October 31st, 2006

Vanitas desk

Word counts and task setting

Some lessons I can't learn too often.

When I was writing my dissertation, it took me a long time to make peace with setting a daily word count of 500 words for myself. If I finished it, it was absolutely fine if I didn't do any other writing that day. I was making the progress I needed to. Those 500 words would sometimes take me all day, and sometimes take me barely more than an hour. It didn't matter. What mattered was that I was making slow but inexorable progress on the overall task.

With translation, word count doesn't make as much sense. I have other tasks I need to get done, so I've been setting myself a goal of two hours of translation a day. Fine. Good.

But today I was also really writing from scratch for the first time in a while. It's not a serious writing project - it's not even academic. But I made the mistake of listing the entire suite of related pieces of writing as one to-do list item. And thus, although I wrote a 1000 words, I feel like I've hardly made any progress at all on it. I'm finding it very hard to believe that this counts as progress on the project since I can't check anything off of my to-do list. And yet, intellectually, I know it is.