dissing the focus on regular writing and producing text per se.

Generative writing – the writing that usually takes place at #shutupandwrite and similar sessions – is extremely important. It lays the foundation for a good writing habit. It gives you the gift of being ‘writing ready’ and less daunted by the blank page or screen. It trains you to make consistent time to write/ read/ edit/ whatever. It lets you think about your current research.

After all, I’ve just spent a whole Saturday at our monthly Write Up and, as a result, I’m almost halfway through writing a book chapter that’s due in a couple of months. What did I do for the whole day? I structured the chapter, tracked literature, read (a lot), took notes, and wrote. I’ll concede that being able to devote a whole day to this focus is a privilege (but let’s not get too far down the track of categorising my feeling that I have to work across a weekend to stay afloat as a privilege).

My point is: academic writing requires thought. That thinking time (which leads to productive writing) is heavily compromised when the exhortation from many sides seems to be a heinous offshoot of that megacorp slogan: ‘Just write it’. The overwhelming fixation on word counts is unhealthy and, frankly, useless when it comes to figuring out whether you’re on the right track intellectually.

The valuation of the bare metrics above all else is insidious and harmful. It mimics the general obsession that the higher education sector has with counting outputs. That’s why the fixation with word counts does my head in. It often becomes a thin and flimsy declaration: “I WROTE WORDS”.

Yeah, ok, sure. But in the writing of those words did anything actually happen? Did you come to a greater understanding of the field and where your findings will be positioned? Did you work your way through the progression from background literature to a succinct write-up of your method or conceptual framework? How well did your discussion capture the things you really wanted to say about the work you’ve done?

Chances are that the writing did many of those things – so, why aren’t they worth talking about? Why wear your word count like some tinny badge of achievement when you have so much more that’s been going on?

This article on “The cult of productivity is preventing you from being productive” really spoke to me as I was writing this post (thank you for the link, @postdoctraining!). This part, in particular:

The reason we really care about productivity—or the reason we should care—is that it allows us to do the things we care about as well and effectively as possible. Productivity isn’t a goal, but rather a tool for better achieving our goals. [my emphasis]

If I write 3,000 words, that should mean nothing to you. If I write 3000 words and finish my book chapter, I could announce, “I’ve finished my book chapter!” and the consequent celebrations would be both grand and fitting.

I suspect that is why I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with the thesis bootcamp, grant camp and similar ‘write at all costs’ models. Partly because of the aggressive, macho language (often not taken ironically), but mostly because of the fixation on word counts, as if word counts in and of themselves mean anything at all.

I understand that thesis bootcamps and grant camps were created for a very particular purposes – to bring together researchers who are at an advanced stage with their projects and get them focused on the dissertation/ application trail so they can complete them in good time, with expert assistance about structure, voice, and formal guidelines. They do that very well. I know that they were not originally intended as an all-purpose extreme writing model (and especially not for those who are early in their dissertations or other project research), but that is how I have seen them being run at times – as a word count fiesta.

That is why your  word count means nothing to me. I need to know whether your words are good words, or at least have the potential to be helpful words for the larger project at hand. If you write 5,000 words and trash 4,500 of them, I don’t think that’s a great outcome. Spending more time thinking and producing 2,500 words, of which you keep about 1,800, is a much healthier research practice.

If you are 10,000 words over what your background section should be, that doesn’t mean writing a lot has been a good thing for you. It means you’re not writing to the purpose of that section and, perhaps, that you’re missing the point. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person and need to abandon your grant application/chapter/higher degree. It just means you need to stop, think, read some other examples, and take a moment or two to shape and structure it. You need to know that you’re not writing an ocean to fill a pond.

Having said that, I know there are those out there who find overwriting a useful way to create their work. What they often have behind them, though, is the experience of editing their own overwritten pieces – they know what is good or not-so-good text, what’s relevant and what will need to go. I think this kind of experience depends on having already completed a cache of writing and having the knowledge about what constitutes a good piece of work. Katherine Firth (Research Degree Voodoo; @katrinafee) wrote this great post on when there are too many words.

Don’t be seduced into thinking that a massive word count stands in for productive academic writing. It’s not about the quantity.

Write regularly; write thoughtfully.

About Tseen Khoo
Dr Tseen Khoo is a lecturer in research education and development based in Melbourne, Australia. She is often on Twitter (@tseenster), created/convenes the Asian Australian Studies Research Network (AASRN: aasrn.wordpress.com), and publishes on critical race studies, diasporic Asian cultures, and racialised academic identities.

99 Responses to Your word count means nothing to me

  1. Judy Redman says:

    We are a bit more flexible both in our Shut Up and Write and Research Writing Bootcamp sessions. We should really call them ‘shut up and work on your research’. People read, edit, enter data, transcribe recordings, find resources as well as writing. We think about them as offering a structure and company that makes doing what you need to do for a reasonable length of time more bearable. We will celebrate people who have written lots of words, but also people who have reduced their too many words to a more reasonable number, people who have found the references they need to do the writing next session and people who have entered data/transcribed recordings for an extended period and are still sane (or only slightly cracked).🙂 Because we work on line, on Sunday, I actually spent a pomodoro tidying my workspace so I could work the next day while someone else finished off a task that she’d been avoiding for a week and which she would have left unfinished without someone else to hold her accountable. And I got my workspace tidy – something I’d been avoiding for so long that it was no longer functional.🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      I’m totally with you on the ‘shut up and work on your research’ front. The aim of the game – for me – is making progress on your research, and staying in touch with it consistently during busy timetables that squeeze out our ability to think about this kind of work wholistically. Yes, producing words and finishing writing projects is very important, and producing quality work is dependent on giving concepts/analysis/critique time to percolate (or any number of simmering, baking, cooking analogies!).

      Liked by 4 people

      • acahacker says:

        I’ve been mulling for a while now over introducing ‘Shut Up and Do Research’ (aka ShUDR) sessions here. Your post, Tseen, and comment, Judy, has spurred me on – thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tseen Khoo says:

        ShUDR! I love it. Would love to hear how you go with getting these started + what the engagement with it is like. The ‘shut up and write’ imperative is an say short-hand for the event, but I’ve had people not come along to sessions because they’re at reading or editing stages and thought that type of non-writing activity would not be welcome. It’s a pity.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. maggies90 says:

    Thank you so much for your blog. I was only talking to a student about the importance of thinking the other day.

    As someone who has been part of Thesis Boot Camps I actually think both have a place and agree that thinking is extremely undervalued. Intensive writing sessions are great for people who have done a lot of reading and thinking and need to just ‘download’ what they have stored in their brain to make room for new and fresh thoughts. At the last boot camp that I attended I achieved the almighty ‘20,000 words’ in two days. A mammoth effort – but out of that around 15,000 words with some editing, remained as part of my thesis. What it did, at the beginning of my final 3-month write-up phase, was to allow me to see the gaps in what I needed to still do to achieve the completion of my thesis. It allowed me to let go of what I knew and open my mind to making new connections that were more in-depth and had more significant ramifications.

    Ultimately though, we need to promote and teach a better understanding of the difference between deep thinking and procrastinating. Yet maybe procrastinating is the state in which we are letting our brain do it’s job without trying to control it.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Thanks, Maggie, for sharing your experiences with this. Ending up with 15K good words is amazing – that is some achievement. And, yes, that’s what the logic of ‘downloading’ to the writing is, being able to see where the gaps are and work still needs to be done. Thesis bootcamps are certainly a winning format for some and, when they’re done properly, extremely valuable for HDRs on the home straight. It’s when the word counts get untethered from context or the broader continuum of the research work that I think it becomes a problem, an easy marker of ‘productivity’ that may not reflect what (thinking/structure/synthesis) work really needs to be done.

      I feel there’s time that needs to be spent with ideas and critique, not necessarily engaging with the material all the time, but having it roll around in the mind, along with the reading that’s being done, the text fragments that are being written, and the other ideas that are being brought in. This is the time that is often lost or thought inefficient in contemporary research and publication ‘pipelines’.

      Liked by 5 people

  3. I research through a travel writing practice, first I blog here on WordPress about my fieldwork. I’m working on the place image of Nantes currently. Then, after more work, I re-write each post as a chapter using the App, Wattpad. Wattpad is an excellent tool for this next stage in writing-up because your research gradually becomes an e-Book. In the UK, at least, the move to impact rather than unpaid journal publication means that my work is out in the public eye while it is still relevant. I plan to simply convert it to Kindle and to a Google Playbook when it is ready.

    Is anyone else using this model for their research writing and publication?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. uymrgrtty says:

    Yes, I agree with this. In fact, as what I have learned in our previous lessons, it’s not about the quantity it is about the quality. Because if you keep on minding and focusing on your word counts, you may forget the essence of what you really meant on your write-ups.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. talkchatter says:

    This is the one thing I have against NaNoWriMo, everyone seems to get hung up on the word count. I know it supposed to be a first draft but why write 50,000 words in a month and then end up having to re write the whole dam thing?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      That’s the thing – I think there’s a diminshing return for ‘efficiency’ or productiveness when you end up having to spend more time editing and re-visiting the work than taking the time to think through more thoroughly what you want to say and how you’re going to say it then writing that up. Doesn’t mean it has to be totally nutted out, but it starts off – in one’s mind – a bit more structured.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Kathy Powers says:

    Reblogged this on KathyPowers1 and commented:
    “Brevity takes time,” Sister Mary Stephen.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. newwordwars says:

    Thank you for the post. You addressed a situation that has come up to me in the past, wondering if I’m writing to fill space or make a point. At a small school in North Carolina, I had a Professor who made us write a 500 word poem. We spent the next week reducing the poem to the fewest words possible, about a dozen in my case.
    The process of writing is communicating ideas to others, hopefully as clearly as possible. Thanks to today’s hamster wheel education process, it requires boot-camps and concentrated writing sessions to be productive.

    “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter; it’s the difference between lightning-bug and lightning.”
    Mark Twain

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      I’m always (sometimes unpleasantly!) surprised at how much ‘dead wood’ language I edit out in later drafts, even when I think I’m writing mindfully and carefully! The few times I’ve written as almost a stream of consciousness for current research projects have felt fairly useless. While what I write can be interesting and flow quite well in terms of talking to myself about the project, it’s almost all tossed out when it comes to actual paper-writing. And I won’t pretend that the process helped me think things through that much; I feel better about the work when I take more time reading and thinking through than just getting unformed ideas down…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This was great for me to read this morning. I’m not writing research papers but it still applies. I find that the essays that I just write and write and write and then chop and chop and chop are the ones that I didn’t have a strong enough foundation to start with (and they read like crap).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Yes! This is exactly how I feel about work that I spill out, then spend ages trying to salvage what it was I was trying to say. I find it more useful to structure from the start + write to that, knowing full well that the structure may change. So much of clarity in writing is being able to lead the reader from one point to another. And it certainly helps if the point is clear to the writer first!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Good writing does take thought ! Some great perspectives.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Mrs.Dee says:

    Quality over quantity in each and every (master)piece you write should be the aim,that is what i strive for.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Good point. I always found that mainly focusing on word count was a daunting task and genders your productivity. Quality over quantity I always say. Iam not a huge fan of Steven king type book lengths. Actually too many pages in a book in a fast pace world today is not necessary. One can tell the story in a concise way.
    So yes I agree word caught doesn’t mean two fucks to me as long as I have good quality. I am satisfied. Great article.
    Follow me on my blog, the writers healing room. WordPress. Com and post a comment. 😃

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Thanks for your comment, Sharnetha. I do love clean and stripped down writing, and I realise that it can be a long-practiced skill to get to that stage of being able to do that.

      I agree with you re quality over quantity, of course. What can be tricky, I think, is being able to recognise what _is_ quality, especially if the writer is just starting out, or hasn’t had much experience being edited (to see good writing ‘bones’ being displayed). It’s all part of taking time to learn the craft, and getting to know the genre into which their writing.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Oops, my baad. Sorry for typos.
    It was my device. But u know what I mean

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Tanya Cliff says:

    “I have a confession to make: I think that there is such a thing as over-writing (aka writing too much), that ‘write early, write often’ can have bad consequences, and that vomiting words on a page is not necessarily a practice to cultivate.”

    I loved that! Thank you

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Juli Hoffman says:

    Oh no! I spend quality time staring off into space. Thinking. Dreaming. Word-smithing. I can remove sentences during the editing process. I don’t need an app for that!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. sachanievsky says:

    This was a very pleasant read! I agree with you – it is not so much about how much you write as it is about what you have actually written, be it in research or fiction. Even procrastination can have benefits as it can stimulate the wanderings of one’s mind. As to productivity… the pressure behind being productive sometimes just makes it impossible to produce anything at all.

    Thank you for sharing your thought!
    I hope you have a good day,
    Sacha

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      You’re totally right about the pressure to be productive making it hard to produce anything at all. It’s hard to be motivated by “I need to be productive!”. It feels much better to me – and I’m much more likely to respond – to “I’d love to share my ideas with others and get it out there!”.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. I completely agree! I feel as though quality is much better than quantity…. I am a college student and after I finish an essay I learn that I might need a page or two to add. Instead of a wonderful essay that has a ton of key points….it turned into a long repetitive essay. It is great to heard what you think!

    Liked by 3 people

  17. samratkel says:

    Very sound advice!!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. jovanevery1 says:

    YES!! Word counts are unhelpful in all kinds of ways. If you do find writing a lot and then editing it a helpful process, then the focus on word counts makes the revising and finishing part seem unproductive because there are not new words added.

    There is a lot more to writing and publishing than getting words on the page. In A Meeting With Your Writing I ask people to write a list of what their writing project needs to move forward and then pick one or two tasks from that list to work on during the session. And at the end I ask them to try to articulate how their project moved forward even if that is something a lot more abstract than “I wrote X words”. Sometimes people share that they didn’t write very much but that by the end of the session they have a clearer sense of what the project is about and what they need to do next, which they recognize as progress.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jo. I really like your method of asking people to write their own priorities and choose what to do within the session. Often, when people are feeling pressured on many sides, they find it hard to break down the projects into do-able chunks and take heart that it can all be done – given time and progress. A reality check on how much can be done in a (reasonable) day is also worthwhile getting to know!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Barb Caffrey says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with your post, and with Jo’s comment also.

      I’m a SF&F writer, and also write nonfiction. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to do before I do it, partly because I like to be well-prepared, partly because I need to visualize what I’m going to say before I say it…and partly because that’s what works for me.

      I can and have taken part in short-time bursts of high-verbiage creativity. (Large word counts in a few short days, in other words.) But most of the time, what happens is that I write all the words I had for a full week in those two days, and the rest of the week I’m frustrated and/or dealing with a quick and ready case of burnout.

      Because I do a lot of editing for others, I have a harder time just “shutting up and writing.” I can do it. I have done it. And sometimes it’s the only way — you go to the keyboard, you aren’t sure what will come out, and you find one gem you can polish that’s worth all the time, struggle, and frustration (at least, that’s what these sessions induce in me).

      I do agree that people should try to write at least five out of seven days. Pick the time that works the best and use it. (I like nights. Some like days. Whatever works.) Try to go for an hour at a time, but if you only have a half an hour, use it productively.

      Anyway, I loved this post. Don’t let anyone tell you how to write, folks…we all have our different ways of going about doing things, and there’s nothing wrong with that providing it works for us.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tseen Khoo says:

        Thanks for your comment, Barb – and, yes, people need to find what works for them. It’s good to try out various methods and times to see what works best (and most consistently). What works for some may have the opposite effect for others!

        One of my biggest challenges is to turn off my inner editor so I can get a piece finished + review/edit the work as a whole. Talking myself into letting a paper or chapter go takes some doing…😉

        Liked by 2 people

      • Barb Caffrey says:

        Yes. I have that problem, too, especially as I edit a great deal for others. Allowing myself to write and know I’ll make mistakes is hard…but many other writers have found it so, too. (I tell myself that daily, and try to muddle through.)

        You’ve read Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird,” I hope? (If not, it’s a good book about the writing process.) Lamott says that her first drafts are execrable, but usually she can find one idea she likes to work on. The important thing, to her, is that she get something down so she can refine and polish from there. (She intimates in “Bird by Bird” that she’s much better at the refining and polishing than she is at the first draft stage, and I got the sense she’d rather skip that stage entirely. But unfortunately, there isn’t a way to do that… ;-))

        Liked by 1 person

      • Tseen Khoo says:

        I haven’t actually read “Bird by Bird” but it sounds great! Thanks for the rec!

        Yes, would that we all could skip that first draft! No matter how long I take to compose and think it over, there’s always so much more to be done. When I give it enough thought, however, the subsequent editing and structure work is nowhere near as much as when I try to write too early and before adequate background reading.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Barb Caffrey says:

        I agree with you. (And glad to let you know about “Bird by Bird.” It’s an interesting book; it’s not scholarly by any means, but it has charm and wit and I loved it.)

        To my mind, planning makes a huge difference. So I’m glad that I’ve met a kindred spirit of sorts…at least, virtually.😉

        Liked by 1 person

  19. emmasharon says:

    I appreciate your intentionality in this post. We live in such a utilitarian world where everything we do is dedicated to the final product, the “answer,” and getting there as quickly and easily as possible. When we can value what we’re doing enough to be patient and purposeful about it, we are finally creating something worth working at.

    Liked by 8 people

  20. Life Mutated says:

    I recently whipped myself into shape and started trying my hand at creative writing … long complicated story as to why I suddenly chose that but never mind …

    What I see happening if I were to use the app …

    From a creative writing perspective I can see how an app like that could motivate you. What I have found on my initial dip into this pursuit is that more often than not, instead of actually writing I am daydreaming and ruminating about the plot development. +1 to the app … it keeps you moving forward instead of watching mental movies.

    My background however, is in an industry where there are a hundred ways to do the same thing, none of them neither wrong nor right. What matters is the best solution so you are constantly re-evaluating your approach to ensure you deliver the best possible solution to the problem. What’s more is that the tiniest misstep in the early stages is amplified ten times later on so constant revising is a must. -1 to the app … why? It feeds the habit of revising things over and over. Instead of advancing your writing, you start to revise when you can’t motivate your self to keep typing. Over revising in creative writing end up in having only one chapter to show for it in a month but that one chapter has been written so many times, you might as well have started ten different novels. And obviously of course, that ends up in a “typed word count” rather than a “word count on paper”.

    There are right ways and there are wrong ways to use advancement in technology, apps and the like. It is there to make your life easier, not to live your life for you, which is why I feel like cutting out my own heart when I read about apps like this. It’s like the “Poetry bots” as one example or Microsoft’s constant push to give the “laymen” the tools to write their own apps. They’ve been doing it since the inception of Visual Basic and Access and the trend is just getting worse, resulting in sub-standard and unimaginative solutions that costs an arm and a leg, sometimes at twice the cost of professional products as the developmental and maintenance requirements is so steep when you don’t have the right foundation. But I digress …

    To me, it is just yet another way for people to justify they’re lack of self motivation. They supplement their shortcomings instead of truly finding a solution to them within them selves.

    Just my point of view of course, no offence or judgement intended …

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

      I wrote this post as a bit of a rant, but I know the writing process and how each person approaches it is much more grey than a blogpost can capture. It’s very dependent on context and purpose of the writing, as well as how loose/tight the restrictions on that writing voice and tone might be.

      Liked by 3 people

  21. lazy says:

    Reblogged this on Lazy Batman.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Thank you. Very insightful,

    Liked by 3 people

  23. I could add that much you wrote about ‘productivity’ has become true about ‘creativity’ just as well. There are so many people hoping to make money by teaching & informing ‘us authors’ that I felt reminded of enforced marching in line from a darker time of Germany.

    What you call the cult of productivity IS a real problem. The advertising destroy the social media authors & artists use and they numb the customers with their overdose and repetition of phrases or slogans, too.

    Liked by 5 people

  24. redhatreads says:

    I remember reading that Harper Lee would often spend a whole day writing just a page of ‘To Kill a Mocking-Bird’, she wasn’t suffering from writers block, she simply wanted every word to be the right one. I think goes to show that words only have power when used correctly.
    On the other hand Jack Kerouac wrote ‘On The Road’ in a three week session, personally I think this is obvious in the writing, but he was aiming for a style of “spontaneous prose”. The popularity of the book shows that sometimes just writing and writing and writing might work if what you’re aiming for is a continuous stream of event rather than a coherent plot (as in TKaMB).

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Yes, I think there’s a glorious breadth of style that’s possible in creative writing. That’s definitely part of its dynamism and richness. It depends also on what readers are wanting from the text – I can vacillate in terms of what I like to read, depending on mood!

      The academic sector in which I work tends to be much more conservative in terms of style and expected structure and modes of argument. There are constant attempts to erode the established genre, but it’s a slow (and sometimes absent!) process of change.

      Liked by 5 people

  25. neffy93 says:

    I recall being at uni and fellow students saying “I’m going to write another 500 words of this assignment today” and I used to think “What? How?” Because I never understood that kind of predictive planning of what was going to come from research and if they just stopped when that counter hit 500 regardless of it they were in a critical flow or not. I didn’t get it. I was told at uni that I have a knack when writing academically of making an excellent critical analysis in the fewest words possible , something which doesn’t extend into my less formal writing. So because of this I could find myself struggling to make word count having said all I had to say on a topic. Then again what this did was force me to read more to find out even more to add to my argument so it was a good thing and enriched my studies and got me a good degree. I could never sit and write 500 words though I used to take the approach where I would sit and make a point in however many words that took.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      I think that’s an enviable trait to have, neffy93 – being able to make strong critical points in few words! Wish I had that! Thanks for sharing your perspective on this. Good to hear.

      Liked by 5 people

  26. Noor Elhayat says:

    Write regularly. Write thoughtfully. Excellent said!
    We were talking about a similar subject the other day. Even though we agreed that writing is similar to working out. You have to keeping going in order to grow muscles. There will be times around when you just need to be a listener. An observer. A reader. Not a producer. That’s how you get more productive; by thinking.
    Nice post! Thanks for sharing:)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Thanks for your comment, Noor, and that analogy of building “writing muscles” is a good one. Being able to approach writing projects confidently, or at least without fear, is always better! The writing that I’m talking about in this post is academic writing for papers and book chapters (or dissertations), so I’m not saying that typing up summaries of notes, or downloading from the brain about an area’s narrative gaps and silences, or just diarising research thoughts and possible directions for one’s research are not useful or wasted time. All those kinds of writing can be good ways to build writing muscles and get a writer’s mind into gear.

      Liked by 3 people

  27. I agree with the others. It can take a long time making something brief!

    Liked by 5 people

  28. ThinkPositive says:

    Quality over quantity. People are so concerned with length because “more is better” that they forget about the content. 500 pages of useless information will never compare to one line of pure gold.

    Liked by 4 people

  29. Happily Curious says:

    I hated writing research papers because teachers focused more on word count than the actual content of the paper. Sometimes I felt like I was just adding filler to make the word count.

    Liked by 5 people

  30. bethhammond says:

    Reblogged this on The Phoenix Quill and commented:
    “It’s not about the quantity.” Wise words my writer friend. Wise words.

    Liked by 4 people

  31. Pingback: Your word count means nothing to me

  32. zachsmith98 says:

    Loved this🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  33. Daal says:

    This applies to just about all kinds of writing – thanks for putting it so adeptly

    Liked by 7 people

  34. I love this. A lot of people in my major tend to write like this on papers–they write 30 pages and then cut it down to 10, for example. Although I DO tend to write more than I should, I personally find that method exhausting and I would much rather be more mindful of the words I actually put down in writing. A writing session for me is about 40% research and 50% outlining/coordinating/contextualizing, and only about 10% writing, on a good day. It’s a long process but it makes for a better work in the end.

    I think this is why I’ve never succeeded with the NaNoWriMo challenge; I do respect it for the discipline it tries to instill, but every writer has a different pace and different methods of getting things done, and I find that every November, my ideas are already shot dead by day 5 or 10. Academic papers are a bit different, but with the same general idea–forcing yourself to constantly (I like your use of this word) ‘vomit’ things onto the page is almost toxic to the natural flow of thinking/ideas. Pauses are important.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Thanks for your great comment, Rebecca. I agree that every writer has their own rhythm + effective habits. I think the tricky thing is getting to a stage where you learn those things about yourself, and that mostly comes from trial + error. No-one can tell you how to do it, or what will work for you. I love ‘shut up and write’ sessions, but I know that some people find the format and ‘noise’ too distracting. They’d prefer to be on their own.

      And what you say about “pauses are important” – YES. Essential.

      Liked by 2 people

  35. Jack says:

    Reblogged this on Wyrdwend.

    Liked by 4 people

  36. Jatney says:

    Sometimes it does need time to make something worthy of reading such as this🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  37. Miss Elizabeth Aide says:

    Reblogged this on plaidsterit and commented:
    As a current college student going through the stress of the final weeks of semester, this piece gave me hope.

    Liked by 5 people

  38. I found this article very informative. I try my best to get a post on my blog every other day. I particularly use different circumstances as a basis to write a short story. I feel at times under pressure to churn something out. Yet, as the point you made if I do that and it’s not very good then that doesn’t help me in the long run.
    I tried to get into the habit of writing 500 words a day to get into a regular habit, but I felt it didn’t work,for me. So I like the point in your last sentence of make sure you write regularly and write well.

    Liked by 5 people

  39. Brilliant. True. Well thought and well written.

    Liked by 3 people

  40. kudzugypsy says:

    This is great! Do you happen to review books?

    Liked by 3 people

  41. Jason says:

    LOVE THIS!

    Liked by 4 people

  42. Pingback: Your word count means nothing to me – Elly Ibrahim

  43. agurlblog says:

    awww! its been a while since i heard of it. Its true though.

    Liked by 2 people

  44. Pingback: Quality over Quantity any day – The Indulgent

  45. Amazing article!!!

    Liked by 3 people

  46. preethi2016 says:

    I loved this piece. I could totally connect to it, despite being from a completely different professional background (one where PowerPoint trumps Word and PDFs). All of us want to write with focus and clarity. Whether one wants to write a lot and edit later, or write and edit in parts with breaks in-between, or begin writing only when the final edited doc can be conceived by one’s mind – all being individual writing styles – writing thoughtlessly instead of thoughtfully should never be a goal. Thanks for this piece!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Thanks for reading + commneting! You’re right about clarity in communication no matter what sector or profession one is in. Writing under pressure is always difficult, but writing under pressure and with little thought doesn’t end well.

      Liked by 2 people

  47. Jen says:

    Great article. I had the same reaction when I saw that app being touted. I naturally gravitate to your idea of “writing thoughtfully”, having little tolerance for repetition and over-explaining. I do find though that this thoughtfulness can sometimes act as a block and have gained from the practice of just putting words to paper; the act often shakes free a trapped idea, even if the bulk of it is junk. Which is not to say I don’t get incredibly annoyed by all the words I had to scrap to get there!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Yes, you’re right, Jen – others have noted that too much thoughtfulness can become a procrastinating habit if it isn’t also accompanied by bouts of being able to think, process AND write. It’s a balance, isn’t it?

      Liked by 2 people

  48. Quality matters much more…quantity is just a number.

    Liked by 3 people

  49. I appreciate you sharing that. Many writing contest put emphasis on quantity not quality.

    Liked by 3 people

  50. Mimi says:

    Thinking is an integral part of creativity…
    How truely someone once said “a dictionary is not literature” !!!! Thanks for ur insight. Great article.🙂🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  51. 1corin144 says:

    Yes I agree it’s about balance. But I just happen to believe it’s about quality. When I write it’s about the message,and staying on track with the message i’m trying to put forth. But I always back my message up with what is true. and if someone has a question about my message, they can feel free and leave a comment.So I try not to use my free thought.

    Liked by 4 people

  52. Pingback: Witty @ Thirty

  53. Well said! It’s refreshing to have this pointed out.

    Liked by 2 people

  54. Great article. Truly an epigram can pass a greater message than two-three pages of words.

    Liked by 2 people

  55. 7impossiblethingsblog says:

    I find this such an insightful article. I feel the same way, the more I write down, the more freely I can express myself and develop my own thoughts. I know we say quality not quantity, but sometimes the latter achieves the best outcome.

    Liked by 2 people

  56. tissue paper says:

    This is inspiring! Thanks a lot for reminding us writers about how quality matters a lot that quantity.

    Liked by 2 people

  57. Shelley says:

    True for all forms of writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  58. amerita says:

    Absolutely love this. Another reason why I love writing (even if I haven’t been doing it often): it doesn’t matter whether you’ve written a million words or just one sentence, what matters is the impact it has.

    Liked by 2 people

  59. Love! I do tend to write for the sake of getting words down at times, but the editing afterwards always makes me regret it. Writing nothing words is as much a waste of my time as staring at a blank page.

    Liked by 2 people

  60. More is less…………

    Liked by 2 people

  61. Less is more …also !!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  62. Pingback: Your word count means nothing to me – My Thoughts

  63. Pingback: Meaningless Word Counts | Maggie Madly Writing

  64. Mary Ann says:

    I am new to blogging.. and this article was helpful.. I have a bad habit of writing but deleting.. writing and deleting.. around the mountain syndrome🙂 thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Good luck with the blogging adventure! As with learning any style of writing, blogging will come to you over time. It took me a while to “un-formalise” my writing as I was used to using academic language/tone! I cringe a bit when thinking of some of those first draft entries…

      Like

  65. Lorraine says:

    I personally can’t stand a long post, I purposely make them as short as I can, although sometimes I rant. Having my work deleted is a sucky way to make you wise up. Some of your best writing might be lost in space..

    Like

    • Tseen Khoo says:

      Rants are always somewhat cleansing to write! I love them! But it’s also good to have the calming influence of a critical friend checking it over before it’s let out into the public (as I’ve found).

      Liked by 1 person

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