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How I Lost 30,000 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. Its only flaw is that it doesn’t work inside Google Docs, the tool I use for professional writing. Everywhere else, it is my constant support.

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. We build writer platforms because 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.

Social media can steal our juice as writers. Sometimes it is necessary to disconnect in order to reconnect with our goals.

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