My new spreadsheet.

Ohio. Wind chills in the single digits and still no snow. The sun sets at 5:27pm tonight.

It took some time to humble myself and write yet another draft of this novel I’ve been working on for years. But at last, I’m settling into a steady writing groove for the first time in months. I write in the library for an hour or two each morning, which is terrible because I’m a night owl in my bones. But I’ve learned the hard way that I need to write fiction before I let the world into my head and start doing things for money. As much I dislike these early hours, I’m beginning to savor the routine: Brewing a thermos of coffee while last night’s dreams evaporate. Warming up the car in the January cold. Taking a seat in the far corner of the Quiet Room. 

I do my best to write longhand for an hour before looking at a screen. But how do you measure progress? It’s easy to applaud myself for spending an hour or two each day on my draft, but when does this end? I need to get back to counting words. Tonight I made a spreadsheet with a reasonable daily target of 500 words. I’m a slow writer, but I should be able to hit this no matter if I’m in Ohio, London, the desert, or some state of emergency. It also outlines the task for the day, and there’s a spot for me to note how many words I actually wrote to make sure I’m not kidding myself. (Maybe my reliance upon counting words is hardwired; I used to count how many words I spoke each day because I was so shy.)

I can keep rewriting the same story forever. If I’m not paying attention, I can push commas around for hours or lose a whole day deliberating between that and which. Years ago, I came across an excellent Finnish word for someone fixated on the unimportant details: pilkunnussija, which means “comma fucker”. Yes, that’s me. 

Bowery Electric – Empty Words

Beat | Kranky, 1997 | Bandcamp
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Related Reading
June 12, 2022


Ohio. Sunset: 9:02pm. You can never see further than your headlights: this old slice of trucker philosophy makes more sense to me with each passing year.
June 21, 2022


Ohio. Sunset: 9:05pm. The longest day of the year, and, thank god, soon we'll be making more night. This journal will become a halfway house for homeless paragraphs from the stories I'm writing.
February 6, 2022

Morning Man

Utah. White skies, flurries, and temperatures around zero. The days around my birthday often find me rethinking the rhythm of my life and nursing morning fantasies.
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x