Numbers

I’m on a nifty new anti-shin-splint running plan, courtesy of a kind, lyrical friend. I run three days a week, rest in between, and take the dog for a long walk on the weekend. I call it cross-training, he calls it “Can I really? Pleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!” The plan is aimed toward getting me to run a 5 K. (I don’t really want to run a race, although I enjoy reading about them, I just want to be able to run 5 km. I’m hoping it’s going to make me into a badass.) My previous plan was to run on Monday when the week was young, and then try and fail to run every day for the rest of the week. So this plan is better.

There are a set number of miles I run each time. Right now it is even lower than the plan says because of encroaching shin splints, but as they seem to have disappeared (knock wood), I’m ramping up next week. In short, I am beside myself with success. (Note: This is a much-needed salve for a rough couple days.)

They say ADDers do well with structure. Today I tried to impose structure on The Fucker. I thought that because numbers had been working out well runningwise, and had worked out well in the past for word counts, that I could try again. Today I wrote 1,000 words in places where it was suggested that I might need more information. It was filler and it sucked.

But I was reminded of my friend J, who had a really hard time writing anything after her college senior thesis. This was, in part, because her thesis was about difficult stuff. But it was also because her thesis was very well written by the time it was finished. It’s hard to go back to writing crap after such glorious highs. You forget that your gorgeous sentence on p. 45 once was a steaming piece of crap that you considered doing yourself away over. (I exaggerate, but only slightly.) (And no I’m not sure that sentence is grammatically correct. Fuck off.) (And, yes, the series of parentheses offends my copyeditorial eye.)

I turned to the interwebs to see how many words an actual memoir contains. (Between 45,000 and 100,000 said a number of sources of varying levels of credibility.) I turned to a friend who said 80,000. Because I’m not even quite at 50,000, I decided she was completely wrong, misguided, misled by the interwebs. (No, you’re probably right, my friend, but let me have my moment of willful ignorance.)

I am not sure, in my present frame of mind, that I have even 10,000 words more in me on this subject. And I don’t know if that is because I am done or because I need to expand, learn more, give it a rest.

How do you feel about numbers?

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13 responses to “Numbers

  1. Only partially relevant quotation:

    “I’m not interested in writing short stories. Anything that doesn’t take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.” — Cormac McCarthy

  2. Alice Munro once said she wrote short fiction (under 20,000 words) because she was a single mother and had limited time and concentration to spare.

    I like that.

  3. Numbers. Feel? Okay…

    Like you, my writing life — oh, and that other thing that also matters a bit, what’s it called again? Oh yeah, my life — is made more difficult by ADHD.
    But add numbers to ADHD soup-brain, and we potentially have a real problem.
    My whole childhood I counted, everything and nothing, pretty much any time when I wasn’t reading or writing or riding a motorbike fast.
    Huge quantities of THC were a blessing, clouding the numbers enough to live a life, and killing off enough brain cells to keep them away a little even now, 15 years after my last toke.
    But still, numbers can well fuck us over if we let them. It’s enough to have beautiful words attacking us.

    When i started to comment, it was because I thought I had something helpful to say. Sorry.

    Oh, wait, I do, maybe. That thing, where it’s difficult to write because you wrote something good before, so must be at least that good again?
    Numbers can fix that problem. Nice numbers. Good numbers. Helpful numbers. Plan a plot, simple genre novel. Better still, novella. Write one draft, fast, then publish under pseudonym. Repeat. And again.
    Get obsessed with breaking your record of number of words written in a day. In a month, you’ll have a three book series of crap making sales in a popular genre, you’ll go back to writing your real book, and the thousand words you write in a day will be sweet and crisp and in just the right places, because you’ll have numbered and labelled all your crap already.
    Oh, and it’ll make a few dollars, all the better to help you feel justified spending a whole day writing one perfect sentence in your book, the one that actually matters.

    Time I shut up again.

    • No need to shut up, harryipants. The second half of this post, which I thought about but didn’t write, was about the times that numbers are too much. I cycle in and out of phases of needing numbers. And I like your plan.

  4. The conventional wisdom in running is that you should never compare yourself (distance, pace, endurance) to anyone else. You should only compete with yourself.

    A conventional wisdom in writing is that a piece should be like a swimming suit: long enuf to cover the subject matter but short enuf to be interesting.

    I take both of those to mean that measurements are relative to the purpose. How long should a memoir be? As long as it takes to say whatever needs to be said.

    I’m eager to hear reports on your progress toward the 5K.

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