5,000 words in ____ hours

How long does it take to write 5,000 words? Not very long, I would suggest. Perhaps it could be done easily in about 8 hours if I really had a grasp on what I wanted to say, and if I could veer off into any tangent I felt like veering off into. But then I’d need to factor in revision time–that could be somewhere like 20 hours then. But I feel pretty confident that I could write the draft of a 5,ooo word essay in a day.

BUT if I wanted it to be good the first time around, with research, and well-argued–that’s another story.

5,000 good words might take a week or three. And I’d still need to add in substantial revision time.

I have 5,ooo words due on Dec. 16 at noon. I’m not panicking over this much partly because I know I can do this, I already have about 2,000 in draft form, and about 4,000 words in notes. Unfortunately, I am tired and don’t want to write right now. That’s a major bummer.

What I want to do tonight is have a beer with friends and laugh and talk and relax without thinking about a single written word. That’s just not gonna happen. I have to do this project and it’s due on Dec. 16. Actually, Dec. 13, but I did wiggle out a couple of extra days because I’m just so deserving. Ha.

I’m not exactly procrastinating, but it feels like it as I have decided to finish this post before doing any other writing work today. I guess it’s part of my journey that I have to write about writing before I actually do it.

I’m working on an essay about strategic thinking and senior leadership and how all that is enhanced by writing and writing groups in the context of the hero’s journey–big ol’ metaphor. Duh, I say. It’s so obvious this is right that it feels a bit like “ho hum, been there, done that,” but I’m not the audience. That’s definitely one of my hang-ups as a writer. As soon as I think it, I assume it’s true for everyone and that my conclusions are easily arrived at by anyone who cares enough to dig and think as I have, so why write about it?  I need my time for other things, the next things. This is wrong in so many ways, and it might be my worst habit as a writer.

I should never assume anything about my audience’s level of tolerance for me. I should never assume they will be bored or capable of finding the same answers or stumbling upon the same ideas as I have. That cheats them (whoever they are) of a conversation they might want to be part of. Is it because I fear irrelevance? I’m not sure that’s it.

I think it’s more selfish than that. I think I’ve trained myself to be in a hurry to acquire and consume knowledge, recreate it as quickly as possible in ways and forms that are expedient. Then I get out, because I have a billion other things that need my attention.

Is this a narrow-minded rhetorical stance to take? It’s unkind to me as a writer because I shut down some ideas that might really be worth sharing (or hurry through the thinking and share in snippets), and unkind to readers who might learn something or share an idea with me that would expand my thinking. It may be that this writing behavior is cruel and short-sighted.

Is that what I’m supposed to learn from this 5,000 word essay? That I need to change the way I think about my writing worth? I write here pretty freely as a place to explore what I’m thinking and sometimes write a colossally fabulous sentence or two. (And then crash and burn sometimes, too.) So why wouldn’t I share more freely in other forums?

First, I volunteered to write this 5,000 word project, and hoped I would figure out what I needed to learn from the experience as I moved along the process. Second, I wrote a detailed outline (which I rarely do). Third, I feel constrained by that a bit. Fourth, not really. Fifth, I play by no set rules when it comes to writing.

So as I’m about to wrap up that project, I wonder what it will mean to me in the long-run. The short run? I’m writing and thinking and weaving together ideas and letting my connectivity out to play. I couldn’t be happier.

And I learned this (which I really already knew): I cannot always adhere to the strict limitations of a single genre and more power to me.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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