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.
I’m still tracking the number of days passed and remaining of my 180 day plan. I don’t know that I’ve had a worse start to a plan. I don’t know that I haven’t, so I’m not going to give too much of my thinking time to figuring it out.
The daily posts have fallen by the wayside, mostly because I decided that keeping the number in my head daily was hurting more than helping my motivation to get started every day.
I’ll post an update at every 30 day mark instead of daily and let it go at that. The next one will be at day 60.
As for now, I’ve decided I need something a little more immediate to get me to the keyboard since my love of the story isn’t doing it. I couldn’t care less about writing much of anything right now, for whatever reason, but not caring doesn’t build a habit, and it sure doesn’t keep me moving toward my goal.
I’ve come up with a plan, and I’m excited about it, because I think it has real potential.
Wow. That blew up quick. Yesterday, one of the first days in a long while that I didn’t check my email until late in the day because my daughter is home from college on spring break, I got a response to a comment I left on another blog. Admittedly, it was a pointed comment that I probably should have kept to myself, but didn’t, but I did not expect to be followed back to my blog and find a nasty little comment waiting for me. If anything, I expected to be blocked on the blog where I commented or responded to in as equally a nasty fashion as everyone else on the post had been responded to, but nope.
The thing is, I also got an email, which was apparently sent hours earlier than the comment and was considerably more reasonable. But I guess since I didn’t respond quickly enough, I got the more ridiculous, over the top comment on my blog as my reward.
The thing is, I originally approved the comment because I thought that was going to be it. I still hadn’t checked my email so I figured a simple response was my best bet because I was busy and I thought the overreaction (the hissy fit if you will) spoke for itself.
Then I checked my email.
Let me just say that seeing the difference in tone in the earlier email from the comment really pissed me off.
Still, I responded as reasonably as I could. And got another two emails for my trouble.
By last night, my anger had built to the point where I just finally wrote a much more pointed email and then let it go.
And then got another fucking email.
I’m letting that one go. The guy is clueless. He sees what he wants to see, and he thinks the fact that he doesn’t intend to be perceived in a certain way absolves him of his behavior. Good for him. I don’t have room in my life for dealing with that shit.
In light of that, I did decide to unpublish the original comment he made on the blog. I have no interest in making my blog home to someone else’s hissy fit.
There are times in your life when you have to make choices. Today I made a choice to scratch a few sites off my reading list. When authors start having hissy fits in public and trying to knock down other authors because of differing viewpoints on how to write, that’s my cue to move on.
Some authors claim to understand that other people have different processes, but when you read between the lines of their posts, you can see the bias in every word they write. They’re not just offering an alternative way to approach storytelling, they’re calling people who don’t want to do things that way “silly” and “scared” and it’s just… ugly, for lack of a better word, and I don’t like it. So I won’t be reading any more of it.
(The surprising thing is that this alternative way to approach storytelling is supposedly against the establishment, but since I’ve been writing this way for thirty-odd years, I find that hard to believe. I mean, no one ever told me I wasn’t supposed to be a discovery writer. I thought that was how most fiction writers worked—but maybe it was just the particular craft books I chose to learn from. I read all of Lawrence Block’s craft books (Spider, Spin Me a Web is still my favorite of all time), and Stephen King’s On Writing, and Bird by Bird and so so many others, and the bald-faced truth is that of the large number of craft books on my shelves only a few actually make a big deal about outlining. Being a discovery writer is a tried and true method of storytelling and I don’t know where this myth started that everyone pushes outlining so hard. Maybe inexperienced writers, and those that outlining works for? I don’t know. That’s just not been my experience. No one ever told me I needed an outline to write a story, not even the high school English teacher that made me write stories when I would have rather been reading!)
I won’t pick on the sites in question and post links, because I don’t think that’ll help anyone. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to see these kinds of conflicts, you’ll probably choose to avoid these sites on your own.
The good news is that this might mean I have fewer distractions in the mornings that lead me to flit around the internet. :D That’s always good!
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.
The coffee/caffeine weaning is going well. I woke up with a heavy head and a slight headache this morning but overall I feel good. I’ve got my 4 oz of coffee sitting beside me (made with only 1 tsp. of coffee) and I’ll have another in a few hours if this one doesn’t knock the headache back all the way. If it does, then I’ll skip the next one. :D
I always like to hurry these things along, but the one thing I don’t want to end up with is a raging headache so I’m going to be careful not to go too fast on this.
As for the writing, the daily writing streak is still going. I didn’t check on the number of days, because I don’t really care right now. It’s not my priority. I’m focused on a different experiment I’ll talk about later this month, after I see where it leads me in February.
I believe I know now why I was feeling so constricted by the extra challenges I had added to my daily writing streak. It was exactly the same thing I went through with the “no sweets before 1000” streak right before I had to end it. Because I’ve had two negative word days since I failed to meet it and finally made progress yesterday after getting rid of some cruft that was holding me back.
In other words, the perfectionism had cropped up and I kept putting off deleting stuff I needed to delete to make sure I got the words for the streak logged in my daily word count spreadsheet.
I’ve explained before that I don’t track written words separate from deleted words. It all comes together into my daily count. But my inner perfectionist sees a negative count as a failure even if I know I wrote enough words to count.
I deleted a couple of thousand words between 1/30 and 2/2. The only reason my word counts aren’t reflecting that is because I also wrote a couple of thousand words between 1/30 and 2/2.
You sure can’t see that in the numbers.
It’s a minor flaw in my system that I built in on purpose. I only track publishable numbers. My cumulative word count equals the manuscript word counts of all my written stories and all my stories that are in progress, and the moment a story gets tossed, that day’s word count is going to take a hit.
I seem to forget that when I decide to do challenges that don’t allow for the negative days. Maybe next time I’ll remember now that I’ve written it out. ;-)
I do delete and I’m generally not afraid to do that because words are just words. And that means my word counts are what they are and don’t always reflect my true effort for any particular day.
Sometimes you just have to cut your losses on a scene or chapter or three, and start over, maybe going in a different direction, maybe just coming at it again in a slightly different way, with a different perspective. (That’s what worked for me yesterday.) It’s important not to have mental barriers in place that stop you from doing what needs to be done. :)
I feel better, and the book has started moving forward again. I have a feeling I’ll make a lot of progress toward my ending today.
I went to bed last night wondering if I had made the right decision in ending the daily postings because my inner perfectionist was telling me that I should have stuck it out even though it wasn’t helping simply because I had said I was going to try to do that this year.
The second thoughts didn’t last long, but there was still a niggle in the back of my brain, the inner voice of my personal critic, calling me a quitter, because of course there was. I manage to ignore that voice more often than not, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get to me after a while.
Negative self-talk is pretty much useless at self-motivation, but that voice never dies because it thinks it knows best and will browbeat the hell out of you trying to get you to listen.
Ignore the fucker. That’s all the advice I have about that.
But then a little miracle happened. :D
This morning I woke up early after a terrible night of sleep and started doing a little online reading. I came across Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s newest post, Nobody Cares.
If you’re doing work you don’t care about, then find a way to move on. Because you don’t care and nobody else does either, so why are you doing this again? Because you made up some perfect ideal, and now you’re trying to achieve it, and it’s only causing you emotional distress.
I always find it interesting that I seem to come across articles like this when I most need them. I realize that a lot of time this is simply confirmation bias at work, but it still often feels like a sign that I’ve chosen the right path.
So, yeah, I’ll take a pass on those second thoughts, thank you very much.
It felt a lot more like an obligation than I meant it to. Even though I tried a couple of different things to get past that feeling, nothing really worked. In the end, it still felt like an obligation and became something I dreaded doing every day.
I’m just going to go back to posting my monthly progress reports with some scattered reports in between when I feel like it and that’s going to be that, because honestly that’s really the only reason I post. I do it when things are on my mind and I want to clear my head. That could be a scattering of posts or it could be a lump of three or four in a row.
On that note, I have a novel to finish and I need to spend some time working on it. I might come back and post my word count–and I might not, because this is the last daily post so who really cares? ;-)
I wrote 190 words on Tuesday, and more than half of those were on paper with a pencil. :-O What?
I used to write a lot on paper, but I really don’t work like that anymore. This is what the streak has driven me to. :D
I was out yesterday evening and tired when I came home and tried to do my words at the computer but I kept nodding (I did stay up until 3 am the night before) so I gave up. I said, nope, not doing it tonight. Don’t care about the streak. Just can’t do it.
Then I put away my computer (I was in bed), and before I knew it, I’d picked up my little notebook that I keep with me almost everywhere, and my pencil, and I’d started writing. It came so much easier than it had been coming on the computer that it took me a minute tops to write enough words to keep the challenge part of my daily writing streak alive.
In fact, I spent fifteen minutes or more staring at the computer trying to get something to come to me to write next, and yeah, I wrote 80 words, but it was hard. I was just too tired.
Only apparently I wasn’t.
So here’s my little tip of the day: If the words aren’t flowing, pick up a pencil and a notebook and try that. You might be as surprised as I was that what had felt hard a minute before felt effortless a minute after. :-)
Now, I’m ready to start my three hours of leisurely writing and get my first 1,000 words so I can get that cup of hot chocolate I mentioned a day or so ago. Yesterday was not a good day for writing, so I didn’t, but today I have no other plans and I’m kind of hoping for TWO cups before the day is over. ;-)
This post is a few days old, but there’s value here I think so I’ve decided to post it even though I wasn’t going to originally.
First thing I did after I woke up this morning was open OneNote and type a note to myself (this was after recognizing that I just didn’t have what it took to hit 3,600 words every day).
I think I’m going to settle on a daily goal of 2400 words. As much as I’d like to write 3600 words every day I’m just not sure that kind of pressure is going to work.
Then I looked at my calendar to adjust my goals and saw what 3,600 words looks like every day as a time commitment. I re-opened OneNote.
After looking again at my calendar, it’s obvious that I’m just getting scared. But even if I have a bad day if I do all six sessions I’m almost guaranteed to keep a 2000-2400 words a day average which is something I’ve wanted for a very long time.
I can do this.
And I can. I can do this.
The fact is, it’s not just fear. It’s also perfectionism. I don’t have to throw away my goal for 3,600 words just because I might not reach it every day. And if I don’t reach it every day, well, failing at something is better than not trying at all. :D
It’s the only way to stretch and grow.
So, yeah, still trying. 2020 is the year of the 3,600 words a day goal. :D
Since I wrote that, I’ve made some changes to my goals and have decided not to micro plan my writing time so strictly but the one thing I haven’t done is back away from the big numbers. I intend to grow this year, and I intend to learn, and I do not intend to let the fear of failure keep me from trying to stretch myself.
Whatever your goals, you shouldn’t let it stop you either.
Let’s see, yesterday’s word count was 190 words, just enough to keep my streak alive (I needed 163 per the new rules).
Today I’m trying something a little different. Yesterday was a disaster and I think it’s because I let the numbers get in my head.
I did a brain dump last night right before bed and decided it was time to scratch the goal based schedule. I knew it was a bad idea when I created it, even though it seemed like a really good idea at the time (as is always the case).
Since the schedule didn’t work and I’m not willing to give it even more time to get in my head and make me hate my life :D, I’m getting back to basics today.
Writing is fun.
Writing is what I want to do.
All I have to do is let everything else go for a while and sit down and enjoy it.
Toward that end, I’ve blocked out some time today (6 hours in two big 3 hour chunks) for writing and only writing. :-)
I have a goal to get to 2,000 words in the first block and to make it to 4,000 in the second.
I’m sure some of you are thinking a schedule is a schedule, right, so what’s the deal?, but I’m an overthinker by nature, and there is a world of difference between these kinds of schedules to me and my muse.
Most of the time when I’m taking about schedules, I’m specifically talking about that micro-planning thing I tend to do. I’m almost never talking about the simple process of blocking out a larger, unstructured chunk of time on my calendar that tells me I need to get myself to the computer and do some writing.
That kind of schedule is almost certainly going to be necessary for me to make sure I don’t continue to let time get away from me. I’m not good with time. I’ve mentioned that before. I gotta have something to keep me in line or I’m doomed to live by mood alone–and we all know where that’ll get me.
In the middle of a big fat streak of zero word days, that’s where. ;-)
I’ve set a hard deadline to finish one of my novels by Monday, and that’s going to take some focus. I need to put in the time to get another 5,000 to 10,000 words probably.
This current one, as usual, has decided to go long. It’s currently 8,000 words longer than I had hoped, and 63 words longer than my maximum length goal, and I just have a feeling I’m going to need all those extra words to wrap this one up.
Now, time to start on today’s writing.
(A 40 minute power outage just as I was finishing this post nixed that idea, but the power is back on now, so I’m getting ready to dig in!). :-)
A long time ago, I added a cleanup function to my theme functions file and deactivated the RSS feed links that usually appear in the header of a WordPress site. I didn’t really think much about this but it has been brought to my attention that maybe I shouldn’t have done that.
I checked in Feedly, and sure enough, without those links in the <head> of the site, Feedly doesn’t even think there’s a feed here. I doubt any feed reader is finding the feed.
I commented out the line of code that removed the feed links from the <head> of the site and lo and behold, Feedly now recognizes a feed for the site. :-)
As for why I’m posting this now when I had planned to be writing, I think I’ll skip the admission that I delayed writing so I could read in the sun instead. :D What an awesome way to start the day.
Ah well. I’m ready now to dig in. That’s good enough. ;-)
I also used my time in the sun to read back through my last five-ish pages (I send my book to myself as an EPUB every time I run my backups (which I’ve mentioned I do obsessively)) and highlighted a couple of typos and a paragraph to switch order, so I kinda started the writing already.
Man, this story has really taken off. I’m looking forward to seeing where the heck it’s going! I ended last night on a sudden (shortish) time jump that I wasn’t expecting but that makes total sense. I’m excited for the characters and that’s always a good thing.
Day one did not go great for the 2,000 words a day plan. I spent most of the day reading a novel I’d been waiting on from the library.
I have mentioned that I love reading fiction, haven’t I? It’s like the obsession that will never end.
When life gets tough, I read a book. When I need a break, I read a book. When I’m sad, I read a book. When I’m excited, I read a book. I read a lot of books.
I finally gave up on keeping track this year. I’m at about six pages of titles in my 2019 reading log and I haven’t added anything in a couple of months. During those months, I had at least one period where I read 11 novels in a week.
I’m already 705 words behind my plan to write 2,000 words every day. On the other hand, I’m only 705 words behind at this point and I can make that up today.
Starting today, I’m just not going to allow myself any excuses—but first and foremost, I’m going to start getting these words done far earlier in the day every day that I can.
Sometimes I say writing is hard. But that’s not exactly true. Writing isn’t the hard part—it’s the fun part. What’s hard—and I’m talking super hard, so hard sometimes I think I want to crack open my skull with a hammer and rearrange things—is starting to write and sticking with it when it gets challenging. I mean, I love a challenge, but I have this uncontrollable desire to look away just when I get most excited. I don’t know if it’s an inability to process those feelings (a brain thing) or if it’s something else, but I have a feeling it’s a brain thing.
What that all means is that slow and steady puttering away at a story all day long is about the only way I can work steadily. It’s far more productive for me than sitting down and letting myself get into a frenzy. The frenzy causes me to start looking away until I finally just can’t deal at all. I end up jumping up and running around the house looking for something to burn off the energy I can’t process any other way.
Yesterday I didn’t write as much as I really thought I would. It was my first day with the kid back at school and the house was quiet and I have no one to blame but myself. The problem is that I’m really not sure how I managed not to write more.
Still, dwelling on the past doesn’t help the present, so I’m going to put that aside and think about today.
My anti-perfectionism posting isn’t going well. I wrote about three paragraphs here that I’ve already deleted in whole. But I’m just going to have to deal with it. I also came across something in a quick reread of some posts I’ve always found helpful and it made me realize that I continue to rewrite the rules I follow in my head to be more restrictive than they should be. Of course.
This is a little bit of a rant, mostly aimed at myself, because I have always found the line between writing and rewriting hard to pinpoint. It’s a “know it when I see it” thing.
Rewriting and writing are very closely related.
If you’re actively writing a story, the first time through, still working out the story as you type, most of the stuff you do isn’t going to be rewriting, even if it fits the definition of rewriting in the most basic sense that you’re changing something you’ve already put down on the page. It just isn’t, it can’t be, it’s just a basic part of the writing process.
Even one of the biggest proponents of not rewriting says he puts stuff in and takes stuff out as he loops through a story he’s writing. You can read this in his Writing into the Dark book in the chapter about being unstuck in time if you don’t believe me.
The words you put down are not golden. They are words. You’re finding your way and writing the best words you can find to get the story out of your head and onto the page.
We make what feels like a bazillion decisions as we write, mostly instantly, and sometimes the wrong thing gets down, and when you come back after writing through a few pages and start adding a few things to deepen the story, it’s inevitable that you’ll realize your character is feeling a certain way, or someone left the room earlier than you thought, and you totally missed it the first time through so you have to delete a line and put in a new one. That’s not rewriting. That’s an integral part of the process of writing a story.
Very few people can take a story fully formed and write it fully formed and never change a word. That’s just not a normal thing. And if you have those kinds of expectations, you’ll drown under them. You’ll start to hate writing and maybe even yourself.
I should know. Because I often have these expectations for myself. It’s the curse of perfectionism. It works really hard to kill every ounce of love I have for writing—and everything else in my life, to be honest.
But those are my issues, not yours. I have coping mechanisms in place and I use them to the best of my ability.
Don’t let other people put those kinds of expectations of perfection on you, either. It’s just as destructive.
On the other hand, there’s a line there you do not want to cross. If you’re changing a lot of things, every time you take a pass through a story, you’re probably not just writing anymore. You’re doing what most people think of when they talk about rewriting. You’re being a critic and you’re thinking about other people and what they’ll think of you and your story when you change things.
If you’re thinking about deleting something because it feels superfluous (especially because you’ve been told that if it’s not relevant to the story it doesn’t belong), and the something you’re thinking about deleting isn’t hurting anything by being left alone, then leave it alone. Seriously. Ignore those assholes. They don’t know what they’re talking about.
How do you write a book that no one else has written? You leave in the stuff that you wanted in there. That’s your voice as a writer. It’s you.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put something in a story that seemed totally useless but I liked it so I left it and it became crucial to the story as it unfolded, or to the series even further down the road. Don’t change things for the sake of changing them. Let the story be what it will be.
All these little threads give you more opportunities to look like a genius when you do call backs three books later. ;D
If you’re worrying about getting what you want to get across in the best way possible to support the story and make the story come alive for your reader, you’re writing, not rewriting.
If you’re worrying about how stupid your sentence sounds and trying to make it sound better, then ouch, that is definitely rewriting. You are your own worst enemy when you’re writing and you need to work on getting that under control ASAP. Nobody cares how your sentences sound unless you’re looking to earn a literary award.
Even then, I’ve read some literary fiction with atrocious sentences in them. Writing good fiction is not about writing good sentences. It’s about writing a good story and pulling the reader along with you as the story unfolds.
So. I’m in a tough spot right now. I keep going over things in my head, trying to come up with some process that will help me get past my boredom to do the writing I need and want (but don’t want) to do. I want to do it, but I don’t want to sit down and do the work of it.
A conundrum, I know. It isn’t the sitting down, or the typing, that keeps me from getting started. It’s the expectation and the thinking I have to do.
My brain is just so tired of all this thinking.
So tonight, after another day of agonizing about not writing but never getting to the point where I could make myself sit down and write (I even canceled a doctors’ appointment today for this), I have finally come to the conclusion that I’m making this so much harder than it has to be.
I’m going to take a step back from all the various plans I’ve come up with in the last few weeks to try to get me moving on my books again, and just… go easy on myself.
The new plan is so simple I feel ridiculous even calling it a plan.
I’m going to write some fiction every day.
I’m going to try to write enough to keep me happy when I look at my daily and weekly and monthly word counts.
I’m going to focus on getting a streak of daily writing going.
That’s it, really. Just write, and stop thinking so much.
Too much thinking gets in the way of a lot of things. It can also set us on a path we don’t need to be on.
My daily average for a seven and a half year period is 561 words per day. I’ve mentioned time and again that I’d like to get that number to 2,000 words a day. Not the historical average, because that would be a massive undertaking, but I’d like to reach a 2,000 words a day average for a week or a month and then maintain it going forward.
I just have too many stories to write and they’re not going to get written if I don’t.
These last two months, I’m finally getting close. My overall daily average for April–May as of today is 1,708 words a day.
April was a great month for writing. I wrote more than 50,000 words. May has been fantastic. But I’ve recently finished a book and now I’m fighting to keep up my momentum.
Finishing a big project leaves me feeling adrift. I have to stop letting myself feel like I’ve finished something when I finish a book. The big project is my career, not this one book, so I have to keep writing if I want to avoid a long break between books.
Implementing the plan should be easy but we all know it won’t be. But here’s what I’m doing.
1. No writing break between books.
2. No moving on to a book I “should” finish while I’m interested in writing a different book.
I’m writing the book I’m most interested in writing right now, not the book I feel like I should write right now. That particular series has waited this long for another book, and it can keep waiting.
I don’t have a post for that day, because I’ve really been focused on writing fiction and saving the blog posts for progress updates, but I am thrilled I did it. It was awesome. It was also exhausting. I’m really not meant to write that many words in one day! :-) Next record to break? 7,000 words in a day. It’ll happen.
Now, off to write. Today is the first day of the new book. (Which I started in January, and wrote a few thousand on between then and now, so I’m not actually starting the book at zero words. I really want to write this book! It’s going to be so much fun.)
And I really want one of the brownies my daughter made so I’m definitely about to start writing. :D
I have spent a lot of time preparing myself to switch permanently to LibreOffice before I move to a new computer and no longer have access to my old Microsoft Office 2007 install.
Well, today, I came across the first limitation that actually might be a problem for me.
I edit as I write. In fact, I sometimes change a sentence, paragraph, or word multiple times before I settle on what I like, and sometimes I end up right back where I started. I very often use ctrl+z to do that. Very often. And I can end up hitting ctrl+z a great many times in a row to get back to the version I want.
A great many times.
It so happens that a few times I’ve run into this limitation with LibreOffice Writer and managed to just ignore it, but not today.
Oh, no. Today I had to reload my book from the last saved version of the file, which I was lucky enough to have not saved in the last five minutes (never thought I’d say that!) so that I could recover what I’d written the first time through. I also had to remember a few lines that I had changed but wanted to keep while I scrolled to my place in the document so I could change them back.
LibreOffice Writer seems to have a low limit for this kind of behavior. (100 is the limit, in case you’re wondering. I know, I know. 100 is a lot. I did say “a great many times” and I admit that this probably isn’t smart behavior on my part. :D Still, I do it, and I’ll have to actively remember not to do it if I keep using Writer.)
There is an advanced configuration setting in LibreOffice that will let me increase the number of undos, but I hate having to change the default configuration. I always worry that there was a reason it was set as it was, and that changing it might introduce bugs or other issues that will degrade the performance of whatever program I’m using. The article I got the info from about the configuration option basically says I’m right to be worried.
Now I have to decide if I want to try to change my behavior, or accept that me and LibreOffice might not be meant for each other. If not, then I’ll be going back to Word 2007 until my computer dies on me, and then resubscribing to Office 365 so I can use the new versions of Word and Excel once I’m on a new computer and can’t access Word and Excel 2007 anymore.
This is really not how I thought I’d end up back in the arms of Microsoft Office. I honestly thought it would come down to the style sets.
I’d already discovered that you can’t undo style edits in LibreOffice and that didn’t make me happy. Word doesn’t have that limitation, and I know it because I tend to tweak styles and then change my mind and undo them. I learned that lesson in Writer the hard way. I had to manually reset some styles I changed after playing around while not being aware of this limitation. Oops.
First, this is a little all over the place, because I tried three different times to write it, and between the start of it and the finish, I searched for and found a way to get what I wanted from my journaling. I also learned a little self-acceptance along the way.
At the start of the year, I decided to change the way I used my journals. I wanted to find a way to organize them, to group stuff together, and to make all my little notes much easier to find in the long run.
So I spent a few weeks jotting down ideas but I couldn’t come up with anything that might actually work for me.
My original idea was to use separate journals for the different parts of my life. That really didn’t work. Although the parts of my life can be organized into categories (writing, publishing, reading, hobbies, family, etc), the way I think about those things is pretty messy. I never seemed to be able to settle on which journal to use for which thing and all my messy thoughts kept bleeding over from one journal / notebook to another.
I wanted to fill separate books with separate things, but every time I tried, my mind started reminding me how I really think.
I have seven eight journals / notebooks on my desk right now that are in various stages of being filled. What’s inside is a mishmash of thoughts, lists, and ideas. There is no rhyme or reason for what goes in one or the other even though I intended for there to be when I started filling each one of them.
One such journal was meant for my goals. It now has notes on edits inside it, along with a Do Not Watch list for TV shows that keep drawing me back even though I’m disappointed every time I return to give them another try. It contains a few quotes from a book I was reading at one point (never finished reading that one), a list of things to remember, some longish journal entries, and a list of things I want to learn. And about fourteen different ink colors and even a few things written in pencil. (About a third of one of those pages is a color test for the ink that looks best on the pages that are a darker cream paper than I’m used to.)
In other words, it’s a mess. And that’s just twenty pages of a two-hundred page journal. The rest of the pages are still blank.
But when a thought needs capturing, I need to write it down—and in a hurry, too. I can be remarkably forgetful about some things while other things stay stubbornly in place inside my brain (like the fact that Shawn Spencer in Psych is played by James Roday whose actual last name is/was Rodriguez and he played Chad in the episode “Lights, Camera… Homicidio” in which Detective Lassiter doesn’t know how to say anything in Spanish except “I like cheese”). On the other hand, I don’t remember my grandmother’s birthday. It’s a day in August. That’s all I remember. Every time I check, I remember it for a few minutes, a day, and then poof!, it’s gone again.
I do not journal in well-separated chunks of ideas and topics, that’s for sure. It’s not even in somewhat independent topics. Writing about one thing inevitably leads me into something else and before I know it, I’m scratching out a to-do list beside my earnest attempt to work out why I hate my current book and what I ate for breakfast (and possibly why I never want to eat it again).
On the day I started this post, I had just run across a few articles about journaling (I searched for them, okay) and was skim reading one of them when the word catch-all jumped out at me and snagged my attention.
“After all, there’s a long tradition of writers and artists treating the journal as a glorious catch-all.”
Catch-all. Now there’s a glorious word for someone like me. ;-)
The link in that article led me to an article about Janice Lowry’s illustrated diaries. It is there that I discovered something that ultimately changed my entire view of how to approach getting what I want out of my journals.
I’m not a visual artist—most of my journaling is very long-form, with some lists and a very few drawings—but I didn’t see Lowry’s journals as something to try to copy. What I saw was a way to treasure the disorganization of my thoughts—a way to create something beautiful despite them.
All I really want from my journals is a way to keep up with the thoughts I’m afraid I’ll lose, a place where I can work through things that are bothering me, a place of discovery.
I’ve always been one to write down my thoughts to help me comb through them and find what matters. My journals have also given me a place for a lot of random things (that maybe only matter in the moment, but they matter then): to-do lists, work logs, random realizations, personal reflections, daily records, goals, or even a picture or two that I don’t know what to do with because I stopped keeping photo albums years and years ago and yet I keep finding myself with photographs that need putting away.
And yes, I really wanted to keep all those things in some central place because that’s just the way my mind works. I don’t have structured days and I most definitely do not have structured thoughts. I backed off the idea of organizing my journals and decided a catch-all journal was the way to go.
But again, unfortunately, when I tried it, I had problems. Finding things later isn’t easy when you use a catch-all system like this. I couldn’t remember what stuff was in what journal. And hoo-boy, I am really one with that out of sight, out of mind disorder. :D
Then I read “Why You Should Keep a Journal (But NOT Every Day)” and realized I had a big hang-up that was holding me back and I hadn’t even realized it! For years I’ve been trying to make journaling a habit, but really, it’s already more than a habit for me—it’s a way of life. After reading that article, I became suddenly very aware of just how much of a box I was trying to put myself into.
Daily journaling isn’t sitting down and writing an essay in a pristine little book full of nothing but other daily entries. It’s exactly what I’ve already been doing for almost my entire life, for at least as long as I’ve been able to string a few words together on paper and make them make sense.
I journal plenty! I’m writing things down—my thoughts, my dreams, my lists, my ideas—all the time! I’m recording things, tracking things, thinking things through on paper and in digital form day after day, and whether that makes it into a long-form essay-like journal entry matters not one little bit.
After that realization, the only thing I really wanted to do differently than I was already doing was to put more of those thoughts and lists and ideas onto paper. Because again, out of sight, out of mind, and the one important thing I’ve discovered from flipping through some of my older journals, is that I need to flip through my journals on occasion to revisit some of those thoughts and ideas and I want to do that away from my computer or phone or tablet (practically speaking, I also want notes that will exist outside my computer for other reasons too).
So I started carrying around a tiny little journal that’s mostly a hardback notebook the size of my hand (one of these little ones, in fact). I’ve been writing everything in it; it is without a doubt my catch-all journal of choice, and then—here’s where it all comes together for me—then I move what needs to be moved into another journal when I have the time. Touching things twice, sometimes three times, really helps me remember it.
Seeing my notes, flipping through them all, and then expanding some when I transfer them into other journals, makes a world of difference.
Having this catch-all journal as a layover between my thoughts and my permanent journals is just the thing I needed to bring it all together.
I now have a journal that contains ONLY my list of fiction readings for 2019. (I’ll probably use it for 2020 forward too.
I have a journal for annotations and quotes: basically just somewhere I write down quotes from nonfiction books and articles I’m reading and thoughts I might be having about them.
Then I have a journal for simple, long-form entries where I talk about things that I want to write about, and I’m no longer worried that sometimes I go weeks or months without writing one of those, and then maybe write three in a row. That’s where the photos will end up, because some things don’t change.
I have a journal for my story notes—any story I happen to be working on.
And then I have two more general notebooks and journals that I write all those notes to self into and expand on them, or make plans that I’ve touched on in the small notebook.
Finally, there are some things that won’t ever get transferred from the small notebook to a more permanent home, because those thoughts or lists were ephemeral and they served their purpose.
It’s been about two weeks since I started doing things this way, but this has the feeling of something that’s going to stick.
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.
*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.