Dorothea Lange, photographer extraordinaire, once said, "Photography for me is not looking, it's feeling. If you can't feel what you're looking at, then you're never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures." Well said, Ms. Lange. The same sentiment should apply to our writing: If we truly want our readers to experience the drama and conflict and love that our characters do, we also need to feel and not just write.
I know several authors who assign themselves a certain amount of words per day, regardless of inspiration. I've tried that as well and while it does get me through the dry times - and there are more of those then I'd care to admit - it becomes an exercise in futility. On those days I'd be better off making lists or writing lesson plans.
As a voracious reader, I've come across books that moved me to tears, to anger, to happiness, and to sadness. In fact, I have one title that I will never read again because of the extreme reaction I had to the plight of the character; the story was so real and the character was recognizable that I truly connected. (I did, however, purchase a copy for myself, and it has rested on my bookshelf ever since, unopened and as pristine as the day it came home with me.) I don't expect my readers to be as extreme in their reactions when they read my books, but I do want with them to connect with the story. After all, isn't that why we write?