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.

Timed reading while I’m working on my book

Today’s writing plan was simple: time myself as I read through what I already had written (chapters one through four) and then use my timer for some 45 minute writing sessions.

I use the timer when I’m doing my proofreading check at the end (for publishing).* I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about that here before. It really helps keep me focused on reading and not getting distracted the way I used to do when I did my final read through.** This is one of those coping mechanisms I’ve come up with over the years to deal with the fact that I don’t always find it easy to focus, even when it’s something I want to do.

Today was the first time I’ve tried the timed reading thing while going back to read through and fix things during actual story creation.

I liked it. I think I’ll do it again when I need to.

But there was a definite difference in speed. My proofread usually takes 15-20 minutes per chapter. This was much more time consuming! I ended up spending most of the day on this. Focusing is hard work (for me), no joke!

Now that I’ve done that, I’m going to go off and write for a few minutes, then pack it in for the night. I just don’t think I have it in me to do any 45 minute sessions. It’s 10:48 pm and I’ve been at it all day.

I do think I’ve cleared out all the deleted stuff in my head so that when I really get into the next scene I’m not going to be confused. I do hope so.

Maybe I’ll reread on my Kindle in bed tonight where I can’t touch it except to highlight errors and just try to settle it more firmly in my thoughts.

+=+=+

* I have a spreadsheet for this stage. I have a column with my chapter number and I sit down with that chapter, turn on my stopwatch timer, and read. I record the time. I move on to the next chapter. Breaks are optional.

** I used to just keep up with my percentage read based on my Kindle locations in the final manuscript (after sending it to my Kindle). I tried to read in long stretches of time, sometimes setting hour long goals for myself to read as much as I could in that time. Trust me when I say that I really like my current spreadsheet method much better. :)

Challenge day five (a renewed focus)

I need to make this quick, so I’ve let myself have WiFi on my computer for this one post. Nothing else.

I’ve looked at my previous day’s efforts and concluded that for me to meet this challenge today I really need to pass 2,000 words before I stop for lunch, if not sooner, so that will be my morning’s priority.

I think I’ve given the writing too much focus and the challenge not enough and I’ll try to shift that around today. What I mean by that is that I’m too focused on the writing and making it “right” instead of trusting my gut with this story. (I have yet to decide if my gut is trustworthy, but for me to meet this challenge, I have to assume it is.) If I focus on the challenge and what I need to do to meet it, I can leave my subconscious unobstructed and free to work the story while my active brain fritters away the time worrying about words per hour and other numerical calculations.

So that’s the plan that aims to make today different than yesterday and it’s why I believe I have a chance of succeeding at this today. :)

Yesterday I had several instances where I forgot to start or restart my time tracker app, and that, too, I think make it easy to stop what I was doing (because it wasn’t recording anyway, right?) and interrupt myself with distractions that stole time from me and ruined my flow.

Seriously, I’m a huge fan of Gleeo, but I’ve always managed to make the whole thing much too granular and burdensome and every time I quit using it before I’ve really had a chance to collect enough data to be useful. This time, I set up one Domain for one Project with only one Task and it’s working great and giving me just the information I want.

(Writing→Fiction→Writing)

It’s repetitious, but it gets the job done and doesn’t distract me with minutia. ;) Today will be day five with it, and I don’t see a need to stop using it into the foreseeable future.

I’ve had cereal, have water beside me, and I’m ready to start. It’s 8:20 am.

Even passive time tracking is just a distraction

I mentioned ManicTime in a previous post but said I had uninstalled it. I did. I also went back and reinstalled it, making a setting change that allowed it to get much closer to the kind of passive time tracking I wanted. I changed the “away” time activation from 10 minutes to 1 minute. Every time I stepped away from the computer for more than 1 minute, ManicTime recorded me as away and didn’t record time on whatever window I happened to have in focus on the screen.

That was great.

Until about an hour ago when I realized I really don’t need this distraction. And yes, it’s a massive distraction, even running completely in the background, simply because I know it’s there and I’m tempted to check my time log every time you turn around.

So earlier tonight, I uninstalled the program, again.

The truth is, I have only one plan for this year, and that plan is this: write more.

I hope to accomplish that by writing every day.

As of the 20th of this month, that’s been true. I’ve written something every day. Some of the entries on my word count log for the last six days are minuscule because of this read through project, but they’re there, and I know I’ve put in effort.

Maybe not as much effort as I hope to build up to putting in, but we all have to start somewhere. Muscles take time to grow. ;)

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.