Friday, January 17, 2014

The Problem With 500 Words

Unless you are like me who tends to complicate things that don't really mean anything to anyone else, writing 500 words in a day is as easy as taking a walk in the park. Unless you are like me who imagines a quadriplegic taking That walk in the park, writing 500 words in a day shouldn't take much thought. Most especially if you imagine you've been writing, or what comes close to it, for a few years now and you have a few notebooks to show for it. What is 500 words to someone like me who over thinks a lot and has been using longhand therapy to make up for, or make fun of everybody else's shortcomings? It should be easy, until you are someone like me who's guaranteed to think of a valid problem. It could be easy, though, if it isn't for one little detail. 

How do you know you're hitting your 500-word quota if you are writing long hand? How do you measure your progress when you are given to flagellating your output with simultaneous edits? How do you know you can use a pee break when the last few sentences you wrote don't sit well with your sexy thinking and you have to scratch them out. You know you can write better than that, so you disregard what you've written so far with a finalizing slash... across... every corny line you've written so far. How do you know you have committed to your daily target when you are largely critical of your output? And you make it clear with a series of homicidal edits that put you back to square one? 

See. I told you I complicate. But really, how do you keep count? And how do you know you're done? Are you thinking the same labor-intensive method I'm thinking? Does the phrase "11th-century dentistry" ring a bell? No? I told you I complicate. 

Is there perhaps a practical geometry to it? Say for instance an area of paper space that's four inches wide and three inches "tall" accommodates a given constant of words, maybe seventy? Consequent mathematics "should" yield reasonable results. "Should" was the word I seized on. This is because some people, in an attempt to sound smart on print, employ big words that are several kilometers long and would require a taxi meter to measure their exact length. It doesn't stop there. You wished. We would expect an obscene scattering of regurgitate adjectives. They will force-feed their sentences with modifiers until it is pregnant with conceit. This means that, with the wrong people, the sentence "I am so smarter than yous peoples of course look at my big words hello!" can be so bloated to fill paper space that's roughly four inches wide and three inches tall. 

It can be argued that this follows the rule, but who wants to read seventy words that don't say anything? 

Or there is That method. 

One can employ the time honored "Looks Like It" method that was popularized by The LLI School of Counting Words. LLI being, of course, Looks Like It. I am somewhat familiar with this method because I was once upon a time privileged enough to gain admittance into this most illustrious of institutions. My coolness is unknown to you? I understand. And I am not without a heart, for I will let slip a quick tutorial provided we keep this breach of trust to ourselves.  

The unfamiliar novice will benefit from this quick demonstration. And I should hope you pay attention, if you can. This near-criminal act will cause my anonymous colleagues to regard me with some contempt. But I am willing to risk invitations to the monthly Sabbaths (I am not allowed to speak of this any further) if it will solve your word counting problems. 

I could always employ this technique for my own purposes, but I am well aware of the... consequences for habitual practitioners. This explains my problem now, but anyway. 

The privileged few who can practice the LLI Method without fear of being smote is known for his delivery of the following lines verbatim. It follows a deceptively simple Question and Answer pattern, whose complexity parallels the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. The answer is 42, but what is the Ultimate Question? Exactly. Having said that, allow me to demonstrate the infamous LLI Method: 

Question: Does this look like 500 words to you?
Answer: Looks like it. 

Legends mention a rival school of thinking, the FLI School, who enjoyed veeery little popularity for a veeery little time. They argue that their method, the Feels Like It Method, should be the Foremost King of the Word Counting Schools Hill on account of their philosophy touches on several points that were ignored by the LLI School and ... blah blah blah whatever... 

This looks like 500 words to me. 


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