1k Words a Day

I jinxed myself. Last week, I made the observation on Twitter that I usually write about 1k words a day, and if I don’t, it feels strange, like my day isn’t complete. They could be words written for work, words written for my research/books/publications, or words written for me. I write here, I write for my tinyletter, I freelance, I still write the occasional academically-adjacent article or essay, I still do conference presentations, and of course my job utilizes my prolific writing skills.

I thought about how I should keep track of all the words I write every day, just so I can look at it when I feel like I’m not being productive enough. Maybe even a (gasp) spreadsheet. Note that I hate spreadsheets to organize textual materials (I think up-down, not side-to-side), but at least if I put a number in one column, it would keep a running total for me. Why not, I thought? Besides having to interface with a spreadsheet, I thought, maybe this is a good idea? Getting organized?

This is only really relevant to weekdays. Weekends are given over to recitals and dance practice and swim team and swim meets and errands and laundry and family time. I guess if I were really “serious” about writing, I’d create space to write on weekends, too. But, sometimes your brain needs a break. Consider it like a rest day when you work out.

Because for me, the writing is like a work-out. Since I stopped swimming, working on has been a hard habit for me to get back into. Between coaching and working and my daughter’s dance schedule, I don’t have the energy or mental capacity to get back into that particular habit. But, when I don’t write, I am as miserable and disoriented as I was when I used to get a week off from swimming. This is my healthy practice, my work-out, my exercise, my routine.

(337 words. Ugh)

And then today came. It’s about to storm over the next week and I can feel it in my head and in my sinuses. I’m slightly dizzy, slightly light-headed, but also at the same time feeling a dull pressure. I hate that I can feel the weather. I was at a swim meet yesterday coaching, which always exhausts me, because the affective labor involved is real, especially when it involves your own child, let alone the kids you coach (and their parents and grandparents). Plus, you know, Father’s Day.

I don’t have anything right now to write for work. I have my conference presentation all done for this Friday. I did some editing. I did some research for one of my colleagues here who is interested in publishing. I had some meetings that were productive. But really right now, I’m in a bit of a holding pattern: waiting for submissions for the book I’m editing, waiting for the green-light on some projects, waiting to sort through some complicated feelings before writing them out, waiting to not feel like my head is going to both explode and implode.

(Half-way there)

It’s getting harder and harder for me to write at home after work. Our place is much smaller and there isn’t really a quite place to work, to write. Both kids will be watching YouTube on blast, or playing video games while loudly talking to their friends, and then the dog is offended that you’re not petting him. I can take a little distraction, but it’s too much at home these days. And that’s fine. It’s all just temporary, for the summer, but also for life – the kids won’t be home forever! In the same way I managed to work my writing around babies and teaching and life before, I’m working it out again, just differently.

My kids…My sweet, lovely kids. I wish I could make them understand how much work I’ve put into becoming a decent writer. How what I did growing up didn’t look like practice, but it was. They want to be great at what they see themselves as practicing: a great dancer and a great swimmer. I want those things too for them in the same way I wanted to be a great swimmer when I was young. But I realize now the things I was always willing to put the work into was my writing. I wasn’t always thinking about swimming, but I was always thinking about writing, even when I was swimming.

I just didn’t understand it at the time.

I didn’t work hard, necessarily, but I worked a lot. Always, always writing. But I didn’t see it as work, as practice, as a process. I just saw it as the thing that I did because it’s what I did. I almost want to tell them, if you want to be good at what you do, you need to put in the work, but the work shouldn’t feel like work, it should feel like its natural, like it is what you were meant to be doing, that it is just a part of who you are. Work is something that we are forced to do. What I do when I write…it’s not work.

But that’s equally problematic, isn’t it? Saying, well, why bother if it feels like work? ADHD is tricky in that way, making us adverse to certain work and drawn to others. The way our brains bounce and spiral and run away from us, making it hard to work the way others work, show work the way others show work. Everything is hard or super-easy. We want everything and nothing all at once.

I write about 1k words a day because I don’t know how to not write them. I mean, I do, don’t get me wrong, but the day doesn’t feel right if I don’t. I see it in my son when he doesn’t swim for a while, or when my daughter doesn’t dance. They miss it. They long for it. They feel relief when they’re back in it. Work and practice looks different when you have ADHD. I’m only just starting to understand that, and trying to help my kids understand it, too.

There. Almost 1100 words.