Productivity is a buzz word everywhere we look. We see big name writers telling us how many words they write a day to succeed. There are international writing events dedicated to just getting the words out on the page, hitting that word goal.
But the reality for many of us is that it isn't practical or possible to write everyday. Even 20 words can take up too much time.
When structure is helpful
Having a structured daily word goal can be incredibly helpful for many people or for particular times. However, structure looks different for different people.
Structure for you might mean a set hour a day. Maybe you're a 5amclub writer. Or you write a 3pm with a cup of tea. Or if your daily schedule is changeable, you might commit to an hour, any hour, but at least an hour. When it comes to finding structure, you have to consider how your day works and what structure you already have. What works for one person might not work for you. What works for you might change from time to time.
Choosing the word count
There is no golden wold count that will make everything smooth and easy. Keep track of how long, on average, it takes you to write 1000 words. You can use that to gauge how many words per day is attainable alongside your other commitments.
Whatever you settle on, it has to be attainable on your average day. A daily habit is not a 'go big or go home' kind of situation. Go small and manageable and have a hope in hell of succeeding. Be honest with yourself.
When it isn't helpful
Rigid word counts don't work for everyone. Family commitments, work commitments, disability and neurodivergence are just a few of the many things that can get in the way of daily writing. If a daily word count, or even a goal number of minutes to write per day, is going to become another reason to feel bad about yourself, don't do it.
Writing should bring us joy.
By all means, work with targets. But we shouldn't feel the need to carry the same level of productivity every single day. Or even week-on-week. You will end up in the same place by writing 1000 words a day for 70 days as you do by writing as many words are you're able to over the course of as many days as it takes.
What we can use instead
One thing you can do is track your progress. I keep a spreadsheet of the days that I write and how many words I have written. There's two pie charts, one tracking words written against my goal word count and one tracking scenes written against scenes plans (yes, I'm a plotter!). This gives me that sense of achievement. I can see my book grow on the little charts. It makes looking back at how far I've come more tangible. It also shows me that a daily work count is not a system that works for me. My writing habits are sporadic and unpredictable! And that's okay.
Targets give us a sense of progress. When we achieve them, they give us that shiny gratification feeling. But if that doesn't work for you, it is best to find another measure of success rather than trying to force it.