Sometimes I’m asked this question by writers seeking to evaluate their progress. They are wondering if email writing, research reading and note-taking, making an outline, sitting and thinking about the piece, free-writing or warmup writing should count as part of their writing for the day.
Normally I reply “No.” Not because these activities are not potentially helpful for moving a project forward, but because the challenges are greater in the production of text, and this is what is typically avoided. This is where the rubber meets the road. Either something happens or it doesn’t.
Some people measure productivity by time spent in the writing position. I think this approach is most useful for writers who are trying to get back into the swing of things after a lengthy hiatus. To just to sit down and remain seated for 15 minutes in front of the keyboard, is a productive step. Tougher requirements, like a daily goal of 2,000 words, might be too much and lead to more avoidance. Of course, if you are sitting at your desk and surfing the Internet day after day during writing time; don’t you think it’d be a stretch to count that?
Many writers create a page or word count goal for their daily writing to provide structure and discipline for their efforts. Some find that charting or journaling about their writing process provides another level of reinforcement and focus on maintaining their momentum.
John Steinbeck wrote about how he stuck to his 2,000 word a day goal in, Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath . He experienced considerable self-doubt and resistance to writing, and having an inviolable rule about the 2,000 words kept him on task.