Over on Libby Sommer’s blog about writing, she and I engaged in a dialog following her article “Turning Towards the Inner Critic.” I had mentioned starting to develop some word counts greater than 2,000 in my “Daily Writing Exercise” that I had derived based on “No Plot, No Problem” as well as the ideas of others. (At this point I should explicitly mention Julie Cameron’s “The Artists Way” also since encountering her “morning pages” circa 2003 was my earliest exposure to this family of ideas.)
Libby, in the course of the dialog, asked this:
“the word counts might be large, but does the writing itself make interesting reading?”
“Not necessarily. BUT it DOES create a “farm” of material that can be drawn upon to produce material that *IS* interesting, and it is a innoculation against writers block. And, as an aside, it seems to help organize me. I look back at old exercises and draw the conclusion: “Oh. That was important. I dropped it. Better get on it.” Extra helpful in that way, a bit like the oddball photos I take of people, signs, things around the house, and so forth. (“Hmm. What was that a picture of? Oh, it was the parking garage next to that excellent restaurant that we went to a year ago but never made it back to. Maybe time to go there again.”) Can’t count the number of times a picture like that returned me to somewhere I wanted to go (or warned me about somewhere I didn’t).”
However, some writers (more than a few, notably Hemingway) focused on low word counts (500 words per day for Hemingway) but absolutely the highest quality writing that they could muster. By the end of their session, the likelihood of future edits was greatly reduced or maybe even eliminated.
So, I offer the idea to my readers: which do you prefer? Now I know that some will say “both!” (That is the direction I am heading, and I think that is obvious. Do the “maximum output” exercise first, to “warm up,” and then “squeeze out” the few hundred words of “high quality” once the “writer’s block” (and excuses) are gone.) BUT, noting that, consider what you would do if only ONE of them were an option. Which would you pick? Why?
Update: Libby has notified me that she has a piece on this topic located here: https://libbysommer.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/exercising-the-writing-muscle/