Friday, April 17, 2015

A Very Big Goal

I have a very, very big goal that I'd like to share with all of you.

You know I'm a writer, so I have written a lot of stuff on my own. But I have also had to do a lot of writing that I did not want to do for school. My goal is to have my school word count be less than 1% of my total word count.

Yes, it is a HUGE goal. If you're a writer and you're familiar with word count, you understand just how huge this goal is. But someone once told me that big dreams are okay.

The hardest part right now is how to estimate the word count that I've done for school. I still have a folder with a lot of my grad school work saved. It's not everything, but it's enough to estimate what I did in grad school pretty well. I deleted most of my undergrad college stuff, but college was recent enough that I can estimate it pretty well. I have my transcripts and I can probably find my class syllabi to figure out what I did. The hard part is figuring out what I did before college. All those spelling words and worksheets and homework questions...and all of it was handwritten. Luckily my parents saved a lot of my school stuff. I don't know exactly what we have saved, but I'm planning to grab the boxes and bring them to my apartment so I can estimate a word count. Obviously every single worksheet and homework assignment will not be there, so this will require some estimating. Eli said they will help me estimate.

Getting the estimate of my pre-college schoolwork is going to be the hardest part. This is the part that I'm the most concerned about being able to do, so I'm not going to start estimating anything else until I've got a word count on my younger schoolwork. Once that's done, I'll feel safe to go ahead with estimating everything else.

I pretty much have all of my personal writing, so getting my personal word count is not an issue. A couple of issues are:

1.What writing counts as writing?

I'm still debating about whether I should count class notes that I took voluntarily. On the one hand, I didn't have to write them. On the other hand, I felt like I had to take notes in class and to remember the material, when I really didn't want to. I think I probably should count class notes since I'm counting *all* personal writing, not just finished products.

I am counting Facebook statuses as writing. Facebook is like an online journal. I've always used Facebook as a way to express myself through writing, so I have no reason not to count it.

Emails and messages are tricky. I don't think I should count texts and brief, "What time are we meeting?" emails as "writing." But I have written some very long, well thought-out emails to friends that could have very well been blog posts. I am going to count some of my emails as writing, based on the content.

2. What about writing that I did for school and also enjoyed?

This is a tricky one. I think the writing I did in K-8 school that was required but that I enjoyed will be eliminated from the word count. This includes my two autobiographies and the journal I kept with my 5th grade teacher. I am not counting fictional stories and poems in this category because I usually was not thrilled about writing stories or poems for school, and the number of stories and poems we wrote was very small compared to all our other assignments, so it is probably not significant. The autobiographies and the journal were projects that were very special to me and that I still have saved. They are actually on the bookshelf in my apartment rather than at my parents' house. The only thing is that I cannot rationalize counting these as personal projects when I never would have done them outside of school, which is why I am not going to count them for either school or personal writing.

The stories I wrote in my college fiction writing classes, I am counting as personal writing because I chose to take that class because I like to write stories. I know that I technically chose all of my college classes, but fiction writing is one of the few classes that I was genuinely interested in, and I did not need to take the class for any kind of requirement.

College poetry classes are tricky. I was much less interested in these classes than I was in fiction writing. While the poems definitely feel like personal writing, I did not really enjoy poetry class - by second semester, it was more of a least bad option than a good option. I'm still debating what to do with the poems.


The most important thing to me is that I do this word count honestly and don't cheat at it. When estimating my school word count, I'll lean more towards higher than lower estimates, just to be sure that I'm not cheating. I just don't want to look back and say, "Well, I'll never really know if I did it because the results were inflated." I want to know that I truly did it. I am a writer. If schoolwork is less than 1% of my writing, it's less than 1% of my life.

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