Molesting Hamsters

16 May

Recently I became enraged, due to a comment from someone about wordcounts. Of course, I become enraged over all sorts of things, like:

1. My cup of noodles not cooling down fast enough.

2. Evil triumphing over good on reality shows, like Masterchef.

3. My computer being a total arsehole.

So this state of unadultered fury was not an unusual occurence. Anyone who can work themselves into a rage over someone cooking a potato in orange juice then going through to the finals anyway just because they happen to be a big, fat, crying man is bound to get a bit annoyed over some random person saying stuff on a blog they’ve never heard of before.

Which is what I did. And then after I’d worked myself into this rage, I spent the requisite five hours a) ranting about it, b) regretting the rant c) wondering if people now hated me because of the rant d) being angry about people not sharing my perfectly logical opinion on the matter and e) worrying that I’m an arsehole because I expect people to share my opinion on the matter f) being sure that I’m an arsehole and then cramming my face with ten tons of chocolate to alleviate the asshole-ish feelings.

None of which is healthy. I mean, none of the above makes me feel better. And even if it did, there’s still the looming dread that someone, somewhere out there, thinks that I’m an arsehole not because I ranted. But because I do what this person so vehemently criticised:

I share my wordcounts.

I tweet about them. Usually something along the lines of:

“Wrote nothing today because I hate myself and want to die.”

All the way up to:

“Wrote 8k last night. My body now hates me and wants to die.”

And I also blog about them:

“Dear Diary, I’m about halfway through the novel I’ve been contracted to write, now, and it’s the strangest thing. This creeping feeling is coming over me, and I don’t know what it is. I went to the Doctor, and he informed me that it’s actually this terrible new strain of zombie virus, called “I hate myself and want to die”.”

And if all of those things weren’t bad enough, I also have little progress bars down one side of my blog. LITTLE PROGRESS BARS. I know – I’m going to hell. Or at least, I think I’m going to hell, as according to this person. According to this person, my doing all of the above is me being a godawful braggart, on a level with that most hated and reviled scum of the universe:

The coffee shop writer.

Only you know what? I don’t hate the coffee shop writer. I don’t even care if they sigh and wear a scarf and look tortured. They can tap delicately at their Macs all they want: what business is it of mine what they do, or who they are, or whether or not they’re showing off? Maybe they’re not showing off! Maybe they’re just really into scarves and have a debilitating hand disease, that means they can only peck out five words in an hour.

And as for the accusation that posting wordcounts is akin to molesting hamsters on a regular basis, well. I don’t even know what to say about that. I mean, if you’re the kind of person who actually uses wordcounts as a form of bragging, I’ll tell you now:

You’re in the wrong profession. Wordcounts are not about bragging. They do not show how big your dick is. They show only what you did today at work. Do you go up to random strangers and start bragging about how many reports you photocopied today, in between wanting to kill yourself and lunch? No? Then why are you doing it about wordcounts? Posting wordcounts is about charting your own progress, keeping yourself accountable, and letting possible readers know where you’re at on that sequel they’re waiting for. And it’s meant to be fun. That’s it.

And if you’re the kind of person who gets insanely jealous over someone else’s reported wordcount, I’ll tell you now:

You’ve gone insane.

I mean, just think about it for a second. When you see Susie Perfect Pants posting her wordcount of 80,000 words for the day, there are several things you can’t possibly know, such as:

1. Whether or not she’s telling the truth. I don’t want to go out on too much of a limb here, but I’m willing to bet that 80,000 words in one day is not actually possible without a Delorian and Christopher Lloyd on hand.

2. Maybe she did write 80,000 words. Could be she has that Delorian. Could be that she’s secretly The Flash. Who knows? But even if we do know and she did actually write 80,000 words, how do you know they’re any good? How do you know she won’t agonise over them, tomorrow? Put them all in the bin and then hurl herself off a cliff? Jealousy is so wasted on things that are SHIT.

3. Okay, so she did actually write 80,000 words. She’s a genius, she’s a secret superhero, we should all bow down and kiss her feet etc etc. And then tomorrow, she writes nothing. And then the next day she writes nothing. And when it gets to a week without anything written, she has a nervous breakdown.

Is this what we’re really all jealous of? Nobody knows what goes on in the mind of another person. We can’t possibly understand the real deal behind someone’s writing process. And so in the words of someone far wiser than me:

“Keep your eyes on your own paper.”

Don’t worry about what other people are doing or saying. Which is exactly what I’m going to do next time I tweet about my fookin’ wordcount.

12 Responses to “Molesting Hamsters”

  1. Marilyn Campbell May 16, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    As usual, Charlotte, you have thoroughly entertained me this Monday. I completely agree with your comparing wordcount sharing with 9-5 job progress sharing. I’ve been known to inspire myself to greater productivity by making up a large chart of small squares and allowing myself the thrill of coloring in one block for every 1000 words completed. I use bright and neon colored markers and make a great amount of noise when I fill in a block. Yes I am OCD but every colorful block assures me I have used my time well. I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t understand the glorious feeling of shouting the accomplishment from a rooftop!

  2. Kelly Jamieson May 16, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    I love this post and I love you.

  3. shannonemmel May 16, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    Hmmm…where’s my calculator? Oh there it is! Let’s see…80Kper day / (24hrs x 60mins) = 55.555 words per minute.

    So, typing 55 words per minute (Which is NOT that fast)for 24hrs straight WILL get you 80K words.

    Typing 110 words per minute for 12 hours is probably more realistic, since the typist would have to eat and go to the loo occasionally.

    Therefore, theoretically, it is possible to type 80K words in 24hours…

    Probably with typos.

    But the question is, “What are you typing?”

    Even I, who have NEVER claimed to be a typist, can type a page then copy and paste it enough times to add up to 80K words, AND “Control V-V-V-V-V…..” can make it add up REALLY FAST.

    However, it wouldn’t be anything anyone would really want to read.

    I know I wouldn’t.

    I’m with Marilyn on this one. Documenting progress is whichever way works for you is a GREAT thing.

    It’s concrete evidence that we ARE making progress…especially on days when it feels we’re just spinning our wheels!

    Personally, my “1 day” record is about 20pages, double spaced, but that is based on how long I went without sleep. It was one of those “marathon” days and my muses were working in shifts to keep me going for 24-36 hours straight.

    At the end of that session, I was pleased that what I wrote was quality (not just quantity) but… I DON’T REMEMBER WRITING HALF OF IT!


    Seriously… I went back and read it and thought, “Wow, this is realy good, but I don’t remember actually typing some of that!”Where was I? Oh yeas…doing the MATH!

    Those 20 pages were roughly 5000 words, edited.

    But 80K would be 320 manuscript pages in ONE DAY?

    Quick! Someone call Guiness cause that is probably a record…of some sort…somewhere.

    As for me… I’ll be happy with 1-10 GOOD pages any day and I can still meet up with Guiness at the end of the day.

    At the Pub on the corner…Guiness is 2-for-1.

    You should join me and we can celebrate our PROGRESS together!

    Rant away Charlotte…I’m with you! Or better yet, email everyday with your progress because I CAN apprecaitae it.

    I think we all can.


  4. Kaily Hart May 16, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    LOL. I’ve never come across anyone who criticizes the communication of wordcounts. Um…have they ever been on Twitter? I regulary do the #1k1hr sprints over there and it’s awesome. When you write at home by yourself and there’s no-one around who really understands what it is that you do? Well, it can be invaluable to be able to write alongside someone else and part of it is sharing word counts. And I too have those progress bars on my blog :). They’re solely there for myself and knowing that people look at them? Yeah, what a great motivator to make sure I keep them moving. And if someone is just showing off? Who care’s anyway, right??

    • shannonemmel May 16, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

      Awwww… I WANT progress bars for my webpage! 😦

      How do I get them?

      Tell me. Tell me NOW or I SWEAR I’ll go to the nearest pet store and take ALL of their hamsters HOSTAGE!

      I’ll do it…I will…I SWEAR!

      • themightycharlottestein May 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

        Please, don’t hurt the hamsters!

        I just put this:

        In my HTML thingie on the blogger sidebar. Change the wordcounts to suit you – the last one is your target, the first one your progress. And bob’s your uncle! No hamsters need be harmed!

      • themightycharlottestein May 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

        Wait, I don’t think that’s worked. It’s put up the image! LOL. Here’s the website:

  5. Nara May 16, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Everyone should follow my daily word count and no one would be jealous.

    Now I’m going to sit here trying to figure out the hamster thing and probably won’t get past my daily 80. That’s 80 words…one zero.

  6. themightycharlottestein May 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    Marilyn- That sounds so orsum! I think most writers have a bit of OCD in them, because it’s so difficult to know how you’re doing on a day to day basis without something to chart progress. And that sounds perfect!

    Kelly- awww, I love you too, bb! Thanks!

    Shannon- everything you’ve just said makes perfect sense to me. Except for the math bit. That was just terrifying! And I totally agree about that feeling of spinning your wheels. We need wordcounts, dammit! And it’s true – some days go better than others. Some days we managed 8k, some days we manage nothing at all. And there’s nothing wrong with mentioning either thing!

    Kaily- it’s why I was so flabberghasted. I’m surrounded by all of these lovely, lovely people who challenge each other and encourage each other and help each other through wordcounts and 50k blogs and 1k1hr, and this is all somehow a bad thing, now? We’re all just a bunch of braggers? It’s just not how I see it at all. I’m like you: I need SOME sense of community. Some sense of a workplace. I love being on my own and when in an actual workplace I’m not the most social of people, but you honestly don’t know what you’ve got until it’s not there. Until all you’ve got is just you, ploughing away at a keyboard 24/7. To me, all of this stuff – all the wordcount sharing, the encouragement – it’s about providing a workplace for each other, where we can all share our goals, our failings, our successes. Not in a braggy way – just in a community way.

    Nara- yeah, but your 80 words are probably stone cold genius!

  7. D.C. McMillen May 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Okay, so if I am to understand the gist of this post, molesting hamsters is wrong. Is that correct? Do NOT molest hamsters. Because I can totally handle that restriction.

  8. Hailey Edwards May 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    I remember this rant of yours, and I remember thinking you were spot-on. I’m another writer who posts word counts because I participate in things like #haulassdraft and #May50K on Twitter. I enjoy the sense of community and the encouragement from fellow writers.

    Condemning shared word counts is almost as silly as condoning hamster molestation.

  9. themightycharlottestein May 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    DC- If there’s anything I want anyone to take away from this post, it’s to never, ever molest a hamster.

    Hailey- Thanks! Am glad I didn’t come off as too much of a maniac. I just feel a lot of things. And I feel them on behalf of all my friends, too, who do the things you’ve just described!

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