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Monkey Lyre Thralldom
'Jack London's Discipline': Rusty Wants to know if 1,000 Words a Day is Good Writing Advice
© 2021 James LaFond
I punted with this question while I was fading on a podcast discussion with Rusty last night on 7/13/21.
Keep in mind, that for London to type 1,000 words was like us word processing 2,000 words.
Also keep in mind that the most successful commercial writer of our age, Steven King, said that he wrote about 1,500 words per day.
My typical output with injured eyes and nervous seizures is 1,500 to 4,000 words a day and my best is around 12,000.
What is most important in terms of production is your monthly output and completion of projects that you might be juggling.
Also, keep in mind, that my output is not abnormally high if you count the time and writing that my contemporaries devout to promoting their handful of books, which is the way to make money on writing. I am writing to achieve a body of work.
The 37 books I wrote in 2020 hurt my eyes. This year, just past the halfway point, I have finished 9 books, which suggests I will complete no more than 17.
This is not discipline. This is a mania. Ann Sterzinger diagnosed my dysfunction as graphomania back in 2014. She is right. My ex-lady, who edited five of my books and owns three, used to look at me and say, “I hate the monkey. That goddamned monkey on your back is a savage beast and drives you inward and away.”
She even tried an exorcism of sorts, I think. It felt good, but the monkey was there yet, lashing me to the keys every day.
The injury this mania did to me last year and my determination to remain in service to the monkey and feed his tyrannical ego, by making him the master of the most prolific living author and whip every last phrase from his semi-literate mind, has got me disciplined, finally.
I do not try to right if the eye pain is above a 7.
If the pain gets above a 7 I wrap up instead of pushing on, like I did in March and April.
Once I have finished one long chapter or two shorts, I take a rest and maybe a nap.
This has resulted in a longer form style, with my average chapter now 50% longer than previously.
Upon considering my various stages of writing progress and now decline, I would suggest the following for a younger writer.
-1. Write in your mind every day. Construct a scene, story thread or a character every day in your mind.
I have always done this and still do.
-2. Read every day in and out of the field that you write in.
I can no longer do this, so am increasing number 1 and using audiobooks almost every day. This has already changed my writing style, proof of its effect on the writer.
-3. When you get a new idea that threatens to pull you away from your main writing focus, do not mull it in your mind, but jot or type it in outline and file it away in a pocket callendar or computer file. I have some 20 such books right now, effectively shelved and waiting my attention in silence when they would still be screaming for my attention had I not placed them in the purgatory of outline.
Below is an example of one of my outlines:

Of Ichor and War
The War of Achilles Beyond Troy
Copyright 2021 James LaFond
a Crackpot Book
Dust Cover
750 B.C. : Homer, father of heroic poetry, sung of the war that killed Achilles, a war that brought fear to gods and sorrow to men, and cast Odysseus adrift on furious seas of divine hate.
460 B.C.: Aeschylus, father of tragedy, a veteran of war, wrote of the war that bound Prometheus, that brought fire to man and sorrow to gods.
Of Ichor and War is an attempt at heroic tragedy confounded of the author's reading of Homer and Aeschylus.
Acts of the Ichor War
-1. Bed of War
-2. Tent of Rage
-3. On a Plague Shore
-4. Hand of the Shimmering Whore
-5. Torrent of Discord
-6. Wiley Woe at War
-7. City of the Shield
-8. Of A Mist-Born Shore
-9. Breaker of Horses
-10. Upon the Rock of Throes
-11. Of Brazen Wing
-12. When Furies Crow
-13. To Hear Eternity Sing
For Summer, wherever she has gone.
“These scurrilous legends come along to bow the heads of renegades only after they have been denied the right to speak. Their soul purpose is to make the tormenting voice sound within us, the voice of order, to which we are ultimately so attached that we surrender to its mysteries and hand it our lives.”
-Eric Vuillard, The War of the Poor

Until I did that outline above, I could not stop thinking of the story that had leapt into my addled mind when listening to the account of Diomedes wounding Ares in the Iliad.
-4. Write every day when you have the ability to do so without compromising your health or the writing itself.
I have recently added this, with the result that I take about 1 day a week off writing. I have found that, for instance, if I am writing 3,000 words a day for ten days, and then take a day off, I am liable to come back, even after being bed ridden, and write 4-to-7,000 words the first day back. This should have occurred to me as a boxing coach. But I was not a disciplined writer, but a driven, manic writer. I do not wake up thinking, “I wish I could write,” or “I would like to write,” of “I want to write more” or “better.” No, I awoke this morning without severe eye pain and immediately thought, “LaFond, you word-slacking oxygen thief, you are not writing yet! Move, move—waste face—move!!”
-5. Practice writing at various lengths.
-6. Practice writing in prose and verse.
-7. Practice writing landscapes and characters, even if you are a non fiction writer.
That is about it.

Including this piece, my writing for the first 14 days of July 2021 is:
-1: 157, 470, 1,430,
-2: 631, 1,200, 393, 1,695, 2,092,
-3: 1,801,
-4: 1,666, 1,357, 1,574,
-5: 1,200, 1,533, 1,509,
-6: 2,117, 1,702, 598,
-8: 867, 852,
-10: 1,468, 792,
-11: 1,319,
-12: 1,443,
-13: 687, 537, 675,
-14: 747, 1,052,

It is now 2:22 PM and time for me to put the laptop away and close my eyes.
Thanks, Rusty.
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