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

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.

It’s well past noon and I have not finished my words today

That title says it all: it’s past noon and I still haven’t reached 1,557 words.

What happened? I couldn’t stay focused and on task today.  At ALL.

It’s 4:16 in fact and here’s what I’ve done: I have 16 minutes left on my first 45 minute timer and I’ve written 346 words. That’s actually pretty good, because eyeballing that, it means I was writing at about 700 wph.

I was really into my scene too. But I started to get anxious and I had to take a break. Sometimes that happens when I’m thinking too hard or something. I get so excited that I have to jump up and move around or I feel like my brain is going to explode. It doesn’t really make sense but it can really derail what’s shaping up to be a great work session.

Well, it derailed my session, and although I’ve had multiple hours since all to myself and perfect for writing, it’s like I’m afraid to start again.

But it’s time. I really want to reach that minimum and I’m not going to do it by avoiding that timer!

Oh, and no more forums today until after I write those words! I am officially banning myself from all other internet uses until my spreadsheet shows 1,557 words for today’s count. >:{

Grrrr!

So remember last year? No, I didn’t think you would, but here you go, a reminder.

Yes, my AC is out. Again. Not only that but somehow, someway, I’ve reset my timer 3 times on my first 45 minute session when I meant only to pause it. Probably not a bad thing, because I took a look at the numbers and I had barely cracked 100 words during those 3 aborted sessions.

On top of all that, I’ve found myself procrastinating an incredible amount today and I don’t know why.

I’m calling today’s big plans a bust. Instead, I’ll just concentrate on getting to my minimum word count, and then maybe—maybe—if I’m not just ready to give up, I’ll work on making up yesterday’s shortfall. I’ll go from there.

Update: And… the day’s total came in at 367 words in 45 minutes (three 15 minute sessions) making my pace 489 words an hour. Interesting side note: my cumulative word count since July 2012 is 1,155,620 words.

Also, for a second day in a row, I have not written my non-negotiable minimum number of words. >:(

I do not plan to let that stretch to three.

At least I’ve been consistent (challenge update)

I’ve faced a lot of procrastination today. My pace has been marginally better, but not significantly so. As it stands, I’ve written 1,841 words in 3 hours and 40 minutes. So truly, I’ve maintained my average pace today.  What I haven’t done is spend enough hours writing to get anywhere near to meeting this challenge at that pace.

But I can certainly claim consistency over the last four days, with word counts of 1495, 1905, 1575, and 1841, respectively. My daily average is 1707.

Yes, tomorrow I will be trying one more time to meet this challenge.

As for tonight, I am winding down. My energry levels have reached a point of no return; I’m almost to the point of dozing at the computer.

Which is funny given the hours I’ve logged writing today. Despite that, I’ve spent most of the day at the computer and I’m feeling it.

Until tomorrow.

Challenge day four

I didn’t even bother with a post this morning because I got right to writing after breakfast. Unfortunately, I’m online now and that’s a really bad sign for things to come. I’m getting off as soon as I post this post though, so maybe I’ll recover.

I’m at 947 words and it took me 1 hour and 43 minutes to get there, not counting the several times I forgot to restart Gleeo after a break.

This morning started off well, and but I stopped writing at 10:09, when I had a family interruption. With the kids older now, and busy, one at college and one on the way there, as long as school is in there fewer than ever reasons to accept excuses from myself about family distractions. However, that means when they are around, it’s harder to put them off in favor of writing.

I had lunch, made a few backups and copied some files to OneDrive and Dropbox (which never have my only copies of anything important, EVER). Then I checked out some library books, because I had some holds come through. I have a few weeks to read them, so I’m not going to start that now, but I didn’t want to forget about them. I’ve also moved some OneNote notebooks to my computer and back, because I can’t make up my mind about “everywhere” access.

It’s 2:35 pm and I have to get back to writing now or I’m just not going to have a chance. I let myself lose over 4 hours of writing time this morning and early afternoon, but perseverance matters and this day is far from over.

Why am I writing this post instead of writing my book?

I wish I knew the answer to the question in the title of this blog post, but I do not.

I have a suspicion, though, and it’s a bit unnerving to think about.

I don’t think I’m having fun with writing at the moment.

Not with this book, not with writing fiction in general, not with publishing and the biz.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I think I know why but I’m having trouble getting past it.

I worry too much about writing a good story. I worry too much about perfectionism. I worry too much about the procrastination I do and feel guilty because I do it instead of writing.

I worry about what other people will think of my story when it’s finished and finally out in the world. Even though I really don’t care what people think of it. Except obviously I do. But I don’t! But I must.

Too much worry!

How can one have fun when it’s all worry, worry, worry?

Anyway, time to go do some writing, because I’ve been feeling guilty for not doing any. And because I really need to finish a book and I’ve let myself get into a situation that I’m not sure I can get out of.

I’ll let you know if it works out.

Oh, and by the way, I updated this site to use HTTPS but I’ll be honest, part of me really regrets even having thought it was necessary. I’m really bothered by the idea that older browsers will throw a certificate warning with my particular set up (a free Let’s Encrypt certificate and no unique IP because this site earns $0 toward its own upkeep). I mean, I like having this site and I do throw the occasional affiliate link up for a book or product I feel good about, but earnings to date? Still $0. :)

The reason the certificate warning bothers me so much is because I personally still have and use occasionally two older Vista computers, an Android phone using Android 2.3.4 (as a media device, because it’s not my primary phone anymore), and a laptop running Windows ME (I know, but yes, it really still works! Believe it or not, it will load Word and Excel faster than any other computer I have, although they are the 2000 versions). I checked out my site on the old Android device and sure enough, error, error, error with the certificate. I tried Vista, and same thing, error, error, error. I don’t get online with the Windows ME computer, just because it requires a cable and I’d hate to see what kind of trouble the outdated browsers would get into if I did. ;)

But I really don’t like knowing people using older software are going to get scary warnings when they visit my website.

Finally, the site is just slower on first load. It really speeds up after that, but frankly, if I was a visitor to a random site that took that long to load at first, it’s very possible I’d have already hit the back button.

All that to say I’m this close to just scrapping the whole project and going back to HTTP.

It wouldn’t be that difficult. I’d just reverse what I did to set it up.

First, I changed the General site settings in WordPress, changing my site url from http://perpetualized.com to https://perpetualized.com.

Second, I ran a couple of SQL queries on my WordPress database to change out the http for https where it was needed.

Third, I’d need to take out a few lines I had to add to my .htaccess file.

I could undo it all in half an hour or less.

Gah. I’m really considering it.

Anyway, time to go write and get this crap off my mind. It’s driving me bonkers.

 

Feeling the need for some accountability tonight

I’ve managed to make it until 8:28 pm without writing a word and I’m not even sure how. But no, that’s not really true. I know how, but I don’t understand how what I’ve done today added up to about 10 hours of distracted time.

I started messing around with my email set up this morning and BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Not going to waste time going down that rabbit hole. Just typing that out distracted me and sent me off to fix something else and it’s now 9:50 pm. >:(

Holy crap! I did it again. Now it’s 10:29 pm! And unfortunately I’m in the middle of moving a bunch of email to a different account so I’m not actually done enough to be able to close Thunderbird and move on!

I have literally not even managed to finish this post and publish it.

Anyway, I’m going to finish this email thing ASAP and I AM going to work on my book before I go to sleep tonight.

I’ll be updating this post before I shut off the computer tonight, one way or another.

Okay, I did it! Streak is still alive.

Now, tomorrow, I absolutely need to stay away from every distraction I can imagine!

Web reading challenge: day 4

I started this challenge on January 23rd, making today day four.

I haven’t cracked once since I started it, but it sure hasn’t been easy. I seek out distractions when my brain gets tired of focusing on one thing and it’s been interesting to notice just how often that really is.

That said, I think this is a powerful and important challenge for me and I have every intention of sticking it out until the end of February.

A challenge to end the endless clicking and refreshing

I’ve made a rash decision I’ll probably hate tomorrow, but I’ve decided to give up infotainment for a while—indefinitely would be better. I’ll accept the rest of this month and February as a compromise.

To say I spend too much time clicking and refreshing is minimizing the amount of clicking and refreshing of web pages that I do. Most of that content falls squarely into the infotainment category of content, stuff that I can pretend is important but that’s really just something to read to pass the time.

I go to forums and refresh to see if new threads have started or new replies have appeared. By the time I finish reading through the new ones, I get to go back and start all over because there’s always somebody that’s replied to the previous replies or started another new thread.

I go to blogs and refresh to see if new posts have been posted or new comments have been made. Oh, those comments. So many comments.

I hit trending on my Fire to see the news items of the day because I’m addicted to the easy click. Then NPR.org. They got rid of comments. I used to read those too, even though I cringed every time I did it.

I have easily spent hours on this. I mean, seriously, hours. I use the Mind the Time add-on for Firefox, so I know. In the last seven days, I’ve spent 5 hours and 56 minutes at one particular forum and one particular blog (Kboards and The Passive Voice). That’s only part of the story, a small part, in fact, because I do the vast majority of my infotainment reading on one of several tablets and my phone and I have no records of that time spent/squandered. :o

In December, I spent over 24 hours on these two particular sites on the computer alone, and January isn’t over and it isn’t any better.

It’s disheartening to see it itemized like this.

For Kboards in particular, clicking refresh is addictive. I can’t claim to learn much there because I mostly do my own thing and it doesn’t fit with the advice most frequently put forth there.

For The Passive Voice, I mostly like it because there are interesting discussions. Sometimes. Sometimes things get a bit ridiculous, but hey, it’s the internet, and that’s probably why the comments are so entertaining.

Anyway, all good reasons why I need a break from the infotainment that has me hooked. I don’t like being addicted to things. (Caffeine, remember? Still quit this time, by the way.)

Finally, I don’t like the fact that I’m not living up to my potential. Even at my slowest pace (when I’m actually writing, and you know, not this read through stuff I’m doing now) I can write a thousand words a day in a mere four hours.

If I’d spent those 24 hours in December writing at that slowest pace, I would have written an extra 6,000 words. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but considering that my December word count was only 10,659 words and that it’s unlikely I’d be stuck at my slowest pace for all those hours, I could have doubled my word count.

I don’t even want to think about how many words it could have been if I were to count the time I’ve spent on all my daily sources of infotainment.

I shudder to think of it.

That’s the part I really don’t like facing. All this clicking and refreshing has been nothing more than a form of self-justified procrastination in the name of learning, keeping up with industry news, and distracting myself with news I don’t even care about, and I’ve let it go on too long.

What’ll I do with all the time I get back? Write more fiction, I hope. Read more fiction, if the writing more doesn’t work out. Either way, I’ll be doing something truly worthwhile.

And maybe clearing out some of the clutter in my brain will help in other ways too. We’ll see.