When you view words through numbers…

I can’t help myself. Even though I am striving to be a writer – a better writer – I often seek measurement of my success through numbers. It is, I suppose, something to do with upbringing, or education, or profession; but there is a solidity in numbers which is satisfyingly concrete – especially when one spends so much time and creative effort trying to get words to work.

1+1=2 is gratifyingly correct and unambiguous; deciding where to place an adjective on a line of poetry – or whether to have one at all – is completely at the other end of the spectrum. And never mind the torture of trying to choose the adjective in the first place! There is no ‘rightness’ involved there, it’s only feeling, instinct, gut, sound, sense, taste, and hopefully a little talent – and all of it mine alone.

Which is what you see all the time when you look through the blogs of people who write; the trying to make sense of things, of both themselves and their craft. Trying to harvest some proof that others feels positive about our work, that it has ‘value’. And most of us are using our blogs as a segway into something else, perhaps hoping for the day when we don’t need to blog because we have been taken seriously, have become mainstream, successful, vindicated.

And how do you measure that? Probably with numbers. The number of followers, likes, dollars made from the last book, stores stocking your work, invitations to speak, shelf inches in the local bookstore…

This is my 200th post on Writeral. In 18 months. Is that good or bad, I’ve no idea. I have some followers – to whom I am always grateful – but do I have enough? Can you ever have enough, I wonder?

So some more numbers – just for this double-centenary post today:

80% – 105,000 – 250 – 8

I am about 80% of the way through the first draft of my next novel which should top out at around 115k words or 250 pages. When will it see the light of day? Probably in about 8 months. At the moment if feels like a complete ‘thing’ as I accelerate towards the end; gentle and understated, but hopefully worthy and worthwhile.

62 – 100 – 8

I have reached page 62 in my next collection of verse, aiming at 100 pages cover-to-cover. This is likely to be delivered in the same 8 month timeframe. Worthiness? To be honest, I’m not yet sure.

And beyond that, some unknowable numbers exist. Answers to questions that, in truth, we never want answered. How many more words / books / poems will it take, will I write, will be good (or good enough)? How many more times will I feel that frisson of excitement having written something of which I am truly proud? How many people will read, will share, will buy, will like?

Of course in one very real sense, it doesn’t matter. As Mr Holmes might say, it only matters that the game is still afoot…


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