June 1–15 progress report

Today I’m writing. I’ve written something every day for seventeen days now, in fact. Some days, of course, were longer than others when it comes to how much time I spent writing. On the whole, though, I’ve stuck to my 12–4 schedule and created a bit of a routine for myself.

The fact is, I need to start finishing books again. I’ve had way too much time off on the whole over the last couple of years and it’s time for me to start pushing myself again to do more.

I can’t really explain why I hit such a bump in my productivity. I have children, and they’re definitely in a transitional phase since they’re both in the 18-20 year old range now (and were in the 16-18 year old range when I started to fail a bit at keeping myself writing). Their transitional phase translates into a transitional phase for me, and I’ve just now accepted that despite the societal expectations I grew up with, my kids aren’t leaving home any time soon. So my own transitional phase isn’t quite the one I was expecting, and I need to find a way to work through it.

At this point, it’s like having adult roommates who don’t pay rent. I’m sure of only one thing: I don’t like it. On the other hand, I’m not exactly rushing to kick the kiddos out on their tushes. :D I do love them and want what’s best for them. Neither are in a position to take on the real world just yet, no matter how ready I am for them to do it.

Too bad, so sad for me. :D I will cope though, and I seem to be getting my writing mojo back. Not that I have any way of knowing for sure that their transition to adulthood has been my problem, but hey, I need a scapegoat and the kiddos make for a good one.

The biggest issue, really, has just been the changing routines. No school days to count on. College has different expectations for them and their schedules, and work too, for college students tend to have the kind of work that has variable schedules.

All this means that my schedule feels in limbo more often than not. But no more. That’s the reason I set my 12–4 schedule and why I’ve been sticking to it. I just really need some routine in my days. If I can hang to it for long enough, I’m hoping it will counteract all the unpredictability I’ve been dealing with for a few years now.

Now, on to the writing update.

June 1–15: 7,175 words.

I scheduled writing time and finally got started writing again

After months of having trouble getting started writing again after finishing my last book, I went to bed one night with the plan to sit down the next day from 12–4 and write.

Nothing else had been working to get me started again and this really was a last ditch effort to just put in some time at the computer. I admit, the first day, I spent the majority of my time doing writing related things and very little writing. In fact, that’s still what’s happening after nearly two weeks, but I’ve maintained the schedule and have finally got an opening for my new book written and hope that I’m finally putting that terrible creative dry spell behind me.

 

My schedule is killing my productivity

No joke, my schedule is killing my productivity. The unfortunate truth is that I need a schedule. That doesn’t seem to matter. I can’t stop myself from constantly making changes to any schedule I create, and even when I leave it wide open for writing and just fill in the basics like lunch, supper, and the like, I still can’t stop messing with it.

It turns out that having a schedule is just a massive distraction I don’t know how to handle.

Is this that moment where I look back and realize I really should have seen this coming? Probably.

Something new

It’s interesting, because I thought I’d tried just about everything to get myself writing faster and more regularly, but obviously I haven’t tried everything, because I tried something yesterday that’s working out pretty well (between yesterday and today) and I really don’t remember having tried it before (or at least in this way).

Here’s what I did (and am doing again today): I simply listed out the hours of the day (10–11, 11–12, etc.) and am running the timer during that time, accumulating as much time as I can, without any specific session lengths, with the goal of reaching 500 words for each hour in the day.

Yesterday I ended up with this:

Minutes

Words

Session

WPH

50

246

246

295

30

439

193

386

25

207

-232

-557

20

199

-8

-24

33

240

41

75

38

571

331

523

39

1138

567

872

31

1557

419

811

27

1894

337

749

22

2224

330

900

16

2270

46

173

12

2342

72

360

WPH

410

Hours

5.716667

Which really did not seem bad to me at all. If I hadn’t had such a slow start finishing/editing chapter 23, I would have done a lot better on my word count.

Today I’m doing the same thing as yesterday. I’ve had some interruptions and delays that I’m hoping won’t affect my day too much, in the end, but it remains to be seen how things are going to work out today. Overall, though, I’m really liking this structure around my writing. It’s loose in some ways but strict in others (I can’t change the fact that 11–12 and 12–1 have already passed and I got no writing done), and I like it.

Gotta go now, because I have a personal deadline I need to meet. I’ll post results for this informal little experiment in a follow-up post sometime later. :)

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.

The challenge of quotas

I was writing myself a rambling note in OneNote and I had this realization: Word count quotas don’t hurt the way time quotas do. One is a challenge, the other is work.

Anytime I make a schedule, I’m setting myself time quotas. I could try to look at it differently, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t matter. I have an inherent dislike of schedules and I’m tired of trying to force myself into that box.

So here’s the thing. I deleted all references to a writing schedule from my calendar. Time blocking, fixed schedule productivity, etc., they’re all just ways to tie my brain into knots. I get the most joy (and do the most work) when I’m pushing myself to write, but not when I’m pushing myself to write at a certain time of the day, for a certain length of time.

Word count quotas have a purpose in my world. They provide the kind of structure I work best in.

It does mean my life is a little messier. No set start and end times for my days. But you know what? I really like it better this way.

I’ve been struggling with this schedule again over the last few weeks and I’ve gained nothing from it, except stress I really don’t need at this time of year while I’m already stressed about a looming deadline (or two). If I keep to my goal of writing about 2000 words a day on average, I’ll get this book written and I’ll be able to make an educated guess about how many books I’ll be able to write every year, and I’ll reach my overriding goal to become a prolific writer.

:D

So here’s an early New Year’s Resolution for 2017: I’m done with schedules. It’s back to word count quotas for me.

I’m adding a 250 words a day minimum, and I don’t have to count deleted words in this. (So my actual daily word count log entry might be -1,112 words, but if I wrote 250, it’s good.) Every day, because I fall off and I take a nap before I get back up. ;)

After that, it doesn’t really matter where I end up for the day. My scale remains the same.

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 huge!)

I want more average to moderate days and fewer low word count days and every so often, I’d like to have some high and record breaking days just for fun.

Every day my goal will be to evaluate where I’m at, then do my best to reach or maintain a 2,000 word a day average, and if I can get a bit ahead… that would be fantastic, because I still dream of writing ALL the books. ;)

New schedule update

So is this a new schedule update or a new schedule update?

Just pretend it’s either. It is a new schedule, and this is a new update.

Here’s the thing: I really like the new schedule. Here’s the next thing: I haven’t been able to stick to it for an entire day once since I set it. Not all three blocks for all three 2 hour sessions. That was Sunday. This is Wednesday.

Today I’ve managed to miss hitting the 2 hour goal for the first block (by 14 minutes) and skip the second block of time (1:00–3:30) altogether. I’m still okay for the third block to start at 6:00 and run to 8:30, so that’s good, but I really need to make up that second block, so I’ve planned to give it a second attempt at 9:00 pm.

If all this is true, why do I like this schedule?

  1. Because I really feel the need for structured work hours right now, while everything else seems to unstructured around me (and it is).
  2. Because it’s helping me rein in the time I spend not writing during writing time.
  3. Because it’s nice to have time where I don’t expect myself to be writing.

A new writing schedule

I have a new writing schedule. I wasn’t sure I was going to try a schedule again so soon, but I realized I just wasn’t getting anything done without one right now. So I created this one. (I’ve been sick and I’ve found it’s really hard to work when you feel sick.)

9 to 11:30
1 to 3:30
6 to 8:30

Of course, I keep finding myself wanting to push all the writing time closer together, with very short breaks between, but I stop myself, because it feels pretty obvious to me that one reason this one is working for me (and it really is at the moment) is because of those generous breaks. They give me time to breathe and they help keep writing from feeling like all work and no play.

My goal for each 2.5 hour block is finishing a 2 hour timed session, during which I pause for breaks and come right back to the computer.

I didn’t finish all the time yesterday, and I haven’t (and won’t) finish it all today, but I have finished considerably more than I’ve been doing and I’m really happy with that.

I’ve let myself get behind—by a lot

I have a deadline coming up, very much a “can’t miss this date” deadline. It’s making me anxious.

I mean, technically, I could miss it. The date is still listed as tentative, but in my head, I know it’s not a deadline I need to miss. I don’t want to miss it. The fact is, though, that it’s really getting beyond my current capabilities to reach unless I have some kind of breakthrough in my writing.

So here I go trying to force that breakthrough.

I’ve found a schedule I don’t remember having tried before, and I’m going to try it today.

It pushes my pace a little bit, but nothing out of reach (~667 wph needed to stay on track). Where I’ll have the most trouble is just focusing on start and end times for my sessions and actually doing them when I’m supposed to do them. Five minutes late getting started is no big deal, but my history shows that I tend to get behind early, start every session late, until it’s snowballed and I’ve eliminated massive swaths of writing time just by letting five minutes here and there become twenty.

Here’s the plan.

1.5 hour writing sessions where the goal is 1,000 words each session. (Yes, I’ve tried this part before.)
.5 hour breaks between sessions (This is where it’s different. The writing sessions are all evenly spaced all day long.)

Here’s where I’ll update results.

12:00–1:30 – 1,296 wordsWoo hoo! Things are off to a good start.
2:00–3:30 – 977 wordsOnly 1.23 hours, because I’ve fallen pretty far behind. I’ll have to skip the next session to get back on track. I’m hoping I can get ahead with some better word counts for the next couple of sessions. I had just enough time before 6 to finish it off before I started that one. :)
4:00–5:30 – Skipped to catch up
6:00–7:30 – 840 wordsI’ve fallen behind again. It’s 8:17 and I have half an hour on this one to go. I’m going to keep going with it at this point.
8:00–9:30 – Skipped, because I was still working on the previous session.
10:00–11:30 – Skipped because I’m exhausted and I’m going to bed early so I can start off strong tomorrow.

If I get behind, I’ll cut a session or break short and move on to the next session.

If this goes well, I’m going to try it again tomorrow, starting earlier and taking a full hour between sessions (if I want—it certainly won’t be mandatory). The only reason I’m not doing that today is that I’m starting so much later than I planned when I came up with this idea last night.

Now, gotta go. I’m already 15 minutes behind. Yeah, I know. Not kidding. :o

**This might seem like it hasn’t gone well, but considering how badly I fail at this and how often, I’m actually really pleased with what I accomplished using this schedule. I’m definitely going to try the slightly modified version tomorrow, with the hour between sessions and see how that goes. I don’t yet know if the longer breaks will help or hinder my ability to stay on track.

Schedule update: times are almost right, sessions keep changing

Since I started following a writing schedule again, I’ve found that some adjustments have had to be made. A few things just weren’t working out how I’d like.

I added an extra half hour for the midday break. I also stopped an hour earlier for lunch and moved that hour to after lunch.

Scheduled times

7 to 12 became 7 to 11, while 1 to 4 became 12:30 to 4:30.

I’ve only tried this for one day, and not successfully, let me add, but possibly because it’s fall break for the schools here and I keep messing up my 7 am start time. Still, the lunch hour wasn’t working. I’ve had to adjust it every day, so building that into the schedule makes more sense than not.

Session times

First it was 50 minute sessions, then 15 minutes, then 25 minutes. They each worked at different times this week, but I’m moving permanently back to 50 minute sessions for planning writing output because of how well they work within the framework I’ve constructed. It’s very easy to account for how many sessions I should have completed in any number of hour long blocks if I assume 50 minutes writing time to 10 minutes break time.

One change I’ve made is that I’m not longer stressing over whether or not I can complete the entire 50 minutes without a break. (Too much tea, I know. I can’t help it. I feel compelled to have something to drink while I write.) I just plan to write for 50 minutes, pause the timer when necessary, and aim to complete the 50 minute session within the one hour block. Now this? This is something that’s actually had a much bigger impact on how I feel about these long sessions than I would have thought. The new perspective is working great. No more resentment for long sessions, or hesitation to start one, because it’s perfectly okay to pause the session. In fact, I expect it. There’s also a bit of pressure to get back to it quickly that’s helpful (because the timer is paused). It’s working out much better than the break between sessions. That’s where I’m still having a lot of trouble with distractions. :)

Session goals

One thing I realized right away was that I wasn’t just pushing for higher word counts per hour with the sessions. I was also demotivating myself a bit. Not much, just enough that I really started to notice it yesterday. The problem is that I use my number of sessions times my word count goal to estimate what goal I should have for a day’s writing. The numbers made me feel too optimistic about the chances I’d have of reaching really (really) high word counts, despite what I know of my historical performance.

So I scaled back. I might want to write 250 per 15 minute session, or 325 per 25 minutes, or 600 or 800 per 50 minute session, but that’s just not that likely, and it’s no way to plan. I can still hold all those numbers in my head as goals, but they’re really no good for planning.

I’ve settled on a 550 word goal for each 50 minute session for planning purposes. That’s 660 words per hour. My average the last time I checked was about 641 wph, and my all time average was about 541 wph, so it’s a bit of a push, but not an overwhelming one.

I know how many words I need to finish several of the books I’ve got going, I just needed estimates of sessions and words to get me to a daily plan to make it happen by the deadlines I’ve set myself (publicly this time). The book lengths are estimates, of course, but I don’t mind adjusting how much writing I need to do each day if I see that a book is going longer than I planned. It happens more often than not, to be honest, and that’s another reason overly optimistic word count expectations are a problem for me.

My former session goals led me to create deadlines that were just too tight. I gave myself some much needed breathing room. :)