Here's the thing: everyone works differently. When authors say yes or no in answer to the question, they're giving an answer based on what works for them. Some people work better under the pressure of a daily goal. For others, the pressure is too much to handle. They find it inhibits their creativity and they end up getting less words on the page.
I know you're thinking, 'Well, this isn't very helpful, Andi. '
Well, you're right. It's not. But while I can't give you a definitive answer, I can give you some tips for finding what works best for you!
- Try Both Ways. This sounds crushingly obvious, but often times it's not, particularly for new writers. If you're struggling with deciding if a daily goal is right for you, try writing with a goal for one week and without a goal for the next. Take notes of your progress. Which week did you do better? How did the quality of writing differ between the two weeks, if at all? Did you find it too frustrating to have the goal? Did you like the challenge it presented? Sometimes even though we might think we'll do better with a daily goal, we do better without and vice versa.
- Set Realistic Goals. If you want to try daily goals, it's sometimes hard to find that fine line between something challenging and something completely insane that will have you throwing your computer out the window. Start with something you know you can consistently hit without frustration, say 700 words, and tack on a few hundred. Start with 1,000 words for day 1. Was that too easy? Try 2,000. Too unrealistic? Back it back down to 1,500. Eventually you'll find what your personal daily word goal should be. But whether that's 500 or 5,000 don't feel like your goal should be the same as someone else's. This is about you! You might have time to write only 2 hours a day while someone else can dedicate 8. Your daily goal should be challenging enough to motivate you to write more than you normally would, but not so outrageous that you stop writing out of frustration. And that point is different for everyone!
- Quality or Quantity. It's important to realize that nothing is going to be perfect on the first draft (or the second, third, or fourth for that matter). That being said, if you found that the quality of your writing suffered considerably with a daily goal, think of which means more to you when trying to complete that first draft: quality or quantity. There isn't a right or wrong answer here. Again, it's personal preference of how you feel you'd better handle your writing. Think about whether you'd rather get words on a page as quickly as possible and spend more time later editing/revising/polishing, or taking more time while writing that first draft to find that perfect word choice. Either way, you'll be doing lots of editing once that first draft is finished, don't get me wrong. It really comes down to when you want to spend time nit-picking and fretting over word choices or phrasing to make your story perfect!
- Eliminate Distractions. So, you tried both with and without a daily word goal and didn't see or feel a major difference in your word count. But you still feel like you're not writing to your fullest potential. Take a step back and examine how your time was spent. The biggest time sinks are the internet, social media, and our phones. Sometimes we don't realize how much time we spend on one or all of these things throughout the day. I myself have been known to look up a synonym on the thesaurus and find myself 30 minutes later reading about someone bringing back a species of butterfly native to the San Francisco area. Identify your distractions, online or not, and do what you can to eliminate them. Keep the dogs out of your office. Turn off notifications on your phone. Write when the kids are at school or after they've gone to bed. Once you've made a step in reducing distractions, go back to step 1 and try again with and without a daily word goal. Chances are, you'll have better success this time around!
Were these tips helpful? Do you set a daily word goal? What do you do on days when your creativity isn't quite there? Do you alter the goal or push through? Share your thoughts in the comments!