Feeling a little less alone today on this journey to improvement

I was going to respond to a blog post I ran across today but found the commenting system was using Disqus which I don’t use and realized I had too much to say for a comment anyway.

Here’s a link: Writing under the influence: productivity and motivation tips to help authors write faster. It’s an interesting post, but the thing that really stood out to me is that I’ve finally (finally!) come across someone with some of the exact same issues in writing and productivity that I have spent six years talking about on this blog.

A “successful” writing day for me right now – when I’m consistent – is 1500 words a day, with two big problems.:

#1. It takes me about 5 sprints to hit 1500 words, but I spread them out throughout the day. So even though technically they only take me about 2 hours, they actually take up my whole day (and I’m too mentally exhausted to do anything else).

I have done the numbers ten ways to Sunday and if I could consistently write for only 4 hours a day, I could put out a book a month.

I can’t do it.

I have tried and tried and tried and tried. I have been trying for approximately 6 years. 75 months. 2,264 days. What it always comes down to is that 4 hours a day of writing takes me all day and I can do that for a few days or even a week sometimes, but I cannot maintain that pace indefinitely. Even my best month of the entire last 6 years of writing (75 months of word counts!) had me averaging 3.83 hours a day. I reached 57,249 words that month, back in April 2016, and I am still trying to beat that number.

#2. I don’t stay consistent. Weeks or months go by without actively working on my books. But when I open, when I start, I can do 1500 words.

This is my bench lifting ability right now. But if I ONLY do this much, I won’t be building my muscles or increasing in stamina. I’ll be coasting, not improving. I WANT to be writing 5,000 words a day, though I’d be happy with 3000 words. That would give me a longish novel a month, plus editing – and I could finish shorter works of 50K in a month (or less!)

Yeah. I want to write about 2000 words a day. I have a 2000 words a day plan, in fact. I know I should be able to do it in a reasonable amount of time every day. And yet… see my comment above. 2000 words a day takes me about 4 hours (timed writing). 4 hours of timed writing takes me all day. I have occasionally done better, finished early, etc. That’s not something I have ever been able to keep up for longer than a few days.

I’ve tried schedules, and timers, and sprinting, and writing for the love of it. I’ve tried time boxing and time blocking and micro-managing my writing time. I’ve tried eliminating sugar and coffee and tea and I’ve tried more coffee and tea and enough sugar to make me sick. I’ve tried exercise and vitamins and candles and music and clear desks and Leechblock. I’ve tried so, so many things, and all I have to show for it is a string of successful days and failed days and no pattern at all to discern anything of note.

Right now I can do about 1200 words/day consistently. Sometimes 1600. The main problem is it takes me ALL DAY to do this; even though I space out the sprints, I procrastinate and avoid. Then I get behind on other work or projects, and get anxious.

This is a big problem: I can only hit my wordcount goals if I literally do NOTHING else.

And this is due to resistance. But why am I resisting the writing? Because I say stuff like “I’m slow, I’m no good at drafting, writing the first draft is HARD for me.” I don’t believe writing HAS to be a struggle, but it obviously is for me… so I’m avoiding it. How can I write and still have time and energy for everything else on my list?

See the similarities to my own issues mentioned above?

I hope the author of the post figures things out eventually. Maybe it’ll be something I can learn from and apply to my own issues.

And it was nice to feel less alone for a few minutes today.

In the meantime, I’m trying to brainstorm alternative paths to becoming the prolific writer I want to be. All the planning in the world hasn’t seemed to have helped me in the slightest.

Daily average for the first two months (July and August 2012) (no timers, no goals other than to finish a book ASAP): 904 words a day.

All time daily average as of today: 552 words a day.

Daily average this month (timed writing almost every day): 908 words a day.

Yeah. Not much else to say, is there? I sure hope I can figure out some way to put my strengths to work for me in writing and actually improve my yearly/monthly word counts. Because trying to fix my weaknesses hasn’t done much for me at all. I’m still sitting right where I started: inconsistent, slow, and full of resistance.

Today is day 20 of writing every day

I’ve written some fiction every day now for 20 days.

Next up, get my daily average at or above 2,000 words by writing 2,400 words a day.

Today I’m trying to get to that 2,400 words for the first time in a very, very long time. (I did not get there yesterday.) I’m going to do it by writing in 15 minute sessions, in blocks of 4, using the same set up as mentioned in the “Timed sessions are back” post.

I’ve already completed one session. I’ll update whenever I need a break between sessions. That’ll give me a bit of a distraction but not by doing something that’s likely to derail me from my writing today.

Also, just putting it out there, but I’m thinking if the first hour or two go well, I might turn today into an attempt to best my best day of writing. 5,816 is the number to beat there.

We’ll see how it goes. Right now, I have a mere 99 words after one session. That pace is too slow for this to be a record-breaking day of writing for me.

Update

Words today: 2,445.

The new plan for 2,400 words a day

I don’t think I went into this in my last post, but I have recently made a small change to my 2,000 words a day plan.

I’m aiming for 2,400 words a day instead.

Not because I want to actually average 2,400 words a day, because that has not changed. A 2,000 words a day average is still my overarching goal. But writing 2,400 a day means I won’t have to think so much about getting ahead or playing catch up if I miss a day here and there. That’s the big reason for this and I think it will work well in the long-term.

Even though I have yet to have one 2,400 word day since I started my plan.

I haven’t had a 2,000 word day either since my last on 8/20, so yeah. :D

But I have a plan!

It almost worked yesterday, too, but in the end, I let too much come between me and the writing.

Plus, the writing is actually not going great because I had to go back to chapter nine and do something I hate doing (restart a scene that’s already part of the book), because I wrote the chapter in the wrong view point. I recognized it when I just kept going back to the start of that chapter trying to figure out why I had no interest in that scene and why I couldn’t seem to move forward and why it felt so flat. I tried a couple of different openings for the scene, and in one, it just came out in another character’s view point, and I just knew then that I had solved the problem. :D

Sometimes these things are just hard to see because we’re so tied to what’s already there.

Today, I hope my plan will get me to the 2,400 words I want.

15 minute sessions, in blocks of 4. Same set up as I mentioned in the timed sessions are back post.

It worked well yesterday to keep me writing and focused, and I’m excited to use it again today.

2,400 words at a 400 WPH (words per hour) pace is 6 hours of timed writing. That’s a lot, but that’s at the slow end of the scale.

At a more peppy 600 WPH pace, these 2,400 words will take me 4 hours of timed writing. Doable, and not an insane work load, by far, even knowing I take 1.5 to 2 hours just to get 1 hour of writing done.

If things are going really well, and it does happen, at a speedy 800 WPH pace, 2,400 words take only 3 hours. I will be pushing for this as often as I can, to give me more time for reading/studying/learning/cover design practice and publishing stuff. :D

We’ll see how this plays out during my writing sessions today, but I am hopeful.

I really need a breakthrough with this thing, because I’m serious about making this 2,400 words a day work. I have so many books to write and I want them all written yesterday! This is the next best realistic option for me.

August word count update

August word count to date = 7,258*

That’s a far cry from where I wanted to be by now when I started August. I’ve had a few good days, though. Specifically, the 16th and the 20th.

8/16 – 1,685
8/20 – 2,198

The rest of the days of this month have been mediocre at best.

Yesterday, I’d hoped for a repeat of my 2,000+ words day, but it didn’t happen. And today is looking even worse.

8/21 – 571 words
8/22 – 53 words (so far)

*Today is still in progress, although I’m not sure it’s going to get much better if I can’t find some way to convince myself to finish writing the scene I’m in the middle of. I just do not want to write the rest of this scene.

I’m trying very hard to decide if I want to delete the portion of the scene that I haven’t wanted to write today or to push on through. There’s also the fact that if I delete it and write, even though the words will be gone, I’ll at least be writing again. But it could lead me to end the day with in a negative position if I don’t write enough. However, the words aren’t doing me any good if they’re just getting in the way of my brain coming up with an alternative so getting rid of them could be my best way forward.

The best way to figure this all out is to start back through the chapter and just go with it, changing or deleting if I need to so the story can move forward again, but I’m just feeling very resistant to that and have been all day.

But… it’s time to decide and do something, because this book isn’t going to write itself and I’m trying to end the week with 14,000 words.

2198+571+53=2822
14000-2822=11178

(I really love how you can type math into OneNote and it solves it for you.) :D

I have 11,178 words still to write this week, and I should probably try to get a least a few (more) of them written tonight.

 

Today is the day I’ll write 2,000 words for the first time since November 2017

Fiction words, that is. I’ve written plenty, many days, that probably put me well over 2,000 words in general.

What I haven’t done is write 2,000 words in a day since November 29, 2017 on any of my books or stories.

But today is looking like the day I break that streak. I’ve already written 658 words and it’s only 1:08 pm.

Which is good, because I’m ready to get the 2,000 words a day plan off the ground. I mean, I’ve been trying since I first posted about the plan, but it just hasn’t happened.

But today is the day. I can feel it. :)

On a final note, I haven’t changed my mind about the timers and timed writing. I haven’t recorded any timed sessions since I abandoned that process and I’m very happy to have done it. I feel like my progress hasn’t been hurt at all.

I occasionally jot down my progress like I did in the August 13, 2018 writing post, but that’s pretty much as far as I go, or ever plan to go.

The hardest part to accept was that although I felt as if the last time I tried this my output of words went down, in reality, it was going down regardless. Something had started that downward spiral already and it all culminated in me taking an extended break from writing. Returning to the use of timers didn’t save me, and the lack of timed writing and a schedule beforehand didn’t cause that downward slide.

It was hard to recognize that fact, because I’d been using the timers as a crutch for so long, but in the end, not even the urge to beat the timers could push me to write. I had to reconnect with my desire to write for the sake of writing before I could move foward. I’m still reconnecting, to be honest, but it’s there. I can feel it.

And there are definite benefits to writing without the timers, the number one being that I lose track of time when I’m writing so it feels a lot less like a chore to get through.

I’m the worst about not wanting to start things when I know how long they’ll take to finish. This way I don’t have to. Fooling myself into thinking I’ll finish sooner than I actually will is highly beneficial to me.

Anyway, it’s time to have lunch, then go back to writing. I’ll check in with my word count later, but anything else will go into its own post. :)

In-progress writing

Word count check-ins

  • 12:34 pm – 658 words
  • 5:57 pm – 1,161 words
  • 2:34 am – 2,198 words

Did it!

Trying again for my first 2,000 word day in a while

Yesterday’s attempt at writing 2,000 words was a bust. Of all the legitimate things that got in the way, none of them were significant enough to physically stop me from sitting down and writing 2,000 words. My inability to focus came from my mental reaction to the day’s events.

A lot of little things just got in the way in my head and really made it difficult for me to concentrate on writing.

I don’t want that to happen again today.

I actually started off strong this morning. I’ve already written 357 words today.

But… it’s now apparent that the air conditioner might not be fixed, and that’s really got a hold on my brain, and my kid is leaving for college this weekend and is packing and interrupting me at regular intervals, and that’s distracting in a big way.

The fact remains that I still need to do my writing today. I’m behind on this book, and I need to finish it so I can publish it and move on to the next book. I also really need to publish a few books this year for the sake of my bank account. :)

Things are going well with the story and I think I can make a lot of progress today if I can just stay focused on writing the book. I also need to get that first 2,000 word day to start off that 2,000 words a day plan of mine.

I’ve used this little break to clear my head, I hope, and now I’m going back to writing. My book is sitting at 19,756 words right now. I’d like not to stop for lunch until I’m above 21,000 words.

Update: It’s 9:08 pm and I’m sitting at 890 words for the day.

I wanted to be at or above 2,000 words by now, but that hasn’t happened. Obviously. :) But! The air conditioner is working again (repairman came) and that worry is gone and I’m finally feeling able to concentrate again.

Since I don’t want to end tonight without reaching 2,000 words, I’m here at the computer to write another 1,110 words.

Update: 1,506 words. Man, this is getting hard. I’m sooooo sleepy. It’s 12:01 and I have 494 words to go. I don’t know if I’m going to make it.

Update: I settled for 1,685 words. I was too sleepy to continue. This morning, looking at that, it’s easy to say I should have kept going, but last night? There was just no way.

On the bright side, that number of words is above the lower limit I’d set for myself in some calculations I did when I decided to write 2,000 words a day. I ended up settling on 2,000, which is between the two values.

50,000 75,000
1,644 2,466

August changes

A few things have changed since my last writing post.

I’ve decided:

To ditch timers and timed writing for good.

It feels weird to sit down and write without the timer. I still look for it in the corner of my screen as I type. I still look for the column on my spreadsheet and feel a little startled when I realize it doesn’t matter how fast or slow I wrote those 187 words.

To erase my record of my timed writing and words per hour calculations.

I did make a backup of the original file with those numbers because I couldn’t not do that.

To stick to word count quotas.

To STICK to word count quotas, for real. I do need some type of structure to keep me working.

Structure is useful for me.

But going back and forth between time / word counts / WPH anxiety isn’t useful to me at all.

I can’t control my daily word counts as easily I can control my time spent writing but I never (seriously, never) seem to reach the time quotas I set for myself either.

Since word count quotas are so much more meaningful to my income, they win. :-)

The day after I made this decision, I wrote more words with less effort than I’ve written in a long time. I reached 671 words for the day and hardly felt like I’d done any writing at all. It felt great.

Then stuff happened, delays and distractions, and I didn’t write very much for the next two days. Now we’ve come to today, and the writing is again going easily and I hardly feel like I’ve done anything at all. I’m already up to 187 words for the day.

Those timers really did make writing feel too much like hard work. Getting that out of my system might take a while, but I’m sure it’s the right path forward for me. I need to like writing or I won’t do it, but lately, I just hadn’t liked it very much at all. That changed so quickly after making the decision to ditch the time keeping and WPH calculations that I really feel it was hindering my enjoyment of writing and interfering with my ability to keep going with this for the long-term.

The hours and WPH are just demoralizing anyway most of the time. Average words per day is the only number that really matters in the long run.

It’s just a renewed focus on actually getting the word counts and not wasting time worrying over anything else to do with productivity.

To stop trying to make my book perfect.

I know better than this. But I’ve fallen into some bad habits this year and my inner perfectionist is making life difficult again.

To keep using OneNote.

I have decided I’m just not leaving OneNote for certain types of notes until or unless I have to. I need software for note-taking or I never would have started using Evernote, way back when, even before I migrated to OneNote several years ago.

I did move the rest of my notebooks to OneDrive so I can keep using OneNote the way I like once my Office 365 subscription expires in September. And, it’s a little hard to admit, but my notebooks are actually a lot more useful since I moved them.

The local notebook issue was more a principle thing than a practical issue for me. I decided to bend on this one.

It’s time for me to get back to writing fiction now. I have a quota today and I’d like to see how close I end up to it. That 2,000 words a day plan is still something I’ve got in my sights.

The way to be prolific

I’ve pulled this from my previous post, because I want to isolate it and remember my reasoning.

I’ve decided pretty definitively (sure sounds like it, huh?) that I’m going to try again to start averaging 2,000 words a day. Not just as an average though, but as a “more days than not” thing.

I have books I want to write, sooner rather than later, and I’m just not writing them as fast as I want to. I mean that. I want to write these books sooner than I’ll ever be able to write most of them if I don’t improve my daily average. Not to say that I wouldn’t appreciate an increase in income, but I really want to write these books and other books, and more books, and just… I want to be prolific as a writer. Don’t ask me why. I don’t really know, and even though I’ve thought of a thousand reasons why it might be, none of those reasons feel right to me. I just know I want to do this. I want to be prolific.

And there’s a reason 2,000 words a day feels prolific to me.

2,000 words a day gets me 730,000 words a year, and that’s 14 books of about 52,000 words each. Some could be shorter, some longer. The actual average for all my novels is 60,844 words. But even at 60,000 words for every book I were to write, 2,000 words a day would still allow me to write 12 books a year.

At 12 books a year, I would get through all the books I’d like to write in about 3 years.

That’s where I’d like to be.

2,000 words a day.

This should also work well with my 12–4 writing schedule.

I average about 500 words an hour. Not all the time, but enough of the time that I shouldn’t have to push too hard all the (damn) time to average writing 2,000 words a day.

Synergy, if you will, between my actual speed of writing, the time I want to spend writing, and the actual number of words I want to write on an ongoing basis. Can’t ask for a better plan than that.

:)