Public Metrics

Anyone who has followed me on social media for any length of time knows that I generally post my wordcounts and workout metrics. Anyone who has followed me through the end of a book knows that I also post my edit metrics to the extent that is possible.

There’s a reason for that. Well, several, actually. Since I am occasionally asked about it, I thought I would put together a post, so I can point people at the long form answer when it comes up. So, in rough order of importance…

1) Accountability. I am my own boss. With the exception of a few hard deadlines in the course of a book’s production, I don’t answer to anyone for anything. I don’t have to have a daily wordcount. I don’t have to have a weekly one. I don’t have to workout. All those things are my personal marks to hit. Since I’m lazy as well as a workaholic (both true, don’t ask) I know how easy it would be for me to ignore the work until the last minute. But you can’t do that with a book.

A book is an endurance event, and you have to keep chipping away at it. Likewise getting and staying in shape. It’s a daily process, no last minute cramming. By posting my metrics for all the world to see, I’m forcing myself to have a visible personal mark, and when I faceplant, I do it in the open. It keeps me honest and makes a huge difference in getting things done.

2) Visible model of a working artist. When I started writing there was no real internet, no good way to see what the day-to-day of a working writer looks like. Turns out, it’s fairly boring. You get up, you do your not-writing work, mostly sitting on your ass in front of a computer, you write, likewise mostly sitting on your ass in front of a computer. Posting my metrics provides a model for people who are interested in becoming writers. Hey, that’s how McCullough does it, maybe I can do it too… And, the workouts? If you’re a writer and you don’t have a fitness regime of some sort, all that ass sitting will turn you into a giant bowl of pudding.

Part of providing a model is posting when I fall behind or below my goals as well. Hey, look, I’m behind. Hey, look, I didn’t make my goals for the week. Hey, look, my brain took the day off and the rest of me went with it. Hey, look, I decided not to lift heavy things. Having to post that stuff is motivational for me—I REALLY don’t like failing. It also shows that you can do this and faceplant from time to time and still come out fine. I have never missed a deadline yet, though I know it will happen eventually.

3) It entertains me. Much of what I do I do because it entertains me. I did a university classroom visit recently—they were reading WebMage. The professor asked me:

So, I see that you have a ton of little references and in-jokes in this book that your target audience will probably miss—the “Say goodnight, Gracie” joke for example. I’m a generation older than you are, and that one isn’t something even everyone of my age would get. Since your audience is mostly a generation younger than you are, why do you put that in? Or some of the more obscure Shakespeariana?

My answer: Because it entertains me. There are other reasons as well, but the main reason I do many things is because they amuse or entertain me. Posting my metrics both bad and good entertains me.

4) Writing is a solitary business. I work at home alone, with only cats to keep me company. I am also an extrovert. I adore throwing parties and hanging out with cool people. Basically, I sustain myself with the blood of the living. Writing doesn’t give me much chance to do that. And, no, working in coffee shops or other crowded venues doesn’t work for me. I’ve tried. I’m about ten times as productive working in the quiet with no one around, and I need to be that productive to stay on top of my workload. Posting metrics is my equivalent of having coworkers or hanging out with the other gym rats—and no I don’t actually enjoy working out with other people either. I do much better when I’m competing only against myself.

5)  Social media presence. One of the things that the modern working writer really needs is a way to reach out to fans. In my case, I use social media, and social media is hungry, it needs content. Sometimes that content is funny bits that fall out of my head. Sometimes it’s microfiction like Dragon Diaries. In any case, you need to keep feeding it. Metrics make a good snack.

So, I post my metrics good and bad to stay accountable. I do it to show beginning writers what my day looks like. I do it because it entertains me. I do it because social activity keeps me sane. I do it because it works as promotion and engagement. For me at least, posting my metrics is a huge win.