Writing as work

For years I’ve avoided thinking of writing as work. I’ve even written a blog post about how writing is not a job, and after re-reading that, I stand behind what I said about it not being a job. However, I’ve also started to have a realization that for me, maybe doing everything I can to avoid thinking of my writing as work isn’t the right path for me.

I was raised to believe that my work had value. That no matter what job I had, the work I did was valuable. I hate jobs, no two ways around that, but I don’t hate work. I’ve never hated work, really. I can name only a few very specific instances where I might have hated it, if it’d gone on too long, and they all involved boring-as-hell work. Even then, I considered what I did valuable. Just boring.

But my hobbies, reading and writing? Not valuable at all. Time wasters. Time passers. Whatever you want to call it.

It occurred to me that by doing everything I can not to think of my writing as work, I’ve essentially told myself that it has little or no value, despite the fact that I’m living off the money it brings in.

Last night I decided it was time for an attitude adjustment. I can continue to hate jobs and I can continue to avoid having a job—even a self-imposed one—for the rest of my life. But what I can’t do is continue to not think of my writing as my work.

Work can be fun and awesome. I know this. Just because other people sometimes have issues when they think of writing as work doesn’t mean I do or have to. In fact, I’d say I don’t, because for me, work is about doing the best you can. You’re invested. It’s a commitment. It’s not “punch the clock, do as crap a job as you can get away with before punching the clock again” kind of thing. That isn’t my world view, and it never has been.

It’s perfectly okay to call my writing work.

If I want to change my ways when it comes to getting the writing done every day, every week, every year, then I have to think of my writing as valuable, as important, as something I need to do above all other things. Work has pretty much always fallen inside those lines for me. Work is valuable. Work needs to get done.

It’s time to start ascribing some real value to the writing I do.

Writing is my work. My work is my writing.

There. That wasn’t so hard an adjustment to make.

Forget speed

Here’s a thing I’m becoming convinced is real: I can’t write faster when I’m thinking about writing faster. I think for some people, it definitely works. I think for me, it definitely doesn’t.

On that note, today I’ll be focusing on writing and getting my sessions and leave the worry about speed in the dust. Have a feeling it’ll at least make writing more fun today. :)

So how is 2017’s “no goals, no timers, no schedules” plan going?

I’ve taken a lot of time off writing lately. I don’t know what’s to blame, but I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say I might have set myself up for this.

So how is 2017’s “no goals, no timers, no schedules” plan going?

Let’s keep this simple: Not well. At all.

What does that mean for the rest of 2017? I’m really not sure. I’ve spent months now at loose ends and I’m not liking it. My plan for no plan was supposed to take the pressure off and let me recapture my love for writing. What’s happened is that I’ve realized that without something behind the scenes pushing me I am very content to write only when I’m desperate to get something down.

Doesn’t happen as often as I had hoped. :o

Then again, I can look back at my history, when I was writing entirely for fun, and see that I didn’t write all that much or that often, and when I did, it was because something “fun” like NaNoWriMo was going on or I had fandom buddies egging me on. (I say egging, but around here, it sounds much more like agging which isn’t even a word, but that’s the south for you.)

Anyway, it’s time to end the break and do something to get started again. I guess that’s one experiment I can call done and done.

Might be time to take up the 6,000 words in a day challenge again. I’m going to think about it.

Still making progress, but still much too slow

I’m making progress on this book, still, but it’s still too slow. I mean, really, way too slow. Yesterday, I ended with a net gain of 274 words. Today I’ll spend as much time on the book as possible, so we’ll see where I end up.

As of this moment, I’m on chapter 9 and it should be nothing but a basic read through fixing typos until I hit a specific scene where I need to add in some stuff that goes along with the fix I made several chapters back. Then at chapter 17 stuff gets kind of messy. I have several scenes written that went in one direction before I doubled back to 17 and took off in another. We’ll see if they eventually join up. I’m hoping. I really like them.

It boils down to just needing to make sure I actually get the time in that I want to spend on the book today. That has been my biggest issue the last few days, not writing too slowly. (Just a little of that. :D) Mostly it’s just a factor of time. I need to get started, stay focused on it, and do that for most of the day.

I really believe I can do it. The only thing stopping me is me.

Too bad I’m not still drinking coffee. It’d come in really handy right about now.

How many hours did I work last year on writing?

I figure about 40 hours per book for publishing tasks. I can double that to 80 if I want to include every last thing I do like studying book cover design and process tweaks like creating new Word style sheets and so on.

I wrote 220,071 words.

My speed range is 250–1200 words per hour, with the vast majority coming in between 400–600. My all time average back when I was tracking that was 541 wph.

That’s 407 hours for the writing.

I wrote 3 novels and 2 novelettes last year. I’m going with 80 hours each because I don’t want to undersell the effort I put in.

That’s 400 hours on publishing.

That’s 807 hours total.

That’s 15.52 hours a week for 52 weeks, or 16.14 hours a week for 50 weeks.

So 16 hours a week.

Holy crap. I’m barely working a part time job.

The numbers make me feel pretty good about the money, but it shouldn’t. I mean, no matter how much I earned per hour, I still only worked about 16 hours a week. My gross income is nowhere near where I want it.

Then there’s this: There are so many books I want to write, and I’m not getting them written at my current level of effort.

Next year, I’m going to revisit this calculation.

This year I’m going to be trying to level up. :)

We’ll see how it goes without timers, schedules, or goals to direct that effort. Honestly, I haven’t done all that well in years past using them, so I’m not that worried it’s going to hurt anything. I expect it will help (in the long run).

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.

New goal: more average and moderate word count days, fewer low word count days

I have to stop reevaluating my daily word count goal.

It’s kind of stupid really, all this number crunching I do. I’ve approached it in so many different ways that it doesn’t even make sense to keep redoing the calculations. I already know about where the numbers are going to end up.

I guess I keep hoping I’ll discover I’ve done something wrong and I’ll be able to write 500 words a day and make a killing and finish all the books I want finish in as little as a few months or a year at the most. :D Totally unrealistic, honestly, but I keep trying anyway.

I need to write…

  • 2,085 words a day to earn my ideal income.
  • 2,192 words a day to write 4 books in 4 series each year (16 novels of about 50,000 words each).
  • 1,644 words a day to write a book a month (12 novels of about 50,000 words each).
  • 2,466 words a day to write a book a month for one pen name and a book every other month for a second pen name (18 novels of about 50,000 words each).
  • 2,164 words a day if I write for 4 hours a day at my average 541 words an hour pace.
  • 1,623 words a day if I write for 3 hours a day at my average pace.

See where I’m going with this?

I have to stop reevaluating these numbers! It isn’t helping me in any way that I can see. None. It’s nothing more than a way to pass the time and distract myself from what I really need to be doing: writing.

I need to just write as much as I can each day, but that attitude never seems to work out for me. I need a bit of structure, but not too much. I don’t want another schedule, and I hate the arbitrariness of picking one of these numbers as a daily quota. How do I decide? (I’m remarkably indecisive. Impulsive too, but that’s another post.)

After a bit of thought, I’ve come up with a possible solution.

I’ve created a scale to help me keep things in perspective. :)

1,000 = low word count day
2,000 = average word count day
3,000 = moderate word count day
4,000 = high word count day
5,000 = record breaking word count day (always, because 5k is such a push for me)

My goal is to have more average and moderate word count days, sprinkled with high and record breaking days, and as few low word count days as possible.

I can track this by monitoring how I’m doing keeping my average daily word count at or above 2,000 words a day.

Easy, right?

Okay, maybe not so much easy as simple. :D

The concept makes sense, anyway. :)

That means today’s goal is to reach 2,000 words, and this week’s goal is to keep it there. And the month’s goal is the same, and so is the year’s goal. Like I said, simple.

Wish me luck.

Current goal: plan to read entire series from beginning

I’m still struggling to get moving on this book I need to finish, so I’ve decided to put writing new material on the back burner until I’ve read the entire series from the beginning. I’m going to let myself count the reading toward my 15 minutes of writing today, simply because I think reading the series is the best thing I can do for myself right now; I just do not think I’m going to be able to start writing on this book again until I read those other books.

Here’s the plan.

Tonight: Read for about an hour, get 1/2 through book 1.

Finish reading book 1 by 10 AM tomorrow.

Read book 2 by 2 PM tomorrow.

Read book 3 by 6 PM tomorrow.

Read book 4 by 10 PM tomorrow.

Saturday: Read what’s written of book 5 by 12 noon. Commit to keeping or deleting the last few scenes.

I’m going to track how I do with this and update this post accordingly. :D

Updates

Uh oh. The reading is going slower than I hoped it would. At 11:22 I’m at the 18% mark in book 1. :o

Still, it’s working. I’m getting excited about this world again! I’ll continue to update with my progress throughout the day today. I’m hoping I’ll be able to catch up on the reading. :)

2nd update: I haven’t done well with the reading today. I’m going to try pushing for a little more self-discipline tomorrow and stay offline until I’ve read at least 2 books. Tonight, I hope to be able to stay awake long enough finish reading book 1. I’m afraid that’s going be difficult. I’m already very sleepy.

Saturday updates

Yep, I’m a day behind now. The goal is still to finish this read through as quickly as I can, preferably today with a bit of time left for writing. What I don’t want is to finish reading and not have time to write something right away.

10:05 book 1 38% read

12:17 book 1 56% read (I’m having serious trouble concentrating.)

10:44 book 1 67% read

Sunday updates

Too much time away and too many interruptions yesterday, plus a serious problem with concentration led to very little reading.

8:40 book 1 67% read (today’s starting point)

I’m going to try to stay on schedule today with my original plan.

9:58 book 1 80% read

10:58 book 1 100% read!

12:17 book 2 8% read (Again, I’m having trouble concentrating, but of note is how flat my stories feel to me right now. I’m trying to remember the last time I was truly excited about a book while I was reading it, and I can’t really remember. I know it wasn’t the last one; I gave up on that one about 200 pages from the end of the book’s 680ish pages. On the other hand, I feel better about the new book—if this is as good as it gets, the new book will fit right in.)

12:04 (AM) book 2 9% read

Monday updates

9:15 book 2 12% read

Tuesday updates

8:51 (PM) book 2 23% read

Thursday updates

9:29 (PM) book 2 44% read

Finally, the eldest is off to college. It’s been a stressful few days–weeks even–but I’m hoping things are about to settle down a bit. Too little sleep last night put me into a stupor today, but tomorrow I’m going to finish this.

Saturday updates

“Tomorrow” came and went yesterday, with very little reading.

I’m starting from the last update on progress I have listed above.

Sunday updates

This is it. I’m going to finish the reading today and start writing again before the day is done. It’s mind boggling how long this has taken, but the time for excuses has passed.

10:22 book 2 57% read

Dealt with a few interruptions, but it’s back to reading now.

3:03 book 2 67% read

4:02 book 2 71% read (I’m not enjoying these books the way I used to enjoy them. I read something else yesterday, hoping to perk up my interest in reading, but all that did was make me feel worse about my writing in these books, and I’m already feeling pretty bad about it. I honestly don’t know if it’s as bad as it feels as I’m reading, or if it’s just me. If I didn’t need to do this reading for continuity with the new book, I think I would abandon this effort. It’s really making me feel terrible about my skill as a writer!)

Aside: I’m either going to have to stay up very, very late, or I’m about to start skimming!

Monday updates

Okay, so I didn’t finish yesterday, but I’m making good progress this morning, and I’ve committed to making today the last day for this.

8:55 book 2 77% read

9:51 book 2 100% done!

Having a much easier time concentrating today and the numbers prove it. No, none of that was skim reading. I just found it easier to stay focused on the story and got through 23% of the book in a less than an hour. I’m taking a break for food and then I’m going to dig into book 3 and hope this improved ability to concentrate sticks around.

12:10 book 3 20% read

2:12 book 3 24% read

2:45 book 3 31% read

By the way, book 3 is twice as long as book 1. :)

4:55 book 3 33% read

6:33 book 3 36% read

9:30 book 3 41% read

It’s obvious to me that I’m not going to finish this tonight unless I stay up much later than I can possibly stay up.

Tomorrow it is then. But I do believe I can still finish this book tonight, now that it’s quiet again.

Tuesday updates

Unfortunately, I’m not yet reading book 4 this morning, because I conked out last night not long after I made the update above. Fell asleep with my phone in my hand and the book in face.

But what’s done is done. I’m very confident today will actually be the last day of this, and I’m somewhat confident today will be the day I get back to writing.

9:34 book 3 49% read

5:37 book 3 62% read

7:11 book 3 73% read

8:01 book 3 81% read

8:58 book 3 100% done!

9:17 book 4 9% read

Calling it a night. I will finish this tomorrow. The goal is to finish book 4 by 11 and what’s written of book 5 by 3. Then I’ll spend some time writing.

Wednesday updates

Last day, I know it. Really!

It’s 9 AM sharp and I’m ready to read. I’m starting just where I left off last night. I have 2 hours to read this book if I want to stay on track with my plan so I may do some skimming. I have read this book more recently than I had read the previous books so skimming may be adequate. :)

2:12 book 4 27% read

I’m still planning to finish this today but I am not where I wanted to be. It really looks like I’m going to just have to force myself to skim read. Skimming does not come naturally to me. I actually have a very hard time doing it, and that’s probably one reason why I ditch books so quickly when I get bored with them.

Which brings me to this: I am bored with these books. I’m hoping that’s one reason the first 3 books of the series annoyed me so much with their inferiority. (As in, I’m praying really hard that they’re not as bad as they felt as I was reading them.)

The book I’m reading now, though, book 4, is just as good, if not better, than I remember. Maybe I haven’t yet read it too many times. :o

2:56 book 4 34% read

6:45 book 4 37% read

9:12 book 4 45% read

Monday updates (Or 18 days later!)

Let me just say that I didn’t intend for it to take anywhere near this long to finish this little project of reading my series from the start. It was supposed to be a quick detour to help me get back into this series so I can finish this last book, which only needs (guessing here) about ten to twenty thousand words to complete it.

My perception of time is warped, I know, but this failure can’t be blamed only on that. Thursday I read a book, then started several others that I couldn’t quite bring myself to finish. By the way, Dead City is a good book, not one you want to think too hard about, but one that keeps up a nice pace and is fun reading. Plague Year, one that I started reading Thursday but haven’t finished, has slower pacing, but drew a much more visceral reaction from me. I’m going to get back to it, but first I want to finish reading my own book, get into a steady rhythm with my daily writing again, and read the sequel to The Last Policeman, which I read a week and a half ago and loved.

Funny how I just move on to reading other stuff when I forbid myself a book because I should be doing something else instead. :o I told myself I couldn’t read Countdown City until I finished reading my book and got back to writing. Instead, I spent time reading stuff I wanted to read much less than Countdown City and didn’t make progress on anything.

The weekend turned out to be time off, and that leaves me here. I started this morning at the 45% mark in book 4 (still) and have made some progress.

Goals today include (1) finish reading this book, (2) read/edit 18 chapters of book 5, and (3) write chapter 19 of book 5. (I’m giving something different a trail run, and I’ll post my draft on that topic as soon as I get to call this post DONE.)

11:23 (AM) book 4 62% read

Sometime in the afternoon book 4 87% read

Wednesday updates

Well, I got sick. I’m doing this update because I promised myself I’d update my word count spreadsheet every day, especially when I’m not writing, to help me stay aware of the passage of time.

Friday updates

It’s Friday, I feel better, and I’m going to finish this thing today, twenty-two days from the day I started this project. Yes I am. :)

Tuesday updates

DONE. Done, done, done, done, done!

Now on to the next phase. :o

Let’s not discuss the fact that this is many days after the day I was absolutely certain would be my last day at this.

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. ;)

June 28 writing

I’m going to log my writing today.

I finally got a really good night of sleep, but that means I’m starting one hour and a half later than I’d planned. Here’s the revised plan.

8:30–10:30 Write
11:30–1:30 Write
2:30–4:30 1:30–3:30 Write
4:30–6:30 Work on paperbacks Write
7:30–9:30 8:30–9:30 Work on paperbacks Write

(Edited as changes became necessary, but I’m leaving original entries so I can see what worked and what didn’t.)

I decided on two hour blocks with one hour between, because… I’m not really sure. It felt right: enough time to really get into what I’m doing and a nice long break between. If I can make the two hour blocks work, I’m going to carry this forward.

(Not such long hours though—ten isn’t too many for today, when I need to get so much done, but I certainly don’t think this is good for me long-term. I’ll stick to the four hours a day and 3,233 words I want long-term, but I’ll try to do it 7–9 & 10–12. That’ll leave me two two-hour blocks for publishing stuff every day so I can really dig into my cover design studies and do lots of other stuff that’s been backing up on me. Honestly, I’ve been squandering time for too long.* It’s time I used what time I have for the things that are important to me.)

We’ll see. Today is definitely more experiment than anything else.

Results (as I go)

Hours Words Session WPH
Story 1 1.08333 199 199 184
Story 2 0.91667 606 407 444

I’m numbering the stories in the order I work on them so my work pattern is clear to me later.

At this point, I’m completely off the scheduled times. I’m not sure how I’m going to adjust, but I’m going to figure something out. Likely I’ll lose the last paperback work session. (I figured it out and edited the plan above.)

Well here it is many, many hours later and I’m just not getting ready to write for another hour. Can I explain why I didn’t work during the other times I planned to work today? No.

I really don’t have an explanation and all I can say is that I feel like I’m trapped inside myself, unable to get free. Like my head needs to be opened up and I need to take my brain out, shake it around, wipe it off, and then put it back. It just doesn’t feel right. There’s a tiny voice in there telling me I should probably be on some kind of medication, but I don’t listen to imaginary voices, any more than I listen to the voice of reason. :D

 

*I’m not much of a sports fan, but I read the news today about Pat Summits death. I’ve always respected her drive, and her abilities. It made me feel… regretful, you could say, that I’ve not valued my time more. Maybe the feeling won’t last, but I want to take advantage of that feeling while I can. RIP Pat Summit.