To count or not to count


Being a part-time writer part-time interpreter part-time wife and mother and all time over-thinker of everything leaves me with precious little time for anything else.

This week I am focusing on overthinking the number of words I should be writing a day if I wish to continue calling myself a writer, as well as the number of hours I should realistically devote to producing the self-prescribed daily word quota.

Having invested, or to be more accurate, wasted, a considerable amount of cognitive time on trying to solve this dilemma, I then made an effort to remind myself that perhaps I should aim for quality over quantity at all times, and if I ever manage to write something remotely reminiscent of one of those beautifully crafted  passages of prose which constrict the reader’s throat and cause a tear to slowly well up in the corner of their eye, then perhaps it really doesn’t matter whether I manage to adhere to a self-inflicted regime of two thousand words a day or any such similarly regimented madness. The only thing that such discipline would achieve would be the confirmation that I possess an abundance of will-power, but would not necessarily make me a writer, never mind a good one.

Or perhaps it would? Is the mere act of churning out words onto paper or screen enough to call oneself a writer, or is the quality of how these words sound when strung together a necessary deciding factor? I have now produced over 200 words writing this piece, which is probably borderline excessive for what it’s worth. I leave you with one of my favourite literary passages of all time. I have a collection of those, but this is the one that comes to mind whenever I think ‘writing perfection’. A few passages from the Bible fall into this category too, but quoting the Bible is spiked with complications, and I don’t want to lead anybody to a conclusion that I am a deeply religious Bible quoting person, because I am not that person at all. But the quote I have chosen is much safer, I hope.

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

– James Joyce, Dubliners



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