How I Lost 10,000 Words

I am a liar. Not to you. Not to my friends. To myself. I lie daily about what I can accomplish. Evil words like “This is all I can do today,” or “I don’t have time for this.” Sometimes I even go so far as to say “This is too hard.”

Sadly, I didn’t realize what a liar I was until a productivity tool revealed the truth in a way I couldn’t ignore.

My favorite proofreading software is Grammarly. It has prevented me from making many embarrassing mistakes, and I use it so often that I have the Chrome extension installed.

Yesterday I received my weekly Grammarly Insights email. This is a computer-generated report that gives an overview of your performance for the week. One of the stats it provides is how many words you wrote during the week. I don’t typically look at this, but yesterday I did. What I saw made me feel ill.

I wrote almost 13,000 words. 13,000! In the past seven days, I wrote a review (1500 words), a blog post (350 words), and worked on my novel (500 words). I hadn’t put my novel changes through Grammarly yet, so it didn’t even count towards that total. Out of 13,000 words, less than 2000 were for professional purposes. That means I wrote more than 10,000 words last week that did nothing to advance my goals. 10,000 words in emails, Facebook updates, Google chats, Reddit posts, and tweets.

Disheartened, I checked the previous three Insight reports. The disparity between the words I wrote for fun versus the words I wrote for work is dramatic. In the past month, I lost over 30,000 words to social media and chatting. That’s a third of a novel. Almost a year’s worth of weekly blog posts. Dozens of reviews and articles. That is progress I could have made if I had focused that energy on what I want to accomplish instead of entertainment.

Social media and connections with other people aren’t a bad thing. As we build writer platforms they are essential. Connecting with the world is how we find our audience. If it becomes a distraction, though, it stops being a tool and becomes a roadblock.

I realize that it’s time to shift my focus. Writing comes first, always. A platform is useless if I never finish anything I can promote. This means spending my morning clarity writing instead of responding to emails, and taking fewer “internet breaks.” I didn’t believe that I was capable of writing 10,000 words in a week, but now I know it’s not only possible, I’ve done it. I will do it again, but this time I will put those words toward what really matters to me.

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