Measuring Progress

In the writing world, there are many ways to count progress – word count, chapters finished, how many “The End”‘s we’ve written. I get the excitement that can come from crossing these markers, but at the same time, I’m a high school English teacher whose students just took end of level tests to see how they understand language arts, tests that are looking at the things that are measurable.

But the problem with getting focused on things that are data measurable in regards to something that is in essence an art – emotional connections, imagination and an increased appreciation of humanity are not nor were they ever intended to be measurable. We can’t weigh the value of a Picasso against that of Van Gogh, determine Beethoven’s worth versus Mozart. 
And that means that when it comes to our own work, we can not rely on data and numbers either. 
Then, what’s a writer to do? 
There are several options:
1.Note the reactions from readers. 
Whether or not it is bizarre, I love making my readers cry. I love when they were only going to read a little and couldn’t stop. Or when they giggle at a love story that is beginning to unfold. 
2. Observe the fluidity of your process.

When a character manifests their true self better, when a setting clicks in to sync, when the foreshadowing and symbolism fall into place better than you could have expected. Note those times, record them somewhere, and refer back to it when the doubts reappear.
3. Pay attention to your own responses. 
At some point, we all question our abilities as creators. However, we also have those moments when our responses will testify of the strength our story. Those moments when we giggle (for whatever reason), when we reflect on love of friendship or spouses, when we can’t help but cry at the love or grief experienced. Those are moments when are art speaks truth, moments that are not able to be measured by data, moments that reveal our humanity. 
What techniques do you use to determine your progress as a writer?

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Tasha Seegmiller is a mom to three kids and high school English teacher in Southern Utah. She writes contemporary women’s fiction with a dash of magic. Her loves include Diet Coke, owls, chocolate and cinnamon bears. She is the managing editor for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association quarterly newsletter.

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