No time to spare

Here’s what I’m aiming for each day: 1,000 words minimum, with an eye toward 2,893 words. Of course, more would be fantastic, but 1,000 is the minimum daily word count I want to hit every day I possibly can.

I have four minutes to finish this post. Since I want to start writing at 11:15 I’d better make this quick.

Today I’m trying for multiple 60 minute sessions. If I have to stop in the middle, I’ll just pause and resume.

The goal is 7 of them at a minimum pace of 700 wph for a total word count of 4,900 words. This is so I can finish this book in two days, assuming I can keep it under a maximum length goal. (Lots of assumptions there. I can do these numbers, but I can’t always do these numbers. Let’s see if I can make today the former and not the latter.)

Session 1: 60 minutes, 301 words
Session 2:
Session 3:
Session 4:
Session 5:
Session 6:
Session 7:

Okay, this isn’t working. It’s 5:21 and I’ve only managed to complete one 60 minute session.

I’m just going to wing it with some 15 minute sessions. I’m feeling pretty desperate to stop a stall out before it becomes a problem I can’t recover from today. Time is seriously running short and I need some appreciable words before I get too tired to write them.

Journaling my way to success?

I started an experiment four days ago on Friday (see the post).

Fri: 198 (deleted a chunk of words that knocked this down by about 300)
Sat: 2,088
Sun: 1,185
Mon: 1,544

I’ve had a few times where I just forgot to journal at my break but overall, it is keeping me focused. On the other hand, I admit, I went back to running my timer as I worked, not because I’m going to agonize over my words per hour numbers, but because I just feel less at loose ends when the timer is going. And it doesn’t hurt to look back at a less than stellar word count day and see that I put in a decent amount of effort so I shouldn’t be criticizing myself for it!

(Honestly, it’s the first step of reform for me. I have to quit being so hard on myself all the time. I’m not talking about what I expect from myself, because I think it’s good to push for more than my average as often as I can. I’m talking about how I talk and think about myself and my efforts. Talking down to myself is just not a viable long-term happiness strategy.)

What does it take to be a productive writer? A journal!

I read an article today that caused me to rethink the differences between my really productive Sunday and my less productive Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (and Thursday, so far). It was the title of the piece that drew me in—interstitial is just that kind of word.

Replace Your To-Do List With Interstitial Journaling To Increase Productivity: A new journaling tactic that immediately kills procrastination and boosts creative insights” promised not to be just another article on productivity journaling (boring) but something more and I decided I really had to know what the author of the piece had to say.

(Note: you do appear to need a Medium account to read the complete article.)

I wasn’t disappointed, even though I saw right away that this was exactly the kind of journaling I already do on my more productive days. In fact (from the article):

During your day, journal every time you transition from one work project to another. Write a few sentences in your journal about what you just did, and then a few more sentences about what you’re about to do.

The author talks about this as journaling in the “interstitial moments” between projects. For me, I journal when I take breaks between sessions. The example the author showed of this kind of journaling is very close to what I do in my private journal (even down to putting in the time) and I’ve also done it some here on the blog, although not lately.

It’s also very similar to what I did Sunday, and what I didn’t do Monday through Wednesday (or even Thursday, so far).

Since I journal in so many different places, it’s been hard for me to go back and check just how many of my more productive days involved this kind of journaling and how many didn’t, but my gut tells me this has been a significant determinant of whether or not I’ve ended up having a successful writing day.

The problem I have measuring this gut feeling is that I currently log all this stuff in any of three active paper journals (not counting my cheap spiral notebooks), this blog, and my OneNote journals. Some days I write in OneNote (today) and some days I write in my hardback journal, or my 5×8 softbound journal, or my BlueSky spiral notebook (that I adore). And some days I just post to the blog and do no other journaling at all.

I might have a hard time writing a lot of fiction, but let me tell you, I write a shit ton of everything else. ;)

In the “journal everything” section of the article, I saw so much of my own journaling habits that it was a little spooky. I also suspect that many of those days were the days when I successfully overcame procrastination.

From one of my own private journal entries (November 4, 2015):

9:49 am: Started my break. Although my numbers started out low, they’ve improved a bit and the goal of having a record breaking day doesn’t look out of reach so I’m going to keep aiming in that direction.

I’ve been yawning so I hope that doesn’t turn into a problem. But I need do only two more sessions before lunch so it’s not that bad! I can nap then if I really need it.

12:02 pm: 2,021 words

I’m disappointed I’m not further along but I did hit a bit of a wall when it comes to energy earlier. I got through it though. Now I need to have a quick lunch and get back to writing. I think the story is going well and I’m looking forward to where it might go.

My pace is only 622 wph this morning, and I’m 5 minutes short of 4 full 50 minute sessions. That means that I wrote for 3.25 hours out of about 4.25 hours. That’s an average of 20 minutes between every session. Not bad. Better than I have been doing at any rate! Improvement is good. :)

Caught up with Pulp Speeders, now getting to lunch! 12:27 pm.

1:28 pm. And of course, lunch took longer than I expected. My battery isn’t changed yet either. I think I’ll take a short nap. If I can. Just a quick little eye rest. :D

1:53 pm. My quick little eye rest didn’t turn into a nap, but I do feel better and ready to get started again.

3:48pm. 2,498 words

Of course, none of that ended up here on the blog as my only November 4, 2015 entry proves.

I’ll be honest, this article came at an opportune time. I’ve been wishy-washy today about whether or not I wanted to go back to using timers to keep me focused on writing, but I kind of really don’t want to do that, not yet at any rate. This journaling could be the key to keeping me productive during the transition, and could also explain some of my former productivity.

Even the month I posted nothing here and maintained my most consistent writing pace ever (February 2013), I wrote in my private journals. I’d love to go back and read them, but they’re the ones I deleted in late 2014 and I still could kick myself for doing that. I have a note to myself at the top of my OneNote journals notebook. It says simply: REMEMBER – Do not delete journals again!

Funny, but I dare not get rid of that reminder. I also moved to expensive paper journals for the same reason. I’m much less tempted to tear out pages and throw them away when the cost is $9+ for the journal versus the $0.25 I paid for the cheap spiral notebooks I used to use. :D

Know thyself, as they say.

The thing is, this is something I’ve been doing for a long time, but not every day and not deliberately. I think it’s time I give it a deliberate place in my writing day.

Since today hasn’t been great (so far), it’s the perfect time to put this into practice and see if it leads to me writing more words tonight. Because I really need to write, and the 315 words I have so far are nowhere near where I’d imagined this day ending up when I got started this morning.

So thanks, Tony Stubblebine! Your article has made a difference in someone’s life today. :D

That stopped working surprisingly fast

I tried to recreate Sunday’s success on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, but no such luck. It just didn’t work and I’m at a loss to explain why.

Word counts:
Sunday (of course) = 2,073 (5.017 hours)
Monday = 670 (2.4 hours)
Tuesday = 379 (3.533 hours)
Wednesday = 103 (.467 hours)

I’m really not doing well with my 1,557 word minimum, or goal, or whatever you want to call it. I averaged 2.85 hours of daily writing time so that was close but I’m really trying for 3 hours a day—not as an average.

Maybe it’s too much. My all-time average daily is 613 words a day. Even when I wasn’t struggling with the writing, it was only 700+ words. My best month ever only averaged 1,908 words a day, and my best week ever, the best I can recall, only had me at a little over 3,000 words a day average. And these are all definitely averages, because I’m about as consistent as lumpy pudding. ;D

All told, 1,557 words a day in light of that might still be too much of a mental hurdle for me. So I’m dropping it to 1,000. The 1,000 isn’t a goal—it’s a daily minimum. For the most part, I’m going to focus on the three hours a day of writing I want to do, every day, and have that 1,000 word minimum to keep me from puttering along at a 200 wph pace. (Which I don’t doubt at all that I would do!)

Of course, I’m going to hope for more, and push for more anytime that I can, but I want to develop a consistent writing routine and I have to start somewhere.

I feel good about today, much like I did Sunday, so I’m hopeful. However, I decided last night I wasn’t going to continue with the loose schedule I’ve been trying to follow unsuccessfully for the last three days.

Today’s plan: Run the timer down from 3 hours, don’t track individual sessions, focus on making sure I hit that 1,000 words. The pace I need to do that is a mere 333 wph.

As always wph = words per hour.

I have five minutes to write this post

I realized yesterday that what I’ve been doing isn’t working. I haven’t been writing at the pace I want to write, and I got frustrated last night, set my timer for 30 minutes, and wrote 449 words. Which came to 898 words an hour, and if that isn’t some kind of sign, I don’t know what is. :D

(Okay, yes, it could have totally been a huge coincidence that yesterday my goal was to write 898 words in each of eight blocks of writing, but I’d rather see it as a sign because something has to change if I’m going to successfully finish this book and start finishing and releasing books with more speed and regularity. Once every 7 or 8 months isn’t often enough for a variety of reasons.)

Oops, well, time is up. Suffice to say I’m feeling good today, I’m going to start with the goal to write 1,557 words, but I also have a goal to write for a minimum of 5 hours (timed writing) today and I’m starting early. It’s 9:31 am.

Goal 1: From 9:30 to 10:45 finish two 30 minute timed writing sessions.

Result: 123 words, 1 hour of writing. Too many interruptions of my first session! Unfortunately, the interruptions were clearly not that big a deal, because the second 30 minute session had no interruptions at all and I didn’t improve. Too much self-editing as I went was the problem.

Goal 2: From 11:00 to 12:15 finish two 30 minute timed writing sessions.

Result: 468 words, 1 hour of writing. Finished a tad late at 12:32. But not bad at all. Will probably adjust start times for following sessions because I need a longer break than I’m going to get if I stick with 1 pm. But I’ll decide that closer to 1 pm. :)

(Yep. I adjusted my start times for the following by one hour.)

Goal 3: From 2:00 to 3:15 finish two 30 minute timed writing sessions.

Result: 522 words, 1 hour and 1 minute of writing. No problems at all in these sessions.

Goal 4: From 4:00 to 5:15 finish two 30 minute timed writing sessions.

Result: 333 words, 1 hour of writing. Finished a lot late on this one at 5:52 pm. Not sure at all how that happened. I had fewer interruptions than I had with my first session today, so it’s left me scratching my head…

Goal 5: From 6:00 to 7:15 finish two 30 minute timed writing sessions.

Result: 592 words, 1 hour of writing. Finished a bit late but done, done, done. :)

And there you go. Done, at 7:48 pm.

Final tally: 2,038 words and 1 minute over 5 hours of timed writing.

Can I explain why today just worked, when yesterday and the day before didn’t? Not really. Sometimes it’s not easy for me to recognize when I need structure. Sometimes structure chokes me, and sometimes, like today, it’s the only thing that can keep me focused.

I’m steering a boat and the rudder is broken

My self-discipline experiment had a bad day yesterday. Really bad. I wrote for 2 minutes and 11.4 seconds. I got 33 words.

Can I explain what happened? No, I really can’t. I’m not stuck and I’m not bored—as far as I’m consciously aware—and I had more time to myself yesterday than I’ve had in ages. There was just no good reason for me to have stumbled so badly. The only excuse I have is that I was out of the house for a couple of hours, and when I was in, I couldn’t seem to pull myself away from news about Irma.

Trust me when I say there’s only so many times you should watch the same video clips and not wonder what’s wrong with you. Distractions like those really make it hard for me to focus on anything, so although I wish yesterday had gone differently, I can’t say I’m surprised. I just wish I knew why these distractions are so distracting for me.

I also ended up staying up until 3:30 am. Not watching TV, not reading, not doing much of anything, to be honest. I don’t even know where the times goes on nights like that.

I really want to write a lot of words today, because I really want to finish this book. And yet I can’t seem to get going on it.

To get myself moving today, I’ve come up with a plan.

I calculated the number of words I want to write based on 1,557 a day for seven days and the number I actually wrote over the last 6 days. I divided that into 8 blocks and I’m going to run my timer and try to write that number of words 8 different times today (898 words). I’ll stop every so often and check my word count, and as soon as I realize I’ve gone past 898 words, I’ll reset the timer and take a short break. Then I’ll do it again. My plan is to do this 8 times. I just need to stay focused each time until I’ve hit that initial 898 words.

Really, since I am in all new territory with this story now, I should be able to write 898 words in a reasonable amount of time.* My single biggest challenge is staying focused on writing while I’m supposed to be writing.

But it’s practice and I need the practice.

*Should—but I’ve already been writing for 33 minutes and I’ve only managed to add 43 words to my book, although admittedly, I was actually fixing the last few paragraphs of the day before yesterday’s writing so I remain hopeful.

Resistance is killing my momentum

Have you read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield? If you have, then you know what I’m talking about when I say resistance is killing my momentum on this book.

I’ll get around to updating yesterday’s post with my final numbers (not any better than where I left it, really), but for now I’m just going to get started with today’s writing if I can. I was supposed to start at 10, then anytime after, then at 11, I was definitely going to get started, and here it is 11:39 am and I’m writing this instead.

I have a little over two hours until I have to stop for something, at which point it’ll be a while before I can get back to today’s writing.

Today I expect myself to write at least 1,557 words, and then catch up as much as I can from my previous days’ word counts. All that will take well over three hours, so I’m not concerned at all about my goal to write for three hours.

A few really good days of 4,000–5,000 words would get me to the end of this book I’m working on, so that’s what I’m going to try for.

Which, I know, sounds really dumb when I can’t even reach 1,557 words every day, but what else am I supposed to do—just give up? I don’t think so.

Anyway, off to write before I run out of time. I won’t bother updating probably until later today. I want to stay focused on the writing.

Let’s try that again

I made my goal yesterday, but fast it wasn’t. :)

First goal today: 1,557 words as fast as I can.

I don’t write ugly drafts so if you’re thinking I’m going to run off and start sprinting out thousands of words in short order, this is probably your first visit here. :D

Anyway, will update progress today because it seems to be working for me as a motivational tool at the moment. :)


Progress—

1:17 pm: ended a session at 38 minutes, wrote 291 words.

2:53 pm: ended two sessions that totaled 25 minutes, wrote 184 words.

Spider in my front door stole my attention for nearly two hours. I am phobic and the spider was RIGHT THERE, dropping down in front of me. And it was huge. The web stuck to the bottom of the broom I was trying to use to knock it down, and I screamed loud enough to make my neighbors’ dog bark.

Yes, my throat is sore now, my stomach is still upset, and I’m definitely feeling my skin crawl every time I even look at my front door.

I need to get back to writing but I haven’t calmed down much at all. I’ve been watching Irma video at weather.com and checking out the National Hurricane Center’s Irma page. I’m in the part of Tennessee that could be affected if it takes the track they’re predicting now. The last tropical storm I remember being a big deal for me was Hurricane Opal back in 1995. This one looks like it could be something I’ll want to worry about. For anyone in its path that might read this: good luck and stay safe. It’s a monster.

How fast can I reach 1,557 words today?

My first goal for today is 1,557 words (which is my normal daily goal). Let’s see how fast I can reach it.

Fast? Maybe not. But…

Progress—

10:51 am: 13 minutes, 87 words.

11:35 am: 30 minutes, 214 words.

12:25 pm: 29 minutes, 175 words.

2:34 pm: 7 minutes, 78 words.

3:28 pm: 11 minutes, 127 words.

Too many interruptions today, but that should be behind me now. Let’s see if I can stay focused on writing the rest of the day.

Total so far is 1.5 hours exactly and 681 words written.

5:30 pm: 44 minutes, 351 words.

8:22 pm: 44 minutes, 320 words.

9:04 pm: 13 minutes, 180 words.

I’m running out of steam! Total so far is 1,532 words. I’m so close to my daily minimum that I have to finish it. But somehow it’s become 11:22 pm and I haven’t gotten back to my writing yet. And I can’t quit yawning.

12:22 am: 22 minutes, 115 words.

Final tally: 1,647 words and 3.55 hours of writing.

Not going to give up without a fight

I’m trying to come up with my goal for today. I think I’m done with the catch-up attempt for hours because I’m further behind now than I was when I started yesterday. On the other hand, this morning, I’ve already written for 13 minutes and put down 87 words of stuff. It’s a start.

I’m actually very concerned that I haven’t gained any speed or momentum after what feels like a significant time investment over the last few weeks. I’ve spent 47.93 hours writing in the last 19 days and my cumulative word count for all that time is 3,982 words.

3,982 ÷ 47.93 = 83 words an hour. I type at about 60 words a minute. Typing isn’t writing, I know, but has my brain really slowed down to the point that I can’t write at even 10 words a minute?

I’m in uncharted territory, because I can’t recall ever spending so much focused time writing and ending up with so little progress. It’s obvious something is going on with my writing that I don’t understand because my word counts have dwindled to half what they used to be just three years ago and I’ve lost a significant portion of the excitement I used to feel when I write.

I kind of feel like I’m making progress on the last of that, but the first—obviously—hasn’t improved or it wouldn’t be 33 days since my last day of 1,000+ words.

The fact is I’m trying. I don’t know what kind of hole it is I’m trying to dig myself out of but I am trying.

I want this career, and I’m not going to give up on myself without a fight.

So off I go again today, trying to make progress, or recapture some momentum, or something, anything that will prove the creative part of my brain hasn’t up and died on me.

As for today’s goal? I think I’ll just start with the basics. 1,557 words. When I reach that, I’ll evaluate how much time beyond three hours I’m going to aim for.

Progress will be in my next post. It’s easier than revisiting an already long-enough post and scrolling down every time I want to add a line. :)