Trying something different

So, yesterday I set a goal to write for 8 hours. I set my countdown timer for 8 hours, and I started it whenever I wrote.

I made it to just under 4 hours to go and 3,073 words for the day before I gave up and went to bed. :)

It sounds like a fail, but it was very much a win. I needed 3,417 words yesterday and I got the closest to reaching my goal since I set it.

I’m trying to do the same again today, hoping to reach 6,000 words.

My pace is off, so even if I reach 8 hours of writing, I might not make it, but I’ll definitely end up with something worth crowing about. I’m already down to 6 hours and 26 minutes, and I have 744 words written. I believe I’ll at least make it to 3,000 again today, and I haven’t given up hope my pace will improve and I’ll reach the record-breaking 6,000 words I’d like to reach. I only need to speed up to 817 words an hour for the rest of the time to do it.

Thoughts—
1. My writing sessions are as long as I can make them before I have to stop for a break.
2. Timers are no longer interrupting me when the words are flowing, reminding me I need a break (I don’t need the reminder because my bladder makes it so that breaks happen too frequently already.)
3. I am more aware of total time invested in writing for the day and how much total time I have left to reach my goal.
4. I’ve tried it before and it didn’t work, but it’s been a few years, and it’s working now, so I’m going to keep it up until it doesn’t work. :)

Why I’m (mostly) forcing myself to stick to writing one book at a time

I’m writing this down because I’m sure I’m going to forget it, just when I need to remember it most.

Taking too long to finish a book is a sure way to bore me! I have to start finishing my books faster, if I want to save my love of writing.

Because honestly, it’s starting to bore me. I’ve written a lot of books. There aren’t many things in life that hold my attention after I’ve finished—hell, half the time I can’t even finish.

I’m not a finisher by nature. It’s a real chore to finish.

But books aren’t books if they don’t get finished, and I sure can’t sell unfinished books.

If I lose interest in a story, the story loses out, and the quality does not improve, trust me on that. Writing slow causes me to lose the threads of the story, and to lose motivation, while writing fast keeps my brain in the story, excited and creative. This even applies at the micro level, because my sentences flow better when I don’t constantly tinker with them. I know this is true. I still have to fight that desire regularly. :)

I come up with more ideas, faster, when I’m writing a lot. And I enjoy writing so much more when I’m writing often and fast than I do when it’s a slog and I’m agonizing over plot decisions or worrying about word choices.

If it’s not fun, I’m not going to do it. That’s just the truth.

Blame it on ADHD or laziness, or whatever, but it’s true. If it’s not fun for me, I will do everything in my power to avoid doing it, and when you’re your own boss, that gets to be a problem.

Ah…

Well, I feel better having gotten that out. Now, on to the next post and the day’s writing.

New goal: more average and moderate word count days, fewer low word count days

I have to stop reevaluating my daily word count goal.

It’s kind of stupid really, all this number crunching I do. I’ve approached it in so many different ways that it doesn’t even make sense to keep redoing the calculations. I already know about where the numbers are going to end up.

I guess I keep hoping I’ll discover I’ve done something wrong and I’ll be able to write 500 words a day and make a killing and finish all the books I want finish in as little as a few months or a year at the most. :D Totally unrealistic, honestly, but I keep trying anyway.

I need to write…

  • 2,085 words a day to earn my ideal income.
  • 2,192 words a day to write 4 books in 4 series each year (16 novels of about 50,000 words each).
  • 1,644 words a day to write a book a month (12 novels of about 50,000 words each).
  • 2,466 words a day to write a book a month for one pen name and a book every other month for a second pen name (18 novels of about 50,000 words each).
  • 2,164 words a day if I write for 4 hours a day at my average 541 words an hour pace.
  • 1,623 words a day if I write for 3 hours a day at my average pace.

See where I’m going with this?

I have to stop reevaluating these numbers! It isn’t helping me in any way that I can see. None. It’s nothing more than a way to pass the time and distract myself from what I really need to be doing: writing.

I need to just write as much as I can each day, but that attitude never seems to work out for me. I need a bit of structure, but not too much. I don’t want another schedule, and I hate the arbitrariness of picking one of these numbers as a daily quota. How do I decide? (I’m remarkably indecisive. Impulsive too, but that’s another post.)

After a bit of thought, I’ve come up with a possible solution.

I’ve created a scale to help me keep things in perspective. :)

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 such a push for me)

My goal is to have more average and moderate word count days, sprinkled with high and record breaking days, and as few low word count days as possible.

I can track this by monitoring how I’m doing keeping my average daily word count at or above 2,000 words a day.

Easy, right?

Okay, maybe not so much easy as simple. :D

The concept makes sense, anyway. :)

That means today’s goal is to reach 2,000 words, and this week’s goal is to keep it there. And the month’s goal is the same, and so is the year’s goal. Like I said, simple.

Wish me luck.

Conclusion: daily word count is more important than time spent writing

After many experiments detailed here on this blog over the years, and much reading of articles about processes and systems versus goals and quotas, I’ve decided that forevermore I will consider working daily toward a word count goal more important than how much time I spend writing.

Here’s why.

No matter how I look at it, it’s all metrics. A system that says I need to write for a certain length of time (daily or weekly) is no different to me than having a goal to write 2,192 words a day or 15,344 words a week or 66,667 words a month or 800,000 words a year.

A daily word count goal and a daily time goal are exactly the same in all the ways that matter to me and they require exactly the same amount of mental energy from me.

Finally, I’ve concluded after a great many experiments detailed here on this blog, that I prefer to work to word count goals, not time goals, because, one, I have difficulties perceiving the passage of time, and two, I like numbers that reflect progress in a form I can visualize. What does it mean that I’ve spent three hours working on my book? I can’t see my book’s progress in time invested, but I can certainly see it in words written. YMMV.

Tracking time wastes a lot of time

I tried tracking my time for a couple of days, intent on finding out how much time I spend doing the various things I do. What I discovered is that I really know how to waste time: I sure wasted a lot of it on time tracking.

Maybe there’s value in detailed time tracking for someone with a brain that works differently than mine. Maybe I didn’t give it enough time.

My gut tells me that if I had given it any more time, I would have just ended up with more time wasted.

Ah well. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I tried a spreadsheet, created a time log, installed apps and tried out different configurations in those apps. Then I spent too much time trying to find the best arrangement of projects and tasks to track. Everything I tried felt wrong: too detailed, not detailed enough. It didn’t help that my idea of what kind of detail I might get the most help from changed every time I managed to get one system set up and tracking.

In the end, I gave up on time tracking to increase productivity.

What I didn’t give up was tracking the time I sleep (which seems kind of weird, I know).

Let me be blunt. I already know what I’m wasting my time on and having it broken down into little increments in a chart doesn’t really add much to that—other than make me feel a bit sick.

If I was capable of using this kind of data to stop those behaviors, I’d have already stopped them. Tracking time doesn’t help me be more efficient, and it doesn’t help my productivity. In fact, all it does is waste my time.

I spend more time focused on perfecting systems than I spend on the work the systems are supposed to help me focus on.

As far as tracking time, I’m tracking my sleep time because I want to know how much I’m sleeping every night. If I find out I’m not sleeping enough and I can correct that, then maybe that will help my productivity.

Of course, the tracking app can’t tell me if I’m actually asleep while it’s tracking, but it can tell me I’m trying to sleep and that’s enough for me. I start the timer when I’m ready to close my eyes at night, and I stop it when I’m ready to get up. For me, that means the logged time is a fairly accurate representation of the amount of time I’m trying to sleep.

I started out using Gleeo Time Tracker for this, but I’m currently using aTimeLogger.

Today starts a two week experiment with a new schedule

Here’s the writing schedule I’m going to follow for the next two weeks.

9:00-10:30
1:00-2:30
7:30-9:00

Why have I changed my schedule yet again?

The other schedule wasn’t working for me. At all. I didn’t write one single time during my scheduled writing time. Right now, in particular, I’m having trouble with getting started, and the large blocks of time weren’t helping that. Even two hours felt like too much of a commitment when there wasn’t a lot of time empty between the sessions.

So I created this new schedule with one thing in mind: making sure I don’t feel like I have a job.

That’s important. I don’t ever want writing to feel like a job.

  • I split the time blocks up so that I have huge breaks between writing sessions.
  • I made the sessions as short as I could while making them long enough that I can still get into flow during them.
  • I gave myself 3 of them so my total writing time each day fits into my long-term goals. 3 × 1.5 = 4.5 hours.
  • I started the first one later in the morning so I can sleep late if I have a bad night of sleep.
  • I’m not going to move the scheduled times if something comes up to preempt the time. I’ll just assume that I’ll miss one or two of these a month and live with that knowledge. (I won’t schedule anything during these times unless there’s no other choice.)
  • I’m not going to skip a session and claim that as a preempted time. I’ll just start writing as soon as I can near the time I was supposed to start and write for 1.5 hours. There’s enough time between sessions that this shouldn’t be a big deal.

I’m feeling hopeful this morning that this is the right thing to do.

Now, I’m off to get that first session done. I’ll post later today with the results for the first day of this experiment.

Here’s an update on a few other ongoing experiments

The no sweets experiment has been working really well (I’m down 4 pounds in two weeks), and I’ve decided to extend it indefinitely. The only exception is that I will allow myself sweets if I go to a birthday party, which is rarely more often than once a month, and usually less often. I’ll also allow myself sweets at my family’s annual Christmas party, but that’s it. These exceptions are clearly defined so they shouldn’t put any decision-making stress on me. That’s something I’ve liked about this experiment: no decisions. If it’s a sweet, the answer to “Can I?” is simple: “No.”

No caffeine: I haven’t had any coffee and I haven’t had any other caffeinated drinks either.

No Kboards or TPV: I haven’t been back to Kboards or TPV since I started that experiment. The fear of missing out is what was keeping me clicking on links. I’ve read a few author blogs I’d begun to ignore and checked out a podcast or two, but I don’t really feel like I’m missing anything, other than the entertainment factor I get from reading the posts themselves. This experiment has been good for me.

Experiments update

In my post about how moderation doesn’t work for me, I laid out a plan for an experiment with abstinence and a strict adherence to my schedule.

It’s been a few days. And yeah. Some of it’s working out pretty well. Some of it isn’t.

Here are the details.

The no sweets experiment is going well, if you ignore the fact that I’m having a ridiculous number of cravings. Weight is down about four pounds and I’m eating anything I want except sweets and obvious junk like potato chips (which I don’t eat often anyway). I am definitely not going hungry.

The schedule experiment still hasn’t taken off, and today doesn’t seem poised to change that. Still, I’m going to get some writing done, because I want to and that’s going to be enough to get me to the computer at 2. (I’ve already missed the window for the 8-11 block, as it’s 12:57 PM right now.)

I haven’t relapsed with the coffee, despite several strong cravings.

I haven’t been back to Kboards or TPV.

Follow up for several ongoing experiments

I’ve stuck to the new food rules and avoided sweets entirely, with the exception of a teaspoon of honey each day (in some yogurt and orange spice tea). Weight is going down, if I can trust the scale after only two days.

The schedule is working well. Sort of. I worked all day yesterday during my work time and during some make up time for the day before. HOWEVER, almost none of that time was writing. What time I did spend writing was spent editing a few bits of the story that weren’t going right and all I did was lose words.

Today I need to prioritize writing over other work.

I did come to a decision on one of my series book cover redesigns. I’ve been unable to make a commitment to a style for the typography—every time I do, I second guess myself. This has taught me one thing: writing isn’t the only place where I let perfectionism hold me back. So yesterday, after an entire day of trying changes that just didn’t work, I decided to stick with what I have and move forward with it.

Because of that decision, I now have two covers complete, one almost complete, and a draft version of two more. I’m going to load the covers as soon as possible, to stop myself from more of this waffling.

Until the covers and files are done and loaded everywhere, I’m making this my focus for the “after writing” time I’m hoping to have soon.

Anyway, I started writing this post with a 15 minute timer running and I’m down to less than two minutes. Time to get writing some fiction. :)

The experiment begins: rules of adjustment

So today I’ve already had to make an adjustment to the schedule (but only for today) because I rose late and I’m not getting started at 7 am.

The first thing I decided was that I’m going to have to have some rules for adjustments. :)

Rules for adjustments to the schedule

  1. Lost time should be made up in the same day.
  2. Lost time should be added to the end of the 1–3 time block.
  3. The 11 am to 1 pm break should stay the same no matter what time I get started.
  4. Assume there’s an “if possible” tacked on to the end of every rule above. :)

Benefits of the rules

  1. Sticking to the planned number of hours of work gives me plenty of time to meet my writing goals: 3,233 words a day, 98,333 words a month, 1,180,000 words a year. If it’s ever going to happen, I’ve got to guard the time I need for it.
  2. Even if I skip my entire morning, I’ll still only have to work until 7 pm to make it up! Meaning I don’t even have to take a break for supper because although I don’t like eating late, 7 pm isn’t too late. ;)
  3. A simple, recurring lunch schedule throughout the summer means my children can plan to have lunch with me if they want without having to wait to see what kind of work day I’m having. At their ages, they don’t always want, but sometimes they do.
  4. Having some leeway in the application of the rules always makes me feel better.

I’m feeling hopeful about this schedule. I’m also not feeling pressured the way I usually feel, even though I’ve already messed up with today’s late start, so I’m hoping that’s a sign of good things to come from this experiment!

Experimenting with a schedule again

I know it’s crazy. I know I’ve done this before. I know it didn’t work. I kind of don’t care. I need something to get me out of this black hole my writing productivity has fallen into and I’m thinking a schedule might be what I need.

It’s a move born of desperation, I promise. My last resort, if you will.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to a 40 hour a week schedule (okay, technically 42, but I like working with whole numbers and I want to write 7 days a week). This plan came about because of an article I read today called “The Unexpected Freedom of an Eight-Hour Workday.” It touched a nerve.

So I’m giving it another shot. Anything to save me from myself.

I’m planning to work for 6 hours each day. I’ll write until I reach my 3,233 words a day goal (hopefully in 4–5 hours) and fill the rest of my time with publishing work.

The schedule for almost all days: 7–11 & 1–3.

So that’s it, the sum total of my plan.

Failed experiment: site blocking software to fight distractions

Maybe I should give it more time, but I’m not going to. I’m calling this experiment done. Here are a few of the reasons I think this one failed.

  1. I spent a lot of time trying to tweak the block sets, but nothing I came up with fit my work patterns
  2. It pushed me toward browsing the internet and reading the blocked sites on my phone (and I definitely don’t want to develop that habit!)
  3. The out of sight, out of mind approach tends to work best for me and realized this was doing exactly the opposite of that

Time to try something else, and I’ve already got something in mind. But I’ll leave that post for later. :D

Distracted today by an anti-distraction add-on for my browser

This morning I installed Leechblock, an anti-distraction, anti-procrastination site blocker add-on for my web browser. So far, I really like it, even though I lost edits to this post TWICE because I couldn’t stick to the time limits I set for myself and got blocked before I saved my edits. Totally my fault, because I turned on the menu item in the browser that tells me exactly how much time I have left on a site and I knew I was letting myself get too close to the limits each time it happened. :o

I set up some fairly complex blocks and delays, and I’ve spent a lot more time on it than I’d planned. I’m a little unsure if it’s going to turn out to be worth the time I’ve spent, but I’m hopeful. Unfortunately, there are still some tweaks to be made, but I think I’ve mostly got it how I want it.

[removed for edits and pasted below with changes]

Well, that’s it. I gotta go or I’m going to find myself blocked! :D.

Update

That lasted about 30 minutes. And it’s obvious I’m going to be doing most of my work outside my ideal time span, so the time blocks I set up aren’t going to work to help me at all.

Time to do a little rethinking on this. I’ll update when I settle on something.

All right. I’ve made some tweaks.

I’ve set up 5 block sets.

  1. Distractions – blocked outright from 0700-1400 (7am to 2pm), with a 20 minute limit for the rest of the day
  2. Sales reports – blocked after 15 minutes between 0700-1400 (7am to 2pm) – on publishing days, I’ll deactivate the add-on because I’ll need unfettered internet access, and there’s no easy way to account for that
  3. Internet limits – limited everything except weather.gov and Google calendar between 0700-1400 (7am to 2pm) to 60 minutes total – if I’m spending that long browsing websites, I’m probably just procrastinating, which can wait until after 2pm :)
  4. Strict limits  blocked outright from 0700-1400 (7am to 2pm), with a 10 minute limit for the rest of the day
  5. Blogging – blocked after 30 minutes between 0700-1400 (7am to 2pm) – this is me trying to make Parkinson’s Law work in my favor – I don’t want to cut off my blogging on days when I need the accountability, but I also don’t want to spend too much of my writing time updating a blog post

What this comes to each day is that in total I’ll spend no more than 60 minutes of my day between 7am and 2pm doing things in my browser. There’s still email, since I don’t use my browser to check, but I really am hoping this will cut down on how much time I spend online distracting myself from writing. :)

It’s a bit late now and I want to get up before noon tomorrow, so I’m going to go. But I’m excited to see how this works tomorrow. First goal: not to override the add-on and see how it works. It’ll be a fun experiment!

Oh, and yeah, I can totally get online with my phone or a tablet, but I believe there’s still benefit to this: I can try to break some bad habits; morning time is my best writing time and I’ve been spending lots of it jumping around online on the computer.

Multiple stories at once: eighth week

Thursday—Wednesday, May 26–June 1

2,220
1,852
2,854
1,181
0
0
193

Total: 8,300 words

I wrote fewer words than I wanted this week, by far (goal is 27,533) but I still ended May in a much better place than usual, so I can’t complain much. Nothing I can do about it anyway so I might as well enjoy the small win.

Probably the biggest reason for the fail is the fact that I still only wrote on one story this week, despite my decision last week not to get stuck in that frame of mind again.

My pace this week was also again much slower than I’d hoped. I averaged 516 wph over the week, and that’s in line with my old average, but much slower than I’ve been tracking since I started with the multiple stories experiment.

I’m just really at a point where I want to finish this book so I can let go of the stress that’s interfering with my ability to let myself work freely on multiple stories. I’m really feeling the pressure to finish this book, and it’s not helping me at all to push it, and yet, I keep pushing it.

Here’s hoping next week will turn out better, but I can already say based on the fact that today is Saturday, that the ninth week isn’t off to a great start.

Honestly, considering the fact that I’m obviously not working on multiple stories right now, and I know it, I’m not even sure these weeks should count.

Failure in May wasn’t as bad as it feels

I didn’t write but 1/3 of what I wanted to write in May, but in the end, when I looked harder at the numbers, I discovered it wasn’t as bad a failure as it feels. May’s word count comes in at 35,296.

Only 7 months out of 46 have been higher. May was my 47th month of publishing, and that makes June my 4 year anniversary as a self-publisher. :D How absolutely amazing!

Between April and May, I’ve had my best two month word count, ever, by 1,470 words.

February–March 2013 = 91,075 words
April–May 2016 = 92,545 words

My next best two month period was November–December 2015 when I wrote 73,377 words.

Gotta say, I’m happier than I was after looking at these numbers. I’m still showing improvement, and I’m excited by my progress. :D Here’s hoping June is a great month for word counts. :)

Multiple stories at once: seventh week & summary to date

I thought I’d list this week’s progress and then list out how I’ve been tracking from the beginning and maybe even compare it to this time last year and a few of my more productive 7 week periods from the past just to see if there’s anything there to learn.

Thursday—Wednesday, May 19–May 25

(9)
907
1,201
951
1,511
730
1,299

Total: 6,590 words.

My pace was down significantly this week too, the average coming in around 356 wph.

I worked only on the book I was trying to finish this week. Not even one word for another book.

As I said in another post, this week has been the second week I’ve had to get through that is completely out of my routine because of the end of the school year for my kids. I did better than last week, but not by much.

I don’t honestly know how much of that to blame on the messed up routine and how much to blame on trying to work on only one story. I’ve decided the latter is just not going to work, not even with me knowing I need to get this book I’ve been trying to finish finished. As soon as I started telling myself I needed to work on one book and one book only, my word counts plummeted.

So, I’m backing off the deadline. It was a personal deadline anyway, and it’s not the end of the world. It feels like a big deal, but I’ll just have to let that go in favor of getting more words so I end up with more books, faster.

Now, for the summary.

Week 1: 21,873
Week 2: 10,959
Week 3: 16,927
Week 4: 11,948
Week 5: 11,282
Week 6: 4,296
Week 7: 6,590

Total: 83,875 words

To compare previous 7 week periods:

  • Last year: 7 weeks ended 5/26/15: 40,035 words
  • My highest word count from any 7 week period since I started keeping records ended 3/24/13: 89,587 words
  • The highest I’ve made it during any other 7 week period is in the low 60,000s.

I believe the downward trend in my word counts isn’t something problematic so much as it’s a result of my shifting routine with the end of the school year.

The next couple of weeks should provide evidence of that, or to the contrary if it turns out I’m wrong. Still, I’m convinced this method is exactly what I needed to increase the number of words I write every month and that it has serious long-term potential for me. :)

Multiple stories at once: sixth week

Thursday—Wednesday, May 12–May 18

306 2 stories
0
3,618 2 stories
372 2 stories
0
0
0

Total: 4,296 words

Ouch. This was a terrible week when it came to writing. Honestly, it wasn’t much better for anything else either. It’s the end of the school year and my routine is completely out of order and I’m just trying to keep writing and make it through one more week of this. Plus, heating/A/C unit is still down, awaiting repair, and last night was graduation.

 

Multiple stories at once: fifth week

Thursday—Wednesday, May 5–May 11

701 1 story
1,656 1 story
747 2 stories
256 1 story
1,613 1 story
3,728 2 stories
2,581 1 story

Total = 11,282 words

I didn’t feel like I was writing multiple stories this week, probably because I’ve been panicking a bit about a book I’m trying to finish (which is something I hope will be over soon, but there are 2 books that I just really need to get caught up on).

I worked on 2 distinct stories this week. The only day I really broke out on, I spent most of my writing time on that second story. That was what helped me realize something was wrong with the other one, because I could still write faster and easier when I was working on something else. (And this is a great example of why the multiple stories method is really working for me to increase my word counts.)

Overall, it was another week that was much lower in word count than I’d hoped since I’m aiming for 27,533 for a full writing week, but I still did much better than my average.

I’ve now had 5 weeks in a row where I’ve written more than 10,000 words each week.

My current total words written since I started this experiment is 72,989 words. Not the 98,333 words a month I want to reach eventually, but a damn sight closer than I’ve ever been in the past. :D I’m pleased.

This experiment continues to be a raging success.

Multiple stories at once: fourth week

Thursday—Wednesday, April 28–May 4

2,260 2 stories
3,228 2 stories
1,439 1 story
1,009 2 stories
595 2 stories
2,330 3 stories
1,087 2 stories

Total: 11,948

Definitely under where I’d like to be, but it still works out to a daily average of 1,707 words which is considerably better than my 2016 daily average of 779, or my 2015 daily average of 685.

So, still a ways to get where I want to be: 3,933 words on writing days, or approx 3,233 daily average, for 98,333 words a month, but much closer than I’ve been in the past (as a whole, not my recent past—I did much better last week and the first week).

Since I started this experiment, my daily average has increased dramatically, more than doubling to 2,033 words a day. :D I call that success.

I worked on 5 distinct stories this week.

Multiple stories at once: third week

Thursday—Wednesday, April 21–27

245 (4 stories) (was not a writing day, just inputting error corrections after a read through)
2,245 (1 story)
2,863 (1 story)
149 (3 stories)
2,831 (2 stories)
4,858 (1 story)
3,736 (2 stories)

Total: 16,927 words.

It was a good week—really good, in all honesty, but I didn’t really come close to my goal of 27,533 for a full week of writing.

Still, I cannot deny that something has changed. I’m giving all credit to the things I mentioned in two posts I’ve written since I started this latest experiment (key to success, multiple stories first week).

I worked on 5 distinct stories this week.