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. :-)

Changing sleep habits—an experiment in productivity

A couple of days ago I decided to try to figure out what was going on in my life at the time of some of my most productive writing streaks—what types of schedules or timed sessions or just overall attitude I had—so I can try a few things to help me make the rest of this year as productive as I need it to be.

This time, I was looking at both my daily log, my entries in my journal, and my calendar entries.

And something came to my attention.

Back in 2016 during the time I can clearly see where my productivity dipped and I fell into a funk that lasted far too long, my sleep habits also changed dramatically.

I have a tendency to track my sleep in my calendar. I put in the times I want to sleep and then adjust the entry the next day to keep a record of the times I actually slept.

Until the middle of 2016, I’d been getting up at 6:30 most days, and even though some days I definitely didn’t get enough sleep, as a general rule I tried to go to sleep by 10:30. Meaning I got enough sleep most of the time, in the earlier part of the night. I’ve always though I slept better in the early part of the night, and fight to sleep once the sun is shining outside, so this stood out for me.

I haven’t ever really considered that my sleep patterns themselves might have led to a lot of my problems during the last few years. And now I’m considering it.

So I started an experiment night before last, wherein I get into bed and go to sleep hours earlier than I’ve been doing, and I make it a priority to get a full night’s sleep.

Yesterday I felt great, all day, all the way up until I went to bed. I never had a dip in energy and I didn’t feel that afternoon dragging feeling I’ve been dealing with a lot lately. I wrote 1,817 words yesterday, pretty effortlessly.

So I went to bed early again last night, and although I don’t know how today is going to work out yet, I feel good. So we shall see if this turns out to be the thing that changed and sent me into a downward spiral of a lack of motivation and energy that has persisted far too long. (Even though it is better now than it was.) :D

I plan to run this experiment for a week at minimum, meaning I can’t let myself slip up and stay up late during that time. I’m hopeful it will show me something useful. :)

New plan because July needs rescued

So July has been a terrible month for writing, but I haven’t given up on rescuing it yet. Starting tomorrow I’m going to just plow into my most appealing current story in progress and try to pick up some momentum.

The plan is simple. Start writing and don’t stop until I’m done, or 4 pm.

The 4 pm thing might seem like a cop out, but I know if I don’t allow myself a break at some point if the writing isn’t going well, I’ll give up completely. So 4 pm is my fail safe.

If I’m doing my best and I can’t seem to get up any momentum and can’t reach my word count goal (of 2,995 words, reasons for which I don’t want to get into in this supposed-to-be-short post right before bed) then I’m allowed to quit at 4 pm for a longish break and make another run at it later in the evening.

If I’m not doing my best to write and do nothing but write until I reach my word count goal, then the experiment failed anyway so none of this will matter. :-o

I’ll update this post after the fact and let you know how it went.

Update: It did not go well. I tried again the next day and it didn’t go well either. I’m currently trying again and it is going better today. A little. But I’m not giving up on this just yet. I’m in the midst of a mindset change and that can take a bit of time.

April 8–20 progress

I am definitely on to something with the “no sweets before 1,000 words” thing. April has been a great writing month so far and I’m putting the credit for that entirely on that little rule I’ve been following.

Yeah, I’ve had one or two days overall where I’ve not reached 1,000 words and gone to bed without any sweets at all, but that’s it. And yeah, it sounds like a phenomenally bad idea to give myself sweet treats for writing, considering how bad too much sugar is for a body, but I would have eaten the sweets anyway, and more of them, frankly, because I have a serious sweet tooth. This little rule has tamed it quite a lot.

It’s amazing what I’ll push myself through to get a cup of cocoa. :-)

April 8–20: 22,103 words.

April-to-date: 33,792 words.

Unfortunately, my current book has gone long. I’d have been done with it 18,000 words ago if it hadn’t. Now I’m just pushing to get it finished so I can start in earnest on the other book that’s desperate to get out of me. :-)

One thing I’ve noticed lately is that I really don’t like to blog or journal when the writing is going really well. I don’t know if it’s because I’m so ready to get started with the actual writing of the story that I don’t want to waste time doing this other writing, or if it’s that the journal and blog writing actually steal some of my motivation to write. Don’t know. Don’t actually care. I’m just glad to be writing my fiction regularly again.

On that note, I’m going to get back to the writing.

Four months without visiting any writer/author forums

Back on September 30, 2018, I posted about burning bridges in some writer forums (well, Kboards to be specific) and my decision that forum culture wasn’t for me.

Since that day, I haven’t returned.

A few days after that, on October 1, I also left the only other author forum I was participating on, and I’m a much happier person because of that decision.

  1. I do not regret it in the least.
  2. I haven’t had any trouble staying informed about the important stuff in the indie publishing industry.

Suffice to say, I’m pretty happy about my decision to stay away. I don’t foresee myself returning, ever. And there are plenty of side-benefits to that decision, too.

  1. I have more time to write.
  2. I have more time to read (and watch TV). :D
  3. I have more time to chat one-on-one with friendly writers. (Thus reminding me that no, not all writers are assholes!)

Life is good. It’s more clear than ever that I was just using those places as a form of social connection and entertainment. The forums had no practical value in my life. They were, however, a huge source of stress and strife and conflict and I’m a better person for not having to deal with the anxieties those things cause.

End of that experiment: I don’t like excerpts on the home page

I edited my theme for this site and tried out showing only excerpts on the home page, tag and category pages, and other archive pages. (Actually, I think I got rid of the date archive pages with a plug-in.*)

I did all of this to prepare for an eventual shift from WordPress to some other platform, preferably one that is based on generating static HTML files that I can upload to my host. I’d like to be able to go 100% static if I so choose once the conversion is done, because I like making pages by hand and updating links.

Unfortunately, as I’ve said in a previous post, I don’t have time for this now.

It was a surprise to realize that I don’t like the excerpts instead of the full posts—especially because I’m happy with the excerpts-only view on a few other sites I have. I think it has to do with the way this theme is set up and the way the excerpts use up so much space on a page. (See the screenshot.)

On my other sites, the excerpts occupy a reasonable portion of screen real estate. Here, one short excerpt pretty much takes up the entire screen on my desktop.

What I really want is custom pages with links or text that I link out to my archived content (in place of the tag and category pages), and an archive list of posts by date the way I have now.

Since I can’t have that without too much work or changing themes, I’m just going to go back to full posts.

Easy! :)

*I put the date archive pages back when I realized the links on my calendar widget don’t work without them. I don’t know what that’ll mean for my shift to a static site someday, or if I’m even still planning one. I’ll leave that decision for later.

Done with timers; wrote more last night but can’t use any of it

So last night I had this idea that maybe what was bothering me about this story was the way I handled the climax. I took my notebook up to bed with me and made a few notes, and then before I knew it, I’d written two pages of new material (and it’s a big notebook with narrow lines).

This is the notebook I’m talking about. I love this notebook. However, I’ve since realized that for long-term preservation of my notebooks, I’m going to have to abandon the metal spirals because of the potential for rust. Ah, well. I have three more in aqua and two in charcoal. I won’t leave them unused. I just won’t buy more.

Of course, the plan this morning was to get it entered and add the word count to yesterday’s total.

Only when I looked back at the scene I’d written in the climax where I would need to insert this (and go in a somewhat different direction) I realized I have a decent scene there and that the new material just wasn’t going to work.

On the other hand, I like the new material, so as far as I’m concerned it still happens in the book, just without the intervention of my main character. It’s part of the hidden story and I’m going to use it in the next book. Probably as the opening. In fact, just typing that has made me feel certain that, yes, the stuff I wrote last night (at least a chunk of it) will be the beginning of my next book in this series. :-)

(Hidden story is the part of the story that isn’t revealed in the story but that must occur within the time frame of the story for the other things to occur—not to be confused with backstory, which occurs before the start of the story.)

Hidden story in this book could easily become backstory in the next book, but since I’m thinking this little bit of hidden story is going to become the opening scene of the next book, it won’t be hidden story or backstory. It’ll just be part of the story. :-)

So, now I just need to get to work on today’s writing and finish this story.

First, no more timers. I’m not even talking about temporarily. I’m doing away with timers.

I know that didn’t work for me at the beginning of this year, but that was because I was using timers in conjunction with no schedule and no goals either. That was a mistake.

I know what I need as far as word counts: 500 words a day minimum, 3,000 words a day goal.

The goal is there to help make a particular dream I have a reality. I want to move. I want a new house. I want a pool. I need money to make that happen. :-)

I really don’t need to track anything else. Those are the numbers I need, each day. One is easily accomplished, the other is a stretch. Tracking my daily words is the only metric I need to know if I’m doing what I need to be doing (500 a day) or want to be doing (3,000 a day).

Update #1

My internet was giving me troubles this morning so I had to delay finishing this post, but that’s okay, because I spent the time writing.

I’ve written 405 words this morning and I need another 95 before I can stop for lunch. I’ll be back with an update when I have them. :-)

Update #2

Time for lunch! My word count is now 559 words.

Update #3

And I’m at 545. Yes, I’m going backwards. Except I’m not because I’m closing in on my ending. Consider it the cost of nearing the end. I clean up as I go.

Update #4

623 words were it for the day, but it is the official restart of my 500 words a day streak—if I can do it again today! Life happened, and I had a big chunk of time between 5:40ish and midnight that I didn’t get back to writing. I did a little more until I went to bed oh so late and was really sad that I didn’t push for more writing so I could finish. But I didn’t finish. Now it’s time to get started with today’s writing, so moving on.

Writing and an experiment with mealtimes

Yay! I’ve been writing today. Nowhere near the amount of writing I wanted to do, and my only excuse for that is distractions, but it’s nice to NOT be struggling to sit down and write.

One distraction of note is my new mealtime schedule. I’m still trying to lose some of the weight I gained after transitioning from a job to writing at home and it seems I’ve plateaued. Therefore, I’m moving meal times to 7 a.m., 11 a.m., and 3 p.m. :-)

The new mealtimes should make snacks much less appealing, reduce my meal sizes, and give me a longer fasting period overnight. It’s also a mealtime schedule I grew up with and maintained into my twenties. It’s an experiment, doubly interesting because it loosely matches the mealtimes I had during all the years when I was at my ideal weight. I’m hoping the new mealtimes will work to my strengths and shore up some of my weaknesses. I like going to bed on an empty stomach and always try not to eat in the few hours before bed, but I don’t like feeling hungry during the day—in fact, when I get hungry, I feel sick and weak, and I don’t like that feeling at all. Ideally, I’ll go to bed on an empty stomach, but won’t actually get hungry until really close to my bedtime which I’m finally getting moved back to a reasonable hour for me. :-)

As a first run today, I’m pretty happy with what I found. I ate almost exactly what I ate yesterday, just so I’d have something to compare. Because I ate it all so much closer together, I realized really quickly that my meals these days are probably still too big. I think I’ll be able to scale back the amount of food I eat and not really notice it at all. And that, I hope, will help me lose a few of these stubborn pounds I need to lose!

Anyway, I’m sleepy and I’m calling it a night. 466 words. May tomorrow be better than today!

Journaling my way to success?

I started an experiment four days ago on Friday (see the post).

Fri: 198 (deleted a chunk of words that knocked this down by about 300)
Sat: 2,088
Sun: 1,185
Mon: 1,544

I’ve had a few times where I just forgot to journal at my break but overall, it is keeping me focused. On the other hand, I admit, I went back to running my timer as I worked, not because I’m going to agonize over my words per hour numbers, but because I just feel less at loose ends when the timer is going. And it doesn’t hurt to look back at a less than stellar word count day and see that I put in a decent amount of effort so I shouldn’t be criticizing myself for it!

(Honestly, it’s the first step of reform for me. I have to quit being so hard on myself all the time. I’m not talking about what I expect from myself, because I think it’s good to push for more than my average as often as I can. I’m talking about how I talk and think about myself and my efforts. Talking down to myself is just not a viable long-term happiness strategy.)

Okay, okay, okay, enough of that

Thinking is not doing and doing is the only way to get words onto the page, so time to start writing.

Starting within the next five minutes, I’m going to write 1,557 words as fast as I possibly can and still have it be coherent. In fact, I’m practicing that kind of fast writing right here right now. I am trying not to stop and just let the words flow out of my brain as fast as my short little fingers can type them out.

We’ll see how well that translates to fiction here is just a few short minutes.

Time to go so I can make this happen. :D See you shortly. I think I’ll do 45 minute sessions. I have a scene in my head (that nap really helped!) and I need to get it out while it’s fresh.

Update #1

That’s didn’t work out the way I’d hoped. You know how your speed is your speed is your speed? I’ve got that going.

Last 13 days average WPH:

618
379
367
419
484
117
375
431
459
489
475
462
415 – Today’s, after one 45 minute session of writing

Update the end:

1,073 words and at midnight I just didn’t feel close enough to fudge it and keep going. This midnight cutoff is really helping me not go too far with staying up and sabotaging the next day’s writing, but I’m not doing a great job of seeing it as the limit it’s meant to be.

The sad part of this is that I spent nearly an hour with this story in the morning, bits and pieces floating in my head until I have what I think is a pretty good idea of what’s happening next (that doesn’t happen to me often) and I still bogged down in the writing.

I do think perfectionism is messing with my speed right now. I’m going to have to figure out how to get rid of it for at least a little while so I can get out of this slump!

And since I’m writing this a couple of days later, in fact, I can tell you I didn’t have any luck with it yesterday (the next day) either! I wrote 201 words. So two more days where I didn’t finish my minimum.

I really don’t want to do that again so morning writing is going to have to be a priority.

That experiment didn’t last long

I like writing posts here while I write. I don’t know if it helps keep me focused in on writing or not, but I like it. So I’ve decided to end this latest experiment of mine early. I’d rather write less fiction than have to restrain the exuberance I feel and ignore the compulsion to talk about it. :D So—I’m back!

I’ve done pretty well with my other big writing experiment though. The non-negotiable 1,557 words a day is working for me. It helps that it’s a number I can look at and imagine myself completing in a little over an hour. Now, I don’t usually complete that many words in an hour, not by far, which makes the whole thing funny in a sad sort of way, because it exemplifies my problem with grandiose thinking. BUT, I’ve finally found a way to make that work for me, it seems, because 1,557 words a day feels so easy when I think about doing it, that I don’t find myself hampered by resistance at all.

It’s kind of an amazing feeling, really.

I’ve already told everyone who’ll listen to me not to ever let me set a huge goal for myself again. :D

One reason I think this is different than previous attempts? I usually say one thing but mean another. I don’t know that I’ve ever actually accepted that maybe this is the upper limit for me and that it’s okay. I don’t have to write more than this because I can make a good living (barring catastrophe) and my books might come slower, but consistency will get me there much faster than my usual patterns.

In fact, 1,557 words a day is actually more than 2x my current all time daily average of 618 words. See what all that inconsistency has gotten me, chasing after ever growing goals I never seem able to reach? I can double the number of novels I put out in a year just by writing a small number of words every day.

I’ve known this for a long time, but I think, now, finally, I’m ready to embrace it.

Now, to figure out how to kill perfectionism once and for all…

Using the stopwatch instead of the timer—and epiphanies

So today I’m writing with my little timer software set to the stopwatch instead of the timer. I’ve started each session with the intention of writing until something distracts me. Surprisingly, my session lengths have been pretty regular.

This is an experiment, really, because I’ve tried straight-up timing my sessions before (versus using the timer to limit session length) and I didn’t have much luck with it. It was time to give it another try, and I’m pleased with how it’s working out.

Session 1

30 minutes. 384 words. 768 wph. I stopped because my phone dinged with a message in Hangouts.

Session 2

36 minutes. 214 words. 357 wph. Too much cycling and editing of session 1 words.

Session 3

25 minutes. 98 words. 235 wph. Way too much editing of the words from sessions 1 and 2.

Session 4

20 minutes. 106 words. 318 wph. I stopped because I’ve been drinking too much tea this morning and I had no choice. :D

Sessions 5–7

43 minutes. 399 words. 557 wph. Frustration with my plot stopped me this time. I had to have a break or I was going to break something. :D

35 minutes. 281 words. 489 wph. More plot frustrations!

16 minutes. 212 words. 795 wph. Stopped by the phone ding again.

I’ve reached my day’s minimum word count.

It should not have taken me all day to do 3.4 hours of writing, but it really did. I made a note of the start time in my journal, and it was 11:19 am. I ended session 7 at 6:52 pm. So for 3.4 hours of writing, I used about 7.5 hours of the day. I wrote out a (ridiculously) long summary of where my time went and it made me realize my expectations of how much actual, focused time I can get out of 7.5 hours in the middle of the day might be unrealistic.

Getting my expectations in line with reality might go a long way toward keeping me from coming up with ridiculous plans for myself that I have no hope of following through on. Grandiose plans, I think that book The 7 Secrets of the Prolific called them. (It was a good book, if you haven’t read it.)

Yes, I make grandiose plans. I use math to support those plans, and I never build in the time I need for writing these posts, making my notes by hand, or anything else that probably uses up significant chunks of untracked time.*

I’d like to come up with some ideas of how I can stop that from happening, but the only things coming to mind are things I’ve tried a thousand times before and found completely ineffective. And I’m not willing to make myself stop these posts. Although I should probably give some serious thought to trimming them down to basics. I ramble. A lot. And talk about stuff that doesn’t really matter. Mostly because I think better when I’m writing things out, and it’s also easier for me to remember things I’ve written out.

Anyway, I should end this post, because I’ve actually been at it since (*holy shit) 9:04 pm and it’s now 10:04. There you go, an answer to the question of what happens to all that time I lose during the day when I’m writing.

These posts really do use up significant chunks of time. This could explain why my best month ever of writing consistently was February 2013, where there’s a distinct lack of posts here on this blog (as in, none) because I wouldn’t let myself get online before I’d finished my day’s writing and by the time I was done, I just didn’t want to write anymore. (See this lone March 2013 post for February’s numbers. Ignore the rest of the post for the sake of my pride. :D)

Anyway, I now have more to think about than ever. It’s starting to look like the more I write here, the less I write there, and that’s not a good thing at all. In a sense, I’m using up my writing energy writing everything except my books.

I need new habits that prioritize my fiction writing. So tomorrow I’m going to start a little experiment. No more wordy blog posts for a while, and not even an unwordy one unless I’ve finished my day’s writing. I’ll give it a while (a week, maybe two) and see if it makes any difference, good or bad.

Session totals

  1. 384
  2. 214
  3. 98
  4. 106
  5. 399
  6. 281
  7. 212
  • 1,694 words
  • in 3.4 hours
  • for a pace of 498 wph

In fact, looking at this post now, it’s 724 words long! Seriously, ugh.