Still caffeine free

On February 6, 2020, I had my first full caffeine-free day. Here is it September 15, 2023 and I’m still off caffeine. I glanced at a few previous posts on this issue and nothing has really changed. (It’s been 282 days since I quit caffeine; what I’ve learned.)

Turns out, caffeine really had nothing to do with my changing sleep habits. I just hit a point in my life where sleeping well became more difficult.

The few—very few—times I’ve had a bit of caffeine in larger quantities than I’d have in a cup of cocoa or decaf coffee, I’ve felt the difference in anxiousness and upset stomach to a marked degree.

I sometimes think the lack of caffeine might actually be to blame for the dramatic dive in my word counts that happened the same month, but there’s no way to be sure. There was a lot going on in my life during this downturn, so I can’t honestly say the lack of caffeine was to blame, despite the coinciding nature of the dive.

I think it’s just as possible that my sleep patterns are to blame. It’s hard to write (or do much of anything, to be honest) when you feel perpetually tired. Prioritizing sleep sounds easy, but when you can’t stay asleep even when you’re trying to, there’s not much you can do about that. (I never have trouble going to sleep; I have a lot of trouble going back to sleep!)

The blue box is February 2020. (Each row is a month, Jan–Dec.)

It’s taken me a remarkable amount of time to recover, and I’m not really there yet as you can see from the numbers. However, I don’t think I will ever know if the lack of caffeine played a role unless I start drinking caffeine again and I see a marked increase. :)

I don’t particularly want to test that. I’ve adapted to a life without regular caffeine, and I like how stable my moods are these days.

Anecdotally, on Monday, I drank a cup of jasmine and orange green tea, which has some caffeine (the first cup I’ve had in ages), and I didn’t have a big jump in my word count that day. The day before that, as you might remember (probably not), I posted my best day in a long while—caffeine free.

Why there isn’t going to be a May 2023 accountability post

I liked April’s accountability post. But not enough to continue with them. To be honest, I forgot to update the post multiple times, and I felt that it didn’t help me in any way stay accountable to my writing or publishing goals.

I also liked the table format in April, but I felt myself missing the individual posts I used to do, so there wasn’t even any benefit in that regard.

So on that note, I’m not going to bother posting a table of daily word counts this month at all. I have my LibreOffice Calc spreadsheet for that (yeah, I keep trying to go back to Excel, because I do have a subscription to Microsoft 365 that I pay for, but I really just like Calc).

So the accountability post experiment has come to an end.

At the end of this month, I’ll just do a progress post as I’ve done in the past. I do like them. I might revisit April’s post and pull parts of it out for a progress post to start things off in that direction again.

Back to the drawing board

After several days of the 20 minute writing blocks, I realized I was having a lot of trouble with the getting restarted part of this. Every session ends with the need to restart, unless something (usually a person in a sprint room on discord) was keeping me from taking a break.

Even though I kind of knew this going in, I thought the sets of blocks might be enough to keep it from being a problem. I am ever the optimist, unfortunately. It’s part of my problem with planning—I can’t be realistic to save my life.

I also kept trying to schedule the sets, because to reach the word count I’m aiming for (3,000 words) I would need three or four sets (possibly more). I knew there was little chance of success if I waited until bedtime to try to do four sets of these.

But schedules really don’t work for me, even if I make a point of allowing myself to stay flexible. There’s just something about them that triggers all the wrong thoughts in my head. I didn’t have even one success at starting when I had scheduled a start.

After several days of failing to do the number of sets I need, I realized last night that there are just so many points of failure that this plan makes no sense for me.

I reevaluated and came up with a new plan.

Today I’m going to try to eliminate as many points of failure as I can by using a timer for one long block of 3 hours.

As soon as I finish this post and close this window, I’m going to start that timer.

I won’t stop it for breaks, that way I’ll keep my need to get back to writing at the forefront of my thoughts and not get distracted.

After the timer goes off, I can catch up anything I was tempted to do during the breaks.

If I feel like today was a successful trial run (even if I don’t reach my 3,000 words), I’ll add a rule for tomorrow to get started within an hour of waking up. :D I’m tracking my successes and failures with the Loop Habits app on my phone, and I’ll add that as a habit to track.

I’m only three hours behind today so that’s not so bad. It’s still early enough to be called an early start.

Well, back to timed writing!

My 2022 goals are off to a slow start. The plan is to publish something (novel, short, whatever) every month. I’ve lost some momentum into this new year because I got sick early in the month, and I’ve had a hard time getting moving again.

Last night, after the umpteenth time waiting too late to start (even though I stay up late sometimes, I haven’t been lately, and I haven’t had any willpower at all left once it gets late, so no matter how many times I tell myself I can just get started anyway, it doesn’t happen).

So, new plan.

I want to finish a book, but since “finish the book” isn’t really working for me as a daily goal, today’s is simpler: write 3,000 words (which will probably finish the book). So many mind games. It’s hilarious. But whatever works!

I’ll do 20 minutes 4 times, take a break (or not, depending how I feel), then repeat this a few times. That will get me between 3–4 hours of writing. Which might be enough time to get to 3,000 words.

(I want to write about 90,000 words a month this year, which is insane for me, but I’m seriously tired of dragging out the time it takes to write all these books I want to write. If I really want to write them, I’m going to have to speed up! And there is absolutely no good reason why I can’t write that many words. I am not physically incapable of it, and I have enough ideas to last the rest of my life and beyond. Mental hangups just do not count as real limits. I can do it. Once I break through this barrier, it will get easier. I just have to keep pushing until I crack the wall.)

So, anyway, that’s the goal today. 3,000 words. I’ll report back at intervals, much like I used to do, and keep myself accountable to getting these 20 minute sessions in.

Update #1

I finished the first set. 694 words and 1.333 hours (20 x 4) and I came it at 521 words per hour overall, with one session short actual writing time of about 4 minutes because of a phone call interruption. So it could have been better but probably not by much.

I did a lot of backspacing. My typing is atrocious, but this was mostly me having trouble coming up with a next sentence issue.

I’m going to try to do better with the next one. Think for two seconds before I type or something, I don’t know.

I’m still planning for two to three more sets, but I’m going to have to have a break, which I will need to keep reasonably short. So good luck me with that.

Update #2

Finished the second set and ended up at 980 for the day. I threw in an extra five minutes on the timer so my numbers would round better. :) 2.75 hours, 980 words, 356 wph. Not gonna lie, I’m disappointed with the wph number. This was new material and shouldn’t have been so hard to get up to speed with.

I do not like the block editor, but it’s time to decide: block or bust

I write my posts out of order, so the block editor makes writing blog posts harder for me. A compromise would be to write the text in OneNote and then copy+paste into WordPress and make it into blocks there. I don’t like that idea, so I haven’t done it.

I’ve tried it, mind you. I just don’t like doing it.

Most of the posts I start in OneNote stay in OneNote. Because once I’ve written them, there doesn’t feel like much point in posting. I write most of my posts to get things out of my head, and I post them because it’s convenient and because I wrote them as a blog post, so why not? When I write them in OneNote, they become diary entries that don’t feel like they have a place on my blog.

Writing out of order means a lot of copying and pasting between blocks in the block editor of WordPress. I’m not that fond of it. My preference is dragging text around. You can’t do that in the block editor between blocks. Or if you can, I sure have never found a way. It’s disappointing, and it’s a big failure for the block editor to long-form writers who prefer to write inside WordPress.

On the other hand…

I’m trying really hard this year to break free of perfectionism and all the garbage that comes with it. Forcing myself to write posts as they come and abandon out-of-order writing might not be a bad way to practice that.

So here goes.

Block post #1.

It’s been 282 days since I quit caffeine; what I’ve learned

It’s been 282 days since I quit caffeine. Technically, I do still ingest minute amounts. I drink decaffeinated coffee a couple times a day, and I have the occasional cup of hot chocolate. I do not, however, drink regular coffee or tea any longer, and I avoid all other caffeine where I can.

I’ve learned a few things since I quit.

One, I don’t sleep better off without caffeine. I’m hitting a stage in my life, apparently, where a full night of sleep is just harder for me. I had been blaming my coffee habit for my poor sleep, and it just didn’t turn out to be the case.

Two, I’ve had a lot less trouble with anxiety of any kind in the last 282 days than I had in the preceding year, despite having a lot more reason to be feeling anxious. So that’s been a good thing to realize. The evidence is pretty strong that caffeine was triggering anxiety for me when I was feeling stressed. I’m still pretty stressed these days, but I’m having a much easier time controlling the anxiety it produces.

Three, the world does feel a bit flatter for me without caffeine. I’ve gotten used to it, and I actually think I like it. I’m also noticing that now that it’s been a while, I’m starting to feel more like my old self even without caffeine. I don’t know how long it takes a person to truly adapt to life without caffeine and for the brain to compensate, but I think it is a lot longer than I ever suspected!

Four, I had a lot of ups and downs with my energy levels when I was on caffeine, and I still have those.

All in all, I’m really glad I quit caffeine when I did. I also don’t have plans currently to start drinking it again. I’m not saying never but I am saying not now. Life will have to become fairly stress-free for me to think it’s worth it.

February slip

The coffee thing might or might not be to blame for February being in the dumps, but February’s word counts are way down. It’s my worst month since July.

I held off the usual slump for January with the daily writing, but it seems to have slipped its way into February instead.

I quit the daily writing on the 8th. I don’t regret ending it, not in the least, because it was time, but it’s very possible that is to blame for the usual January slump becoming a February slump instead.

Because of some things that have to happen this week, it’s not likely that I’ll be able to prop the month up with a rush of words written this week. But, as usual, I don’t care about the facts, and I’m going to push for a better ending to the month anyway.

Finally, I’ll be glad when this month is over so I can reevaluate the coffee situation. The benefits of being off caffeine have not outweighed the drawbacks as of yet. My sleep hasn’t improved in a noticeable way and that was the primary reason I decided to do this experiment.

There are other changes that are negative but I can’t say for sure the coffee fast has anything to do with them. When I think on it, I noticed a trend toward pessimism a few weeks before I eliminated coffee and caffeine.

Unexpected side-effects of caffeine withdrawal and lack of motivation

I’ve quit coffee (and caffeine) so many times over the years that I feel like I should know everything there is to know about caffeine withdrawal. And yet, I’ve been surprised this time, and some of that may be because I’m paying more attention to the longer-term effects of it than I usually do.

Today I noticed for the first time that even though I don’t appear to be sleeping better than I was before I quit, I feel kind of like I’m getting a little boost in my energy levels. And despite the frequent awakening at night, as long as I stay in bed and push myself to get enough sleep, I haven’t been suffering from any daytime drowsiness. Which is surprising, because I am definitely not feeling like I’m sleeping well at night.

I’ve had a distinct lack of motivation to work since I quit caffeine too. I’m not sure that’s related though. It’s been 15 days since I decided to quit, and 11 since I’ve had more than a minor amount of caffeine (a couple of cups of cocoa, and half a glass of sweet tea from a restaurant ordered out of habit before I remember I wasn’t supposed to order tea!). But I started a downward spiral of not really wanting to work on this book 18 days ago.

I guess, in a sense, I was hoping that better sleep would equal more energy and motivation to write, but that has not been the case.

I’d say I’m just going to strong-arm myself back to writing, but when has that ever worked? I’d love it if it did, but that’s the curse of me. I’m not capable of strong-arming myself to do something I’m not in the mood to do and I’m pretty self-destructive about it too. Such as, I really need to finish this book, for the money, for my future, for the stability of writing as a career, but I keep putting it off and doing so many other things that don’t matter at all, because I just don’t want to write (fiction) at the moment.

If I can’t make myself do it for those very important reasons, what possible reason could motivate me?

(I don’t even want to write blog posts. I’ve started and stopped a whole handful since my last substantive post and littered my blog with unfinished drafts that I have now deleted. I’m writing this post because I think it matters, for me. I need to work out some thoughts I’ve been having and writing is how I do that.)

I need to finish this book, and I just don’t care. The book is good, so it’s not a book problem. I realized that the day before yesterday, when I went back to the parts that were giving me trouble right before I quit the daily writing, thinking I would have to delete and just force myself on a different path, but I picked up right where I’d left off with no trouble at all. I realized then that it’s not the book. It’s me.

I’ve kind of known this all along, but I was almost hoping it was the book because the book would be easier to fix. (Pick a starting off point, delete the rest, and start fresh. That’s a very effective fix for most problems.)

So what do I do? I do need to finish this book, if not for me, then for the people who have said they want to read it. Maybe that’s the trick. Maybe for a while, even if it’s just a little while, I need to focus on doing this for someone else. As a general rule, I really don’t like thinking about other people when I write, and I don’t think this would mean I have to do that. It would mean only thinking about other people to get me to sit down and write, which feels like a different kind of thing.

Maybe it is time to change how I think of a few things.

Since my intrinsic motivation to write seems to have disappeared on me (temporarily, I hope), I have to find something else to focus on to get me to the book every day.

Caffeine withdrawal might not be to blame at all. There are patterns to my desire to write that I have to fight now that writing is my career. If I were making enough money and stable enough financially to take long breaks, I’d just build them into my process. But I really don’t so that’s not a reasonable option right now.

I have an inkling of an idea for something I’ll try for a while, and I’m hoping it will help. Maybe I’ll write up a post about it later. Right now, I’m done with this one and feel a need to let some of these thoughts gel.

Later. :)

 

 

 

Disappointed but sticking it out

I should be beyond the caffeine withdrawal at this point, so I’m not sure why I’m not sleeping one iota better. In fact, I’m almost willing to say I’m sleeping worse.

Caffeine has never kept me from being able to fall asleep, but it does make it easier for me to forget that I need to go to bed and get some sleep, so I really thought this would help.

I’m giving it the full month so I’m not ready to call it quits, but I am disappointed and frustrated that I haven’t seen any sleep rewards from this effort.

Bah.

First full day off caffeine

I’ve made it through weaning myself off caffeine. Today was the first day I didn’t need any coffee (or tea) at all to stave off a headache. Now I’m waiting on any lingering withdrawal symptoms to fade away.

I don’t know that there are any left, to be honest, but I’m giving it another day or two before I expect myself to feel however it is I’m going to feel without caffeine.

As for today and the last several days? My mood has been in the dumps, and I haven’t slept one iota better than I slept before quitting caffeine.

But I’m holding out hope. Last night there were storms and lightning and wind that kept waking me up, and so last night can’t count as a test night of sleep. Tonight, on the other hand, I expect to be a good night, and if it isn’t, I’m definitely going to be disappointed. But like I said, I’m going to give it another day or two before I let myself get frustrated about anything.

It’s time to quit caffeine (coffee) (again)

It’s time for an experiment!

I’ve quit caffeine cold-turkey too many times to count in my life and I know what to expect—so I am not going cold-turkey. The last time I quit caffeine, I weaned myself off it and it worked out so much better. That’s the path I’ll be taking this time, now that I’ve decided I need to quit caffeine for a while to see if I can improve my sleep.

I’ve been sleeping poorly lately, and I’ve been drinking more and more caffeine between coffee and tea (black and green), and I’m not reaching to say there is probably a connection. :) I’ve also been experiencing a few more headaches than usual lately, and I’d like to see if it’s the caffeine. I’m bad at routine, so some days I do too much and some days too little and this varying caffeine consumption can definitely cause withdrawal symptoms.

I worry, a bit, because coffee kind of brings the world to life around me, and usually (but not always) helps me focus and feel clear-headed. Sometimes it’s the opposite. I wake up feeling crystal clear and that first cup of coffee steals that away and makes me feel a bit too hyperactive. Those are the days I tell myself I’m going to wait a few hours the next morning before I have my coffee. I almost never do.

It also exacerbates that nervy feeling I get sometimes and can make me feel like I want to jump out of my skin. It only takes one cup too many to give me a bad case of the jitters and an upset stomach, and sometimes I have that cup before I’ve realized it and then I spend several hours feeling miserable. I’ve always thought I am highly sensitive to caffeine.

I’ve had a love / hate relationship with caffeine (coffee and tea) for most of my life. :D It’s time for a break.

It’s time to write on fewer stories at one time

I currently have ten stories in progress. The longest one is at 66,000+ words and the shortest is at 188. Overall, I have more than 107,000 words of unfinished stories waiting to be finished. This is the natural result of keeping multiple stories going at once.

I’ve been working on the premise that I should always be writing whatever seems the most interesting to me to keep my interest levels as high as possible. However, that presupposes that just pecking away at the current story wouldn’t trigger new interest when I finally hit on something that felt right for the story, and also presupposes that getting tied up in something else wouldn’t delay a return of interest for the original story. And as it stands, I can’t know the answer to that.

As much as keeping multiple stories going seems to help me write more when the writing isn’t going well, I can’t really know that for sure, primarily because when I started doing it my numbers were already falling and I was trying to prop them up in whatever way I could.

Even though 2019 was a big improvement over the two years before, my best annual word counts came in years when I was still writing only on one book at a time for the most part, and I haven’t beaten those numbers yet.

Now, I don’t know that this means anything. I’ve been in a weird transitional phase with my kids for several years now, because it’s their college years and only one seems to have settled a bit, and the other is home a lot and has a work schedule that is all over the place, but I thought it was worth a true experiment to find out if sticking to one thing at a time might be better for me in the long run.

This came about because I’m frustrated that I’ve lost interest in several of the stories I have in progress and I blame that on the fact that I feel like I’ve been working on some of these stories for far, far, far too long.

I just can’t hold interest in something that long. It’s starting to feel like it would be better not to even start the book at all if I’m not going to be able to devote myself to it and finish it within a reasonable span of time.

Something has to give, because to be frank, I’m losing interest in almost every story I write these days long before I make it to the end. I’m not used to that, and I don’t like it. If I can’t get that under control, I can’t improve my daily word counts and I can’t meet my goals.

 

Daily post – Jan. 21, 2020 – Tuesday

I wrote 225 words today. That was all this morning. I generally hate dictating fiction, but I did do some dictation into my phone this morning and that’s how I logged those 225 words. Saved my daily writing streak, so that’s good.

I did no fiction writing after that at all. Never even looked at my book.

My routine is still far from being settled. I haven’t actually been able to sit down at 9 am for a three hour block of writing one time since I started this. I haven’t been able to sit down at 2 pm for a three hour block of writing since I started this, either.

Routines are hard for me. Like, quitting coffee hard. I’ve quit coffee about once a year for the last twenty-five years. At the moment, I’m drinking three cups a day again. :D

I know why routines are hard for me. I’m really hoping I can find a way around that this year.

On the other hand—because there’s a second one, so why not use it—I kind of think I’m already going to have to change something, because this is just not working. If I don’t change things when they’re not working, I risk falling into a funk and burying my head in a book and then I’m reading three books a day again and doing nothing else. :D

It’s one of my failings, this tendency to binge things, or become obsessed, or addicted, whatever you want to call it. It’s why I won’t let myself watch anything on tv right now that I haven’t already seen. I have to finish this book I’m working on. I started it early last year, for goodness’ sake. In fact, my earliest backup of my file is dated January 17, 2019. So I have officially been working on this novel for more than a year. Yikes!

I finished some other books between then and now—a giant novel, some novellas, and short stories—but I want to finish this one, and the sooner, the better.

This kind of goes back to my post about the need to maintain a high level of interest in what I’m writing so I don’t bog down. Well, it’s official. I have bogged down, and despite some really awesome moments in the writing of this book, I have lost interest and it’s time to get this one out the door! Can’t do that if the damn thing isn’t finished. So I have to finish.

I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here because there are too many posts on this site to go through to get to it, I am not a finisher by nature. I get bored. I want to move on. It’s a chore to finish things. The one thing that helped me start finishing books was to not know what’s coming in the story. Once I know, I’m done. The book is toast. I’m fighting every step of the way to get to the writing, and yuck. I might as well be digging a ditch somewhere on a cold, rainy day.

I hate writing on those days. HATE it.

I have in-progress books that I started years ago. One is from 2015. I absolutely plan to finish that book. I write a few thousand words on it every year or so.

But that right there is why I want to start writing more. Not because I actually want to write more, but because I want to have written these books. You can’t have written a book if you don’t write the damn book. :D

Look, I said in my last post that I don’t actually like the process of writing very much. Really, though, it’s more nuanced than that. Sometimes I hate writing. Sometimes I love it. Sometimes I’m not even sure how I feel about it.

And sometimes I get absolutely sick of trying to pretend it’s all fun all the time. Because it isn’t. Sometimes I just want it to be over. So I can move on.

And that means I don’t want to sit down and get started and write. And sure, I could make myself—oh, wait. Yeah, no, I can’t. Because if I could, I’d have finished this damn book months and months ago.

What I can do is keep coming at it from different angles until I find one that tricks me into getting started again, and then ride it to the end. That works. But it does tend to take time and effort and I often make a fool of myself trying one thing or another and failing again and again. I’m used to that. People will think what they will about my methods and I’ll just keep pushing and trying until I get there.

:D

I keep thinking (maybe falsely) that if I can ever get myself to write more on a consistent basis, it will start to feed on itself: my interest levels will stay higher, boredom won’t set in, and I’ll find it easier to finish.

But I can’t get there without getting past all the other stuff first.

I keep trying. Because persistence matters and what else am I going to do—get a “real” job?

LOL.

I don’t think so. ;)

Tomorrow, I’ll reset, and I’ll try again. 4,000 words or bust! :D

Daily post – Jan. 8, 2020

The reason I wasn’t in the mood to write a post for yesterday is because I’m planning to do a little blogging while I write today. (I did write a post, but it was super short and to the point.)

Today, it’s a marathon!

I want to hit my 2020 daily word count goal of 3,600 words. I haven’t yet and today is the beginning of the second week of January. It’s about time I decide if I want to keep the big goal or scale back.

With this goal I am pushing far, far above what I normally accomplish. I can do 1,000 wph. I don’t do it often. More often, my pace falls somewhere in the realm of 500 wph. I’d complain, but been there, done that. It is what it is. At 500 wph, getting to 3,600 words requires a LOT of focused time sitting in a chair. I don’t focus that well. Best not to try to do it all at once in a day, and once I start doing other things, well, the writing loses. That’s just a fact.

I’ll have to fight against that fact this year if I want to make this goal.

On that note, my hourly push for this big 3,600 word goal is only 600 wph. (Gotta have some parts of the plan be reasonable so I at least have a chance.)

Here’s the plan for the foreseeable future, but today specifically.

600 words x 6.

Yep, that’s it.

The biggest challenge will be not getting discouraged when my hourly pace inevitably falls off. Because some days it will. The way I track words makes it inevitable (deleted words hit all my word count averages in the end).

The second biggest challenge will be sticking out the hours in the chair until I hit that 3,600 words.

A few beautiful caveats to this plan:

  1. I get to work on whichever story I want to keep my interest high and make writing fun enough to stick with it.
  2. How I get these 600 words every day is up to me. Any session style I want. 5 minute sprints, 20 minute sprints, 60 minute blocks. Whatever works.

Now, back to writing. I had to revisit this post after my internet went down and it didn’t post and I’m between my first and second hour of writing. Only 3,268 words to go.

Hour 1: 332 total (40 minutes timed) (498 wph, fancy that)

Hour 2: 1,026 total (45 minutes timed) (724 wph average)

Hour 3: 1,175 total (20 minutes timed) (671 wph average)

I’ve called it. Although I tried to stay on track today, I had a lot of interruptions and I just couldn’t do it. Time to try again tomorrow. I’m determined to get into better sleep routines so I can start writing early in the mornings.

If I get started early tomorrow, I have a feeling I’m going to do a lot better. This routine actually worked really well today and I liked it. I am definitely giving it another shot. :-)