Timed sessions are back (because there’s no such thing as never again)

This post is the result of several drafts. I started it off intending to talk about my attempt to try scheduled writing again. That didn’t work out so the post fell by the wayside.

Me and writing schedules do not fit together, and I can’t believe I’m having to say this again, because I know this.

I’ve been trying to be diligent about not giving in to the urge to use timers for writing, but last night, I realized just how counterproductive that resistance has been.

I didn’t want to give in, but nothing has really been working for me lately. (Well, except for OneNote. My canceled subscription ended without a hitch and I never noticed a thing.) I need to write. I have a book to finish and I am ready (really ready) to become a prolific writer. I’ve challenged myself to improve how much and how often I write so that I can end this year in a much better place than it started. If that doesn’t happen, I at least want to get back to where I was just two years ago (production-wise) and that has felt impossible these last several months.

It’s taking me a very long time to get back into the groove of writing. I feel like I don’t even remember how to do it some days. Everything is choppy and annoying and nothing is coming easy, and frankly, I’m boring myself with some of the stuff I’m writing. Which means I’m probably going to bore other people too.

I suffer from the delusion that you can stop doing something for six months and come back to it as good as you were before. :o

Nope! It takes time to get back into a groove and get comfortable again–to get into habits and routines that make things easier. No one would expect a pro-ball player to take six months off (seriously off, not secretly puttering at it) and then be right back in the zone the very month they came back. It would take time. Practice, exercise, effort. I tend to ignore all that and just think I should be able to fall right back into things after some of my extended breaks and not miss a beat. Oops. Most of us know that’s not how it goes!

So last night I used a few 12 minute sessions to get back into the groove of things and it felt great. I had really missed my timers. Sure, it’s nice to write sometimes and look up and realize I’ve written a lot of words in what feels like no time at all. But it is also nice to write and know that I need to keep going just a little longer before I quit because I might actually get somewhere if I do.

I’ve gone right back to the 48 minute sessions I had decided were the perfect length the day before I decided to abandon timers. (I must not have written about this here because I could find a diary entry about it but not a blog post.) I had figured out that 48 minutes was the best length for so many good reasons, but when I sat down to do them, I could only do one and kept putting the next sessions off, and all that angst led me to decide I was done with the timers. So… good and bad, those 48 minute sessions. :D

I set up a simple table in my spreadsheet to track my current session, and I decided that sometimes, I might want to focus on smaller bits—

Like this:

Words WPH
12 0
12 0
12 0
12 0
0 0

—or longer bits—

Like this:

Words WPH
48 0
48 0
48 0
48 0
0 0

—but which I choose is really just going to depend on what kind of day I’m having.

:)

In the end, it’s pretty clear that I’ve come full circle. It’s 2018 and without even realizing it, I have come back to the very place I talk about in that post.

That post, which I came across today for the first time in ages, could have been written yesterday, it is so close to my current thoughts and goals.

A week ago, I made some calculations (without any memory of that post and what it contained) and came up with 2,192 words as my daily goal. I didn’t post here about that change to my 2,000 WPD plan, because 2,000 was a nice round number and I didn’t think it mattered. Then last night, I decided 2,400 was better, because it fit neatly into the timed writing goals I was working out and would mean I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping my 2,000 words a day average if I missed a day or two of writing every so often.

Really, truly, it’s uncanny how apt that post is for what I’m dealing with right now.

So that’s where I am. :)

Now that’s enough of that. I have writing to do.

08-07-2018 writing

Writing today ~ I’m planning 2 x 53 minutes before noon.

Wish me luck. I want to do more writing than editing but I do still need to get through a troublesome chapter 6 during this time block.

I’ve decided 100% that I need to adhere to some kind of schedule even while trying to write as much as possible. I might, in fact, need a schedule more than ever for that kind of writing because it’s easy to sit at the computer all day and think I’ll have plenty of time to get started.

But getting started is the hard part and I don’t do it well. :)

Today the schedule is this:

10 to 12
1 to 3
4 to 6
7 to 9

I’m trying to write as much as possible right now because I really needed/wanted to get this book out last month and didn’t and this month is already zipping away. It’s the 7th for goodness sakes.

And if that “goodness sakes” bothers you, just think of it as a regional thing. No one actually says “for goodness’ sake” around here, even if that’s what they really mean.

July 9, 2018 Monday writing

Here’s another post about my writing day.

On the one hand, I’m pleased that I started off my plan to write 2,000 words a day somewhat successfully. I ended up with 1,825 words. Not 2,000, but close enough that it won’t drag my average down in the long run (I hope). On the other hand, I’m really disappointed that it took all freaking day to do it, and I didn’t even make it to four solid hours of timed writing. I clocked only 2.67 hours, in fact.

I’m going to say this up front. I have to take breaks between most writing sessions and that’s just the way it is. I pee a lot. I have to move my legs. I can’t sit still for long periods. If I don’t move, I can’t focus. If I don’t click away from my book when I get too wound up, I can’t focus. I need a lot of help focusing, to be blunt.

The most hours of timed writing I’ve ever logged in a day is just over ten and a half and that was the hardest day I’ve ever spent writing. I started early in the morning and I finished late that night. It’s also my record word count day at the moment.

I just cannot sit and write for four hours straight. It’s currently an impossibility for me. I don’t know if it always will be, but I suspect I will never be that person who sits down and doesn’t move until their daily word count has been reached. Well, maybe if my daily word count was like 500 words or something. I might make it. Some days. :)

But one thing I don’t expect is to end up with four hours of timed writing from a 12–4 writing schedule. That’s a completely unreasonable goal for me, and I know it.

But three would be nice. So I’m working on it. I’m going to really focus in on that 12–4 writing time and try to get a consistent three hours of timed writing out of it. The rest of the day? I don’t care. I’ll just do what I can do.

Now back to the post about my writing day. Here’s the log, which I wrote in OneNote yesterday but got too tired to post before I went to bed. It’s long! I recorded a lot of minutia.

  • Start at 12 pm and get as close to 4 hours of timed writing in before 4 pm as I can.
  • Do 20 minute sessions today to help me stay more focused on speed.

(Although the 60 minute sessions do work to keep me focused during them, I don’t like starting them, and so I always feel like I end up doing less writing in the end. I should confirm that with numbers but maybe some other time.)

12:23 – Just finished my first session of the day.

Session #1 didn’t go great. I ended the session at -22 words. Too much editing of yesterday’s words and no forward momentum at all. I will try to correct that with session #2.

To help limit the necessity of breaks, I had coffee earlier so I could move on to something less likely to force me away from my desk every five minutes. I’m having hot water over lemon and honey, instead.

Now, unfortunately, I do need a quick break. :D Be right back.

12:39 – I’m back and ready to start session #2.

1:00 – Session #2 done. 211 words. Total words: 189. Still in the weeds of yesterday’s work. However, I ended up expanding one conversation and that’s where the new words came from.

I posted an update to my CampNaNoWriMo cabin and to a small writer’s group I’m part of on Discord. Grabbed lunch and am eating at my desk today because I forgot to eat lunch before I started at 12.

1:25 – Ready to start session #3.

1:46 – Session #3 done. 156 words. Total words: 345.

2:06 – I had a short break to check the mail (real mail!) because I saw the postman put a package in the box, and sure enough, it was my keyboard replacement and the fan. I’m still waiting on the frame and I’ve decided to let that come before I dig into the computer for the repairs.

I’m actually liking this temporary keyboard quite a bit. I might continue to use it. We’ll just have to see. Now, time to start session #4.

3:02 – Finished session #4. 357 words. Total words: 702. Don’t know where the rest of my time went. I didn’t leave the computer. I think I looked at few reports or something, and time must have gotten away from me before I clicked “Start” on the timer.

3:36 – A cup of cocoa and coffee later, and I am back. I think the honey and lemon wasn’t such a good alternative to coffee, not for the reason I wanted it as an alternative. The lemon seemed to be just as big an irritant to my bladder as the coffee usually is! But at least with the coffee, I get a little caffeine high. So I won’t be doing that substitution again as a way to cut down on breaks, because it did not cut down on breaks. :)

Starting session #5.

4:00 – Finished session #5. 297 words. Total words: 999. About halfway to my initial 2,000 words goal.

4:17 – Starting session #6.

4:41 – Finished session #6. It was a good one! 388 words. Total words: 1,387. That was a pace of 1,164 words an hour. If I kept that up, I’d be done with my 2,000 in a snap. I’m not holding my breath, but it could happen. :)

4:59 – Starting session #7. Hopefully I’ll get a few of these in before I stop again. I’m wearing myself out here with all the jumping up and down out of my seat.

5:29 – Did not start session #7. I played a game of spider solitaire first. Now I’m starting session #7. I’m actually really kind of sleepy and tired. But I’m going to do at least this one more session before I take a dinner break.

5:58 – And an unexpected interruption derailed that attempt. Starting session #7 now.

6:39 – Finished session #7. 211 words. Total words: 1,598 words. My pace slowed, but yeah, no surprise there.

8:56 – I stopped after the last session for a dinner break. I would have preferred to get my 2,000 words first but time kept getting away from me so I decided to stop early enough to come back after. So here I am. Ready to start session #8.

9:54 – Or not. I played a game of spider solitaire instead, ran some numbers on my spreadsheet, and then dealt with an interruption. I’m going to finish my game of spider solitaire and then start session #8.

I’m disappointed that my 4 hours of writing have taken all day. And that I haven’t reached 2,000 words yet.

I’m giving some thought to what I can do differently but there’s not a lot, not while I have people in the house with me all day. I’m just too prone to distraction and I tolerate too many interruptions, from others and myself.

It would serve me well to get up early and start writing while it’s quiet, but I’ve gotten into a nice routine with the 12–4 schedule and I don’t want to mess that up. I also kind of like not having to jump right into writing. If it were just me here, I don’t there’d be any problem at all with 12–4. It’s just that I’m not here alone most days and won’t be until mid-August, and then only some days, and not even close to most of them.

So, I have to learn to get by even with the interruptions. Things won’t change for a few more years, I expect. Time waits on no one.

10:35 – Alright. I’m done with that game. I’m not finished with it, just done. The biggest impediment to this plan of mine is my laptop’s broken keyboard. I’d love to take my computer up to bed and sit there and do some last minute writing but I can’t, not unless I want to have my space bar doing ridiculous things to my book. So I’d better get started. I’m fast running out of all steam. Pretty soon I’m not going to even care if I reach 2,000 words today and I’ll give up. Happens every time I let myself get sleepy.

Starting session #8 now. Also, my music has reached the “driving me crazy” phase of the day, so I just turned it off, with prejudice.

11:53 – I’m not sure when session 8 ended, but I wrapped up by updating my spreadsheet and then ended up working on the story a little more after that.

Total words for the day: 1,825.

Tomorrow, the only thing I’m going to focus on is staying on task and getting my sessions done. I think I’ll try 30 minute sessions and see how that goes.

July 8, 2018 Sunday writing

It’s 9:18 in the morning and I’m going to start today’s writing soon. I prefer to write every day, so Sunday is no day off for me. I’ve tried taking weekends off, but I just do not do well when I change up my routine. I’m much better at sticking to something if I don’t allow myself to ever skip a day.

My current philosophy: write every day!

So here I am, ready to write. I was trying to stick to 12–4 as my writing time, and I do plan to go back to that, but right now, I’m falling so far behind where I want to be with my current book in progress that I’m trying every day to start a little earlier than that.

The plan today: write in 60 minute sessions to limit breaks and distractions. I would like to write at least 4,000 words today but I’m not setting that as a goal. I’ll be satisfied if I just write as much as I can during the 6 sessions I have planned.

So really, my goal is to write for 6 hours today. And a subgoal of that is to focus on writing as fast as I can during those sessions.

9:22 – I’m going to grab breakfast, make coffee, feed the stray cat and her brood, and sit down to start my first timer. I hope this doesn’t take too long. I’d like to be writing before 10 am.

10:40 – I’m starting a little later than I wanted but the first timer session is ready to go!

I’ll probably do my updates in OneNote and post them here after the fact. I do happen to find the internet very distracting.

12:30 – Finished first session. 259 words.

12:51 – Ready to start session two. Try not to judge so hard and write more freely. The story isn’t going to fall apart if I have a little fun.

1:13 – I got distracted after all. I’m trying to find a new launcher for my phone and I spent a few minutes looking at those in Play and sending them to my phone. But I’m ignoring my phone for now and getting started with this second session instead.

3:32 – Stopped to pre-prep lunch/dinner and ended up working on my spreadsheets instead of finishing my second 60 minute session. I have 23 minutes left, but it looks like I won’t be getting back to it until after this meal.

Time is really getting away from me.

5:25 – I’m ready to get back to writing now. Time to finish that last 23 minutes, then start another session right away if I can.

6:02 – And there I went again. I spent some more time working on my spreadsheet, running various numbers. I think 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.

Now I’m going to have to make today the first of many 2,000 word days. Anything less will be a joke on me. :)

6:14 – Time to finish that second hour long session.

6:54 – Finished session two, finally. 332 words. 591 words total.

7:11 – Ready to start session three. But first, a quick game of solitaire.

7:18 – I won! Okay, time to get busy now. I’m really going to try to write more words this time. I don’t know if I can do it, but I’m going for at least 1,000 words in this hour. It’ll be a freaking miracle if I reach it, but I want to try.

8:16 – A few small interruptions mean I have 10 minutes left on the timer even though it’s been an hour since I started this session. I’m not sure why I stopped, but I’m having a lot of trouble concentrating. It felt like I didn’t have a choice but to take a quick break. It’s also obvious that I’m going to come up far short of the 1,000 words I wanted for this session. However, at least I’ve been writing and I do have some words to show for it—and some forward progress in the story. Ugh. I need to get back to those 10 minutes. Okay, okay. I’m going.

10:55 – I did not get back to those 10 minutes. Honestly, I’m just going to have to remember today tomorrow, and try not to make the same mistakes. I started a little too late, I didn’t stay focused and ended up sitting at the computer much too long doing unimportant things unrelated to writing, and that tired me out before I needed to be tired out.

Anyway, I’m calling today done. I added 1,053 words to my novel today.

June 1–15 progress

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. ;)