Today is day one, because yesterday wasn’t

I need to give this new plan of mine a short and spiffy name so I can come up with a short and cute acronym. In reality, I’ll probably call it something ordinary and boring, like “my new plan,” because it fits and doesn’t require any thought.

Yesterday should have been day 2 or 3, or, at the least, day 1 of the new plan.

It wasn’t.

So today is day 1, even if I end up with 0 words, which it kind of looks like I’m headed toward at the moment.

I don’t want today to be a 0 word day, but I’ve been thinking I might want to read the previous books in the series before I start digging into the writing again. Maybe it’ll fire me up with ideas and renew my enthusiasm for this story.

If reading the entire series helps, I’m going to make this a priority for future books (reading the previous books each time before I start on the next). If it doesn’t help, at least I’ll have my head full of the series details again so I don’t make a really big mistake (almost did that, yes I did, with a particular piece of tech I’d invented for the series).

I wonder if I can get through all four books by tomorrow afternoon? Ooh, sounds like a challenge! ;)

Why the new plan does not include writing on multiple stories

I had a lot of success producing more words when I let myself work on whatever I wanted. That doesn’t really work with the new plan. Theoretically, if I’m having a bad day I can still move on to another story within the group of series stories that I’m working on, but one thing I realized I need to fix is my lack of interest in a story after too much time has passed. To fix that I really need to be writing my stories faster, and I can’t write my stories faster if I’m splitting my focus between 4 books. Because that’s how many books I would be working on at one time if I let myself work on multiple stories while I follow this new plan. Which means that all four books will be ready at about the same time and that they could all take three full months to write even if manage to consistently hit my daily goal.

Three months is too long.

Right now I’m thinking one month to six weeks is probably best to keep my interest high and to keep me from becoming bored with any particular book.

So that’s really the basic reason why I’m not going to be continuing the multiple stories experiments even though they have proven to improve the number of words I can write in any one day.

The fact is I never ended that experiment, and I continue to have trouble writing after I took the break to publish one of my other books. So obviously, even though it did help temporarily, it didn’t create a long-term solution to my long-term problem of my lack of motivation and drive to write some days.

Also, I wrote the majority of this on my phone while I was talking into the voice recognition software and I’ll just say right now that the way that my mind is scattered and the way that I think as I talk probably means this doesn’t make a lot of sense. I will try to edit it the best I can later. :)

Consider this an experiment an anti-perfectionism. I readily admit I actually did go back and edit as much as I could on my phone. But I think I’m going to leave the rest as it is. See you in a later post. :-)

End transmission. ;)

Recognizing perfectionism

I had a realization yesterday morning and it’s led me to some serious soul-searching. My 12-month 1,180,000 word challenge is quite possibly—probably, in fact—a manifestation of perfectionism.

I’ve been upfront with the fact that I suffer from repeated bouts of perfectionism, and I don’t always realize when I’ve let it creep back into my life.

But yesterday, I started to realize that the only reason this plan even exists is because I spend a lot of time imagining the awesome way I’ll feel if I write all those books right now, if I can find the perfect system so I can write a perfect number of words every day, all so I can design a perfect release schedule for the many series I have going.

I do not need to write that many books in 12 months.

Not only that, but this goal is so far from realistic for me that I’m not sure it’s even part of my universe.

To reach this goal, I’ll have to write 5 times my current average daily word count. FIVE TIMES.

Every single day.

But perfectionism keeps me re-figuring my calculations at every turn, trying to find a way to do the impossible, because it fits some ideal I’ve come to worship. As if I’m just not doing enough, as if I’m a loser if I can’t write all the books in all the series, and write them damn quick, too. Because I should be able to do it, because it’s so reasonable if I just consider the numbers.

Bullshit.

This all started because I do want to write a lot of books in the series I have going, and the unfortunate truth is that at my current speeds it’ll take me 3.5 years to write them. But I also want to write other things, and I definitely don’t want to wait 3.5 years to start writing those things.

But realism never has been one of my strengths, and neither has delaying gratification.

That was the crack that let perfectionism sneak in. What if I could write this many words? What if I could follow this schedule? What if I could double, triple, no, quadruple my word counts? What if, what if, what if.

I’ve set myself up for failure, trying to reach for some ideal. And I’m failing under the pressure. I’m losing my enjoyment of writing.

I’m going to fix this, now that I’ve recognized what’s going on

I’ve stopped the schedule experiment.

I’m ending the push for 1,180,000 words in 12 months. I studied the list of books I want to write and decided I need to focus on only a few series instead of trying to do everything.

It’s impossible. I can’t do everything, not in the time frame I want.

I love all the series I write, I really do, so I picked based on reader interest and money. I settled on 3 series, plus the pen name series. I picked the pen name series not because of reader interest and money but because of potential for those things. Also, if I give up that series, the pen name is dead, and I don’t want that. Not yet. I want to finish that experiment.

That’s not to say I’m not still setting the bar high. I want to release a book every month for my main name, and a book every 3 months for my pen name. For me, that comes to 2,192 words a day.

To be clear, at least to myself, it’s not a daily quota. It’s a goal.

2,000 one day and 2,400 the next will work fine. :)

It’s possible I’m fooling myself, still. 2,192 is still almost 3.5 times my current average daily word count. I’ll have to take that chance. I need to step up to another level in my earnings, and I can’t do that being satisfied with the number of words I’m currently writing each day.

I debated this goal, wondering why this feels necessary, wondering if I was just replacing one unrealistic goal with another, less obviously unrealistic goal, but decided in the end that I have good and valid reasons for not eschewing goals altogether. I can’t expect to get off the income plateau I’m on if I just keep releasing books at my current pace. Growth and improvement are important and having a big goal doesn’t have to mean I’m succumbing to perfectionism. This plan is a stretch, no doubt, but it isn’t grandiose in the same way as my plan to write 1,180,000 words a year.

One reason for that is because I’ll only be focusing on 4 series going forward. The consequences for failure are mild compared to the consequences I’m already facing because I haven’t been able to reach this other, huge, goal.

Even if I only increase my pace to 1,000 words a day, I’ll still be putting out 2 books a year in each series. That’s considerably better than the current schedule for one of those series, which hasn’t seen a new release in 18 months. And let’s not forget that it took me 11 months to put out the second book in the pen name series. I’ve spent too much time writing other stuff, in no particular order, just trying to stay on top of all the series. I can’t keep up.

So going forward, I’ll be writing a book for each series, in the same order every time, and I’ll stick to one book until it’s done before I move to the next.

Could be this is a mistake. But if I reach my 2,192 words for a day, I can write on anything I want, including those series I didn’t choose to make part of my plan. It’s a reward for staying on track.

And if I do stay on track long-term, I’m considering throwing in one of those side projects every three or four cycles through the main series. I’ll consider that a reward to strive for, too.

In the end, it was important for me to recognize that I’d let perfectionism into my planning. I don’t think it’s done my career any favors and it had to go if I want to move forward. It feels weird to give up on this challenge, but sometimes you have to give up on the things that aren’t working to make real progress.

Day 2 of the new schedule

Scheduled 9:00-10:30 1:00-2:30 7:30-9:00 Words
Day 1 10:15-11:57 4:29-5:22 .75 hrs  771
Day 2 none  none  none  0

All sessions are 1.5 hours of writing time regardless of length unless I say otherwise.

Day 2

As you can see, I’ve written nothing today. I wasn’t sick, despite being sick yesterday. I just didn’t get started. Instead, I spent lots of time with my daughter and the stray puppy my daughter recently adopted. My daughter left this evening for a week, and the puppy isn’t feeling great after having been spayed yesterday, and I guess I’ll just have to try extra hard to make tomorrow a really good writing day.

Puppy is cute though, huh?

Puppy

Turns out she’s about 6 months old. She’s a very sweet puppy. I wish I liked animals more, but I really don’t. Luckily, my daughter does, so the puppy has someone to play with her.

The puppy makes me pet her every time I go to the door, and she licks my toes. It’s yucky, but I put up with it because I can’t stand the thought of being mean to her. :o

The vet says she’s a mix of a mix, possibly with some Labrador and German Shepherd in her. Whatever she is, she listens better than most, and she’s one of the friendliest dogs I’ve known.

When she arrived, she was clean and well-behaved and looked like she’d been eating well. I also had one of the weirdest incidents I’ve ever had here a night or two after she showed up, and it has me convinced that the puppy showing up on my doorstep wasn’t by chance.

Someone dumped that poor little dog in my yard on purpose.

At about 8:30 the night after she arrived, the neighbor across the street called to let me know someone had stopped in my driveway and then left quickly. Thinking it was strange, and that maybe they’d been messing with my mailbox, I took a flashlight and walked down the drive.

There, right in the middle of my driveway, someone had left an aluminum pie plate piled high with dog food and another full of water.

Someone obviously wanted to make sure the puppy thought my home was her new home.

Like I said, weird. Who the hell stops in someone else’s driveway and leaves food and water for a dog?

Also, what an asshole thing to do. I really didn’t need or want a pet, but I couldn’t very well let the puppy starve. I tried to find her a home, but I couldn’t find anyone interested, and by then, my daughter had really taken to her.

So now we have another dog. Blackie’s getting old so he wasn’t that thrilled to find himself sharing attention, but he’s adapting. I’m not sure I am. I don’t want to care about another dog, but it’s hard to stay hard hearted when they look at you like they do.

Tracking time wastes a lot of time

I tried tracking my time for a couple of days, intent on finding out how much time I spend doing the various things I do. What I discovered is that I really know how to waste time: I sure wasted a lot of it on time tracking.

Maybe there’s value in detailed time tracking for someone with a brain that works differently than mine. Maybe I didn’t give it enough time.

My gut tells me that if I had given it any more time, I would have just ended up with more time wasted.

Ah well. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I tried a spreadsheet, created a time log, installed apps and tried out different configurations in those apps. Then I spent too much time trying to find the best arrangement of projects and tasks to track. Everything I tried felt wrong: too detailed, not detailed enough. It didn’t help that my idea of what kind of detail I might get the most help from changed every time I managed to get one system set up and tracking.

In the end, I gave up on time tracking to increase productivity.

What I didn’t give up was tracking the time I sleep (which seems kind of weird, I know).

Let me be blunt. I already know what I’m wasting my time on and having it broken down into little increments in a chart doesn’t really add much to that—other than make me feel a bit sick.

If I was capable of using this kind of data to stop those behaviors, I’d have already stopped them. Tracking time doesn’t help me be more efficient, and it doesn’t help my productivity. In fact, all it does is waste my time.

I spend more time focused on perfecting systems than I spend on the work the systems are supposed to help me focus on.

As far as tracking time, I’m tracking my sleep time because I want to know how much I’m sleeping every night. If I find out I’m not sleeping enough and I can correct that, then maybe that will help my productivity.

Of course, the tracking app can’t tell me if I’m actually asleep while it’s tracking, but it can tell me I’m trying to sleep and that’s enough for me. I start the timer when I’m ready to close my eyes at night, and I stop it when I’m ready to get up. For me, that means the logged time is a fairly accurate representation of the amount of time I’m trying to sleep.

I started out using Gleeo Time Tracker for this, but I’m currently using aTimeLogger.

I miss Evernote, but I miss it less after installing Pocket

I’m pretty happy with my switch from Evernote to OneNote in most respects, except one. I used Evernote as my to-read list and regularly clipped articles I wanted to read later to a “To Read” notebook. If I liked the article I moved it to my Clipped notebook, where I kept random articles and clippings from the web to revisit later if I wanted.

I don’t organize these articles, because it’s not some massive amorphous list of things I’d like to read someday/maybe. These are articles I absolutely want to read as soon as I have time and I get through them quickly. No one article usually sticks around longer than a week, and if I keep passing it over, I usually just delete it.

I still have those notebooks in OneNote, but OneNote doesn’t quite work like Evernote did and I find it more difficult to read articles I’ve saved.

Pocket has become the solution to that problem—an excellent solution, in fact, because it’s compatible with every device I own and I can read on any of them, much the way I was able to read my Evernote notes on any device, even my 5 year old Droid X.

Although OneNote is compatible with almost all my devices, it won’t run on the old Droid (which I still use as a reading device) or my second generation Kindle Fire. Believe it or not, these are my two favorite reading devices and I choose them over my newer options almost every time, unless I need OneNote. Now I can read on my preferred devices, despite their age.

If I want to save an article, I can visit the original article from Pocket and clip it to OneNote. (I tried it and it works just that easy.) This seems like it’d be extra trouble compared to just moving a clipped article from one notebook to another, but this really isn’t a big deal for me, because I don’t save that many articles. Mostly I read and delete.

And if in the future Pocket goes the way of Evernote and starts limiting device usage, I’ll just go back to reading on OneNote.

Some days, I still miss Evernote. I used it for years and was quite happy with it, so it’s only natural. But now I don’t miss it quite so much. :)

Day 1 of the new schedule

I’ve created a table for the results for my latest experiment with a schedule. I have a feeling this one’s going to be a winner. I started off late today but things started off well enough.

I think I was able to get started this morning when I haven’t on so many other days lately because…

  1. Late start
  2. Long breaks
  3. Short sessions

Meaning: It didn’t feel like a huge commitment to sit down and get started.

Scheduled 9:00-10:30 1:00-2:30 7:30-9:00 Words
Day 1 10:15-11:57 4:29-5:22 .75 hrs
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

All sessions are 1.5 hours of writing time regardless of length unless I say otherwise.

Day 1

Things seemed to be going well and then I got sick. Not sure if it was something I ate or a virus, but I finally cut my second session short and called it a night. I’m disappointed, for sure, but I’m very satisfied with this schedule. Now I’m going to sleep because I still have a stomachache and I’d rather sleep it off than keep suffering. Blame any weird typos on my phone’s auto correct, because I said I’d post an update but I got off the computer hours ago.