Using a catch-all journal and journaling the way I think

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.

Screenshot from Smithsonian Magazine of Janice Lowry's journals
Screenshot from Smithsonian Magazine of a page spread from Janice Lowry’s illustrated diaries.

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.

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.

I was all set to be a rebel and then I realized I don’t have time

I wrote a long post about how I was abandoning WordPress a few days ago, and then I started the process by creating some HTML5 templates for one of my websites (the easiest to convert), but after two days of fiddling, it hit me hard that I don’t really have time for this. I am as much a perfectionist with the websites as I am with the writing and what should take one hour takes ten. Not my favorite confession. But—

1. I plan to finish a book this month. And by gosh I’m doing it.
2. The classic editor plugin isn’t going anywhere for a while, so for me nothing’s changed. If it changes suddenly, well, then, I can start moving on this project again (make no mistake, it’s a project for the future, because I am going to do it eventually)
3. The time will come, but maybe jumping right into it right now when I’m actively looking for things to tear me away from writing (but shouldn’t be!) isn’t what I need to do.
4. It feels like an obsession in the making. It took all day yesterday of doing other things and distracting myself to not think obsessively about it. I feel like I’m borderline this morning. A stray thought here or there could pull me right back in. So I’m going to have to do something this morning that is distracting in itself. Writing fits that bill. And since I need to write to finish that book this month, yep, that’s the one I’m going to aim for, right after I do a little morning reading (there’s a fan fiction story for Psych calling my name).

Replacing blank space at the beginning and end of paragraphs in LibreOffice Writer

So I figured out how to replace blank spaces at the beginning and end of paragraphs in LibreOffice Writer. In Word, it’s as simple as searching for ^P with spaces before or after the ^P and replacing them with whatever you want to replace them with. Not so with LibreOffice Writer, but also not as impossible as I thought it was either. :-)

You might not remember that a while back I wrote: “Writer can’t find and replace ^P paragraph marks. That matters to me because I sometimes mistakenly put a space as the first letter of a paragraph and a quick search and replace before I do my final spell check takes care of that in Word. (Microsoft Word or LibreOffice Writer?)

This common little task was one of the reasons I was having trouble getting used to using LibreOffice Writer after using Word 2007 for many years.

I found a solution a while back, and I thought I’d point it out in case anyone else needs to know.

The parenthetical comments are there to make it easier to see what actually needs to go into the search box because spaces don’t really show themselves as characters. :-)

Search Replace What it does
^ 
(^space)
blank Removes blank space at start of paragraph (LibreOffice) (search using regular expression)
 *$
(space*$)OR
\s+$
blank Removes blank space at end of paragraph (LibreOffice) (search using regular expression)

OR second option removes all whitespace characters including non-breaking spaces

Be sure to select the option to search using regular expression for these searches.

Is it better to use LibreOffice’s built-in styles or custom styles for body text?

I’m trying to figure out if it’s better to use (and modify) the basic styles LibreOffice Writer includes by default or use my own custom styles.

LibreOffice’s default template comes with a style called Text Body that seems to be meant as a default style for all text body (not hard to guess that). The sub-styles are a little trickier to figure out until you look at what they do. First Line Indent is an indented paragraph by default, while Text Body is a block paragraph by default. Text Body Indent (not shown in the screenshot) is an entire paragraph of indented text.

To be honest, this all seems a little backwards to me, because I write fiction and a fiction manuscript is rarely formatted into block paragraphs. So Text Body would have to be an indented paragraph for me, while First Line Indent would make a lot more sense as a paragraph with the first line indent set to zero (0″).

Basically, I would need to create a LibreOffice Writer template that does the opposite with body text as what the default template does. That could get confusing if I were to create new documents with these same style names based on the default template instead of my template.

So, instead, I’m using custom styles for the text body paragraphs in my manuscript, not as a sub-style of Text Body but as a sub-style of the default style.

Indent has a sub-style called First to allow for a flush first line at the start of chapters and scenes instead of an indented one, and a few other useful styles I want based on Indent.

My reasoning is that if I change the body style (Indent), I want the style for First, End, and Scene Break to change too.

Also, the custom style names make sense to me, and probably to any other self-publishing writer out there who knows anything about formatting fiction books.

However, the moment you manually apply “Autocorrect” in LibreOffice Writer with the default settings in place, it strips out all your custom styles. I have no idea what purpose this serves since it will destroy the formatting of a finished document—unless it’s really only meant to be applied to a document you’re trying to reformat and you want it stripped down to basics first.

I’ve been tempted to make Indent a sub-style of Text Body, but Indent would still be a custom style, so I don’t think that’s the way to go. And in the end, I want the cleanest style set possible when I export stuff as HTML, which will create CSS styles, or import the ODT file to Jutoh (how I’ll create my EPUBs). I want short, meaningful style names, and I don’t want dependencies or inheritances I’m not aware of to mess things up in some obscure ebook reader I can’t test with my formatted ebooks.

Now that I’ve written it all out, it seems apparent that I want to stick with my custom styles the way they are. They make sense to me, and the reasons for keeping them independent of the built-in text body styles of Writer’s default style make sense too.

Is there anything I’m overlooking for this decision?

I’m really just getting to know LibreOffice Writer 6 and it’s entirely possible I don’t know something that could affect how this works out. If that’s the case, let me know.

Look, unrealistic expectations will kill your dreams

Here’s the thing. When I set out to make writing my source of income, I knew what I was getting into. I’d been married to someone who did contract work for a while cutting lumber and I have a dad who did that for a while, too, and who worked as a mason for some-odd years. I also had an uncle who had spent years working in construction, with all its seasonal variations and ups and downs.

Writing is like that.

Cash flow is a thing.

Income variability is a thing. A big thing. I mean, it’s real and it’s ugly sometimes. It means that the good years have to be averaged with the bad years and you have to live on the average income or less, not the income of the good years.

If you don’t, when the bad years come, you’ll go broke and you’ll have to go get a job doing something that will put money in the bank. When that happens, whether or not you can continue to produce good fiction at a pace that will get you writing full-time again becomes a thing. Maybe you won’t be able to juggle the new job and the writing. It was hard the first time, remember?

That’s what it’s like to be a writer. The income is all over the place. The few (and they are few!) who can turn writing into a regular, reliable source of income are miracle workers. You can’t let yourself be fooled by them into thinking that cash flow is going to be steady and that you’re trading the paycheck of a regular employee-type job for a regular paycheck from self-publishing fiction.

Unrealistic expectations will kill your dreams.

I know there are some productive people out there saying that you can make steady money with writing, but I’m just going to say this: they’re not the norm and they’re probably talking about a shorter time frame than most other writers are imagining. And they’re probably in a position that is going to change, but just hasn’t, yet. How long have they been at it? A one or two or even three year history isn’t enough time to know these things.

I’ve been writing full-time since 2012. I have seven years of history behind me as a self-published author earning a living with fiction, and I can tell you that the things I talk about above are true. I’ve had some bad years, all related to my own production issues, but someday I’m sure I’ll have bad years related to market changes too. All of those kinds of bad years come around eventually. I’ve also seen a lot of authors over the last couple of years, who seemed bulletproof, start to recognize that even they are going to have these bad years too. That’s how I know these things are true for writers other than me.

Sometimes it’s not the book. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. So many authors want to say that luck has nothing to do with success or failure, but it’s just not true. I’m not even sorry to say it. There is so much out of a person’s control in the world that it is absolutely foolish not to prepare for the effects of luck, good and bad. If you’re doing everything you can to make it, it’s okay to hope for luck to come along and help you out. It’s also okay to blame luck for the fact that you can’t seem to get anywhere, as long as you’re being honest with yourself about your skills and effort. (If you can’t be honest with yourself, then blaming luck is a crutch and it’s only going to hurt you, so try not to do that, okay?)

Then there’s the topic of what you write. You can write what you want and hope it works or you can write what other people tell you to write or you can study what readers seem to want and write that. If you choose anything other than writing what you want, you really have to decide if you’re actually fulfilling your dream or just making work for yourself on your way to fulfilling your dream.

I chose to write for myself. I don’t want to be a writer if I can’t write what I want. If you can’t make it full-time writing what you want, then you need a job. But you get to choose what the job is a lot of the time. I choose not to have it be writing. If I can’t make it full-time writing what I want at some point in the future, writing what I don’t want to write sure isn’t going to be the job I turn to to pay my bills.

At the end of that road is the death of a dream and I’m not taking it.

If you like writing so much that you want to write and you don’t care what you write, then you’re one of the lucky ones. :)

If it turns out not to be true, that’s when you’re going to be in trouble. Because you’re probably going to be stuck writing those things you don’t want to be writing, over and over and over again.

It’s a pretty simple choice, and a lot of authors really fuck it up: Do you want to write because you have stories to tell or do you want to write because you want to be self-employed and you happen to really like writing?

I’m the former, no doubt about it. I have stories to tell and which ones I tell matters to me. I have a little of the latter in me, in that I am happy to be self-employed, but honestly, if I’m not writing the stories I want to be writing, I do not like writing. Not even a little.

:)

Days 1–6 of NANO 2018

I forgot to post that I’m participating in NANO this year (NaNoWriMo, actually, meaning National Novel Writing Month, forever hereafter to be called NANO by me).

I’m actually doing pretty well. I got off to a strong start on a new(ish) book (nope, I haven’t finished the ending of the last book, still working on it).

Days 1–4: I wrote 11,412 words for the NANO book (12,299 words total for all my fiction).

Yeah, I know. It is crazy how I went from a few words a day to a 3,075 a day average without even trying.

(ETA 11/8/18: I think it’s because I might be a burst writer, even if I’m not a hugely productive burst writer.)

October 21-31 I wrote 616 words net of those I deleted, or 56 words a day average. Mostly because I had 7 days of zero writing, after making a note to myself that said: “Gave up on daily writing. It sucks.” (I wasn’t feeling well. I even went to my GP doctor—for the first time since 2010 apparently so I had to go in as a new patient. And yeah, even I was shocked by the length of time I’d managed to avoid my GP.)

Back to NANO.

I had my first bad day on Monday, day 5, but only because I spent the entire day working on that ending of the book I can’t seem to finish. I wrote 515 words that day while deleting stuff and moving some things around.

Once I realized on Monday night that I just wasn’t feeling up to writing anything for the new book, I decided to make it up on Tuesday, but, ack, tornadoes blew through the area at 2:05 am (ish) and my power went out. It stayed out until 8:20 (ish) Tuesday evening. So there went day 6.

I freely admit I could have written something on day 6 (yesterday) because I had at least an hour of charge in my laptop battery left, but I chose to sit huddled up on the couch for most of the day reading instead. :)

Days 5–6: I wrote 0 words for the NANO book (515 words total for all my fiction).

Par for NANO for days 1–6 is 1,667 x 6 = 10,002 words.

Today is day 7 and I’m just about to sit down to write. I’m still on track for a NANO win. All I have to do is keep writing. :)

I don’t have a plan. I just know I won’t be timing myself. I’ll write until I’m done for the day and that’s that. That’s what I’ve been doing since November 1st and I’m very happy with my progress.

I have adopted a new philosophy over the last week.

I’ve been writing fiction, wanting to write fiction, for most of my life. If I’m having trouble getting myself to write, there’s something wrong. I’ve decided enthusiasm is the problem. I’ve just not been focused on writing what I really want to write. It is essential that I always focus on writing what calls to me. Even if it doesn’t fit my own ideas about what I should want to write. :)

And, in all honestly, it seems to be working.

(Just to clarify, I’m still working on the same books, I’m just making sure I write what I want to write and not what I imagine someone else wants me to write or what I think I should write. Make sense?)

Who knows what day of book 19

I wrote 723 words yesterday.

I haven’t given up on my 2,000 words a day plan, but progress doesn’t always happen in leaps and bounds, obviously. :)

I don’t know that I even care how many days I’ve been working on my current book. I know I wrote previously that it could be nice information to have and might help me stay on track, but now I’m not so sure at all. Seeing 104 or 110 doesn’t feel like much of anything: I have trouble seeing at a glance just what it means. 104 and 110 and even 200 feel like small numbers to me, so things feel like they’re going well. Yet tell me it’s been more than three months and wow, that feels like a very long time.

What I’ve concluded is that this measure is just not going to be useful to me and I’ve decided to abandon the effort.

So that didn’t last long, but hey, we have to try new things sometimes and then recognize when they’re not going to work. This one sounded book on paper but didn’t translate well to real life.

Right now, I want to keep my eye on the prize and push for that 2,000 words a day goal without all these other distractions.

Writing as work

For years I’ve avoided thinking of writing as work. I’ve even written a blog post about how writing is not a job, and after re-reading that, I stand behind what I said about it not being a job. However, I’ve also started to have a realization that for me, maybe doing everything I can to avoid thinking of my writing as work isn’t the right path for me.

I was raised to believe that my work had value. That no matter what job I had, the work I did was valuable. I hate jobs, no two ways around that, but I don’t hate work. I’ve never hated work, really. I can name only a few very specific instances where I might have hated it, if it’d gone on too long, and they all involved boring-as-hell work. Even then, I considered what I did valuable. Just boring.

But my hobbies, reading and writing? Not valuable at all. Time wasters. Time passers. Whatever you want to call it.

It occurred to me that by doing everything I can not to think of my writing as work, I’ve essentially told myself that it has little or no value, despite the fact that I’m living off the money it brings in.

Last night I decided it was time for an attitude adjustment. I can continue to hate jobs and I can continue to avoid having a job—even a self-imposed one—for the rest of my life. But what I can’t do is continue to not think of my writing as my work.

Work can be fun and awesome. I know this. Just because other people sometimes have issues when they think of writing as work doesn’t mean I do or have to. In fact, I’d say I don’t, because for me, work is about doing the best you can. You’re invested. It’s a commitment. It’s not “punch the clock, do as crap a job as you can get away with before punching the clock again” kind of thing. That isn’t my world view, and it never has been.

It’s perfectly okay to call my writing work.

If I want to change my ways when it comes to getting the writing done every day, every week, every year, then I have to think of my writing as valuable, as important, as something I need to do above all other things. Work has pretty much always fallen inside those lines for me. Work is valuable. Work needs to get done.

It’s time to start ascribing some real value to the writing I do.

Writing is my work. My work is my writing.

There. That wasn’t so hard an adjustment to make.

Oh, hell. I’ve already lost track of the days

So that book 19, day whatever lasted a few days. I don’t even know what to say about this. The day after my last post, I pretty much decided I was spending too much time detailing out my struggle to write and that I should focus more on actually writing, you know? So I made a pact with myself to stop writing about the struggle. There is no struggle. My issues with work are not related to writing, except that writing is my work. But I don’t have a problem writing once I start. It’s really just this other thing—these other issues—and I’m tired of putting all that on my writing.

That means my posts about writing either need to be about the story, the process, or my actual word counts. Instead of wasting so much valuable time and energy day after day just writing about how hard it is to make myself write.

So that’s it. This post is a way station and I haven’t figured out exactly where I’m going from here. Most likely I’ll just start posting about exactly those things I mentioned above: process, story, and word count updates.

Since I haven’t written much over the last several days, I haven’t had anything to post about.

I can still use my book xx, day xxx title format for word count updates, but not if I have to start counting days every time I want to post. Yikes. I didn’t think it would be so tedious to keep up with it.

Currently, I’m annoyed with my story because I feel kind of stuck at the moment, and my word counts have suffered greatly because of some personal stuff I’ve had to deal with over the last several days. I don’t begrudge those days, but man, I’m really behind where I want to be on this story.

On that note, I’m going away to write for a while. Maybe I’ll actually have something to post later that isn’t a post saying what I won’t be posting about anymore. ;)

About the writing of my current book

I was looking at my word count spreadsheet today and realized that my “Worked On” column in my “Daily Log” sheet gives me the perfect opportunity to know things about my writing that I might not know otherwise.

Here are some things I found interesting about the writing of my current book (book 19).

3/9/17

I wrote a few words.

12/26/17

I wrote a few more words.

2/16/18
and
2/17/18

I tried to get started on this book in earnest. Didn’t work.

5/9/18

I wrote 100 words but I’m not certain they were all on this book.

5/25/18
to
Present

I started the real work on this book. I’ve had 23 zero word days since 5/25, but since I’m actively working on the book, I’m counting them in the total number of days I’ve been working on this book. :-)

What does that all add up to?

I’ve spent exactly 100 days working on this book (so far).

It’s been 537 days since I first started this book. And that means I’ve had this book in my head for 537 days.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: I get bored when writing a book takes too long. I need to stop stalling when it’s time to start the next book—or just not allow myself to start writing until I’m ready to commit.  Even starting the book sets things in motion in my head that make me feel like I’m losing interest when I don’t continue to make progress.

Finally, ouch. It’s been at least 537 days since I put out the last book in this series (make that 685 to be exact). Sigh. This book is going to flop so hard.

And to tie this all up, I’ve finally found a title format I like for my accountability posts: Book 19, day 100. It ties in with both this post and the last. I can also imagine this being a nice way to keep up with just how long I’ve spent on any one book (or story) and how many books I’ve written. I like it. :-)

Book: Book 19, day 100.

Short story: Short story 13, day 2.

I only foresee one difficulty with this, if I don’t want to be doing multiple accountability posts when I work on more than one story on any particular day. I’ll just line them all up in the title or I’ll summarize at the top of the post for any I don’t want to do that with. :D

Book 19, day 100; Short story 13, day 2; Book 20, day—Oh no. That’s not going to work. I really don’t always know where some of these books are going to fall in line when I’m writing on them like this. Now I’m sad, because I really liked this idea.

Then again, I am trying not to overdo the multiple story trick. Until I can start regularly writing 2,000 plus words a day, working on more than one story at a time is just another way to take too long finishing any of them.

I’ll have to think about this some more.

Or maybe I won’t have to. I could just stick to only counting the current book as the one with a number, and list any extra work I’m doing on other books in the post sans number. Because truly, it’s only been once or twice out of all 30 titles I’ve written that I haven’t known which book I’m actively trying to finish first so I can publish it.

Whew. Crisis averted.

Now, on to finishing today’s minimum word count. I’ve really not been focused where I need to be today. Today has been a study in procrastination.

August changes

A few things have changed since my last writing post.

I’ve decided:

To ditch timers and timed writing for good.

It feels weird to sit down and write without the timer. I still look for it in the corner of my screen as I type. I still look for the column on my spreadsheet and feel a little startled when I realize it doesn’t matter how fast or slow I wrote those 187 words.

To erase my record of my timed writing and words per hour calculations.

I did make a backup of the original file with those numbers because I couldn’t not do that.

To stick to word count quotas.

To STICK to word count quotas, for real. I do need some type of structure to keep me working.

Structure is useful for me.

But going back and forth between time / word counts / WPH anxiety isn’t useful to me at all.

I can’t control my daily word counts as easily I can control my time spent writing but I never (seriously, never) seem to reach the time quotas I set for myself either.

Since word count quotas are so much more meaningful to my income, they win. :-)

The day after I made this decision, I wrote more words with less effort than I’ve written in a long time. I reached 671 words for the day and hardly felt like I’d done any writing at all. It felt great.

Then stuff happened, delays and distractions, and I didn’t write very much for the next two days. Now we’ve come to today, and the writing is again going easily and I hardly feel like I’ve done anything at all. I’m already up to 187 words for the day.

Those timers really did make writing feel too much like hard work. Getting that out of my system might take a while, but I’m sure it’s the right path forward for me. I need to like writing or I won’t do it, but lately, I just hadn’t liked it very much at all. That changed so quickly after making the decision to ditch the time keeping and WPH calculations that I really feel it was hindering my enjoyment of writing and interfering with my ability to keep going with this for the long-term.

The hours and WPH are just demoralizing anyway most of the time. Average words per day is the only number that really matters in the long run.

It’s just a renewed focus on actually getting the word counts and not wasting time worrying over anything else to do with productivity.

To stop trying to make my book perfect.

I know better than this. But I’ve fallen into some bad habits this year and my inner perfectionist is making life difficult again.

To keep using OneNote.

I have decided I’m just not leaving OneNote for certain types of notes until or unless I have to. I need software for note-taking or I never would have started using Evernote, way back when, even before I migrated to OneNote several years ago.

I did move the rest of my notebooks to OneDrive so I can keep using OneNote the way I like once my Office 365 subscription expires in September. And, it’s a little hard to admit, but my notebooks are actually a lot more useful since I moved them.

The local notebook issue was more a principle thing than a practical issue for me. I decided to bend on this one.

It’s time for me to get back to writing fiction now. I have a quota today and I’d like to see how close I end up to it. That 2,000 words a day plan is still something I’ve got in my sights.

Office 365 issues, OneNote, and my local notebooks

So… I mentioned canceling Office 365 and uninstalling? Turns out it wasn’t as easy as that. I still use OneNote, so I reinstalled it after uninstalling Office 365.

OneNote is supposed to be a freebie these days, although who knows for how long, but right off it started giving me little error-like messages about my local notebooks and how I needed an Office 365 subscription to keep using them. Most of my notebooks are local notebooks, meaning they’re stored on my computer’s hard drive instead of on OneDrive.

These local notebooks and the free version of OneNote are pretty much incompatible. It was allowing me to use them, but only when I twisted its arm. In trying to diagnose what might be going on, because at that point I didn’t know, I chose to “switch” my license. I didn’t realize that meant that the entire Office 365 suite would reinstall itself on my computer in the background, but that’s exactly what happened.

The next day, I clicked on one of my spreadsheet files and Excel 2016 opened. At which point I said: “What the hell?”

I did a little research but didn’t turn up anything to explain why it had reinstalled itself so I uninstalled Office 365 again.

Then I closed one of my OneNote notebooks—a local one. Then I changed my mind and tried to reopen it. The freebie version of OneNote absolutely would not let me reopen the notebook. The error-like message was back, telling me I needed to sign up to Office 365 to use that notebook. It was the same message as before, only before, I could close it and still access my local notebooks. But I absolutely could not reopen a local notebook, at which point I realized it wasn’t a glitch at all but an actual limitation of the freebie version of OneNote. Local notebooks aren’t supported.

At that point, I thought about the licensing issue and what it might have meant and how I might be stuck with Office 365 if I wanted OneNote to work the way it had worked before.

So I “switched” my license for OneNote again, assuming I would wake up to the entire Office 365 suite on my computer again, but at least I’d have the ability to open my local OneNote notebook.

That happened, and I successfully reopened my closed (local) notebook.

So yay for that?

I’m still going to allow my subscription to expire, and I’ve left the recurring billing turned off. What I’m hoping will happen is that my OneNote install will continue to work normally even after the other programs deactivate themselves. I’m not at all confident that this is what will happen, but that is my hope.

There are three reasons why I don’t want to stop using OneNote for my notes.

  1. I can paste bits from my spreadsheets into a note and have it retain formatting as a table with no extra work at all. Everything just works. I don’t want to embed the spreadsheet because I delete the bits that I’m pasting. That’d be useless. I just want it for reference. That’s all.
  2. All my notes are consolidated in one location and accessible from one file (essentially).
  3. I can search through all my notes easily at one time.

I debated the issue with myself but ultimately I decided to move my local notebooks to OneDrive so I can keep using OneNote for most of them, with the exception of my journal. I exported that to a Word .docx, imported it to Writer and saved a copy as an .odt file.

I’ve already started using it for my journal. There are some definite benefits to it being an .odt file and I’m happy that I did it.

There’s also one drawback: I can paste bits from my spreadsheets into LibreOffice Writer, but I have to paste it in as HTML formatted text and then manually apply table styling to it so that it looks like a table. I tested it a few times and I can imagine getting really good at it, but it’s not instantaneous like it is in OneNote.

So that my notes continue to look the same, I added a few styles that are easy to apply.

  • Note Title
  • Note Meta
  • Note Paragraph
  • Note Indent
  • Note List

That seems to be all I need for most of my entries. But I like how neat it all looks. And now I have text statistics. My journal for 2015–2018-to-date is just over 93,000 words. That makes me sad. I just barely managed 126,000 words of fiction last year!

I have to say, it definitely makes me feel like I’m falling down on the job.

But the beauty of this is that if I get tired of one font (it happens!) or a particular layout style, I can easily change it for my whole journal with a simple style edit. :-) Doing that in OneNote is pretty much impossible without some kind of weird hack, because changing the note font even in options doesn’t apply to old notes.

No more forums for me

I decided a couple of days ago that I really need to stop visiting forums.

Forums—

  • Interfere with my ability to concentrate (an active thread is an open loop, and since I’m curious by nature, I react to busy threads a little like an addict)
  • Frustrate me (ignoring unpleasant and dogmatic people is always easier said than done, no matter how many times I’ve tried to make myself do just that)
  • Waste time I could spend writing (or even just trying to write!)

I keep coming back to the fact that I very rarely leave any forum feeling good. For me, the positives that come from reading and participating do not outweigh the negatives.

I think a permanent instead of a temporary ban on visiting forums is definitely in my best interests. Some types of community just aren’t for everyone.

 

I’ve been binge reading and I’ve discovered something in Calibre that might help my writing

I can’t even number the number of stories I’ve read in the last two months since I published my last book. Most of those have been fan fiction stories, I’ll say, and I tried to stick with longer stories, although I did read a lot of short stories too. :) I like all lengths, but I do love reading yummy long stories in my favorite fandoms!

So, the equivalent of a lot of books there.

In fact, since I download fan fiction exclusively from Ao3 in EPUB format, these stories are books. The keepers stay in Calibre, and the disposable stories get deleted after reading. That’s something I just started recently, mostly because I only want to keep rereadable stories. So even if I truly loved a story but if it’s something that I don’t see myself rereading for pleasure (and that happened–I don’t tend to reread stories with ambiguous or unhappy endings even if they really touched me) I delete them.

Same for original novels.

I do not reread stories that don’t leave me feeling good. I enjoy them, sometimes, and don’t often I regret having read them, but I don’t seek them out to reread, mostly because rereading is meant purely for pleasure and to uplift my mood. I mean, rereading is generally something I do when I need to feel joy but not the anxiety of not knowing what’s coming. :)

During this time, I installed a plug-in in Calibre to tell me the word count of all these stories and novels so I could tag stuff that’s especially short (<10,000 words) or especially long (>100,000 words). Fiction from Ao3 already includes a word count in the meta included at the beginning of the story and I happen know the word counts for all my own books and stories (which are also in my Calibre library for easy transfer to my devices), and this led me to note that the plug-in has reliable numbers (just a tiny bit high, tiny bit, but close enough).

And wow did it open my eyes to something I hadn’t noticed. So many books that I thought were longer were not that long after all. In fact, it has led me to rethink the length I go for in a novel. Lately I’ve been far exceeding my 50,000 word target for my own novels, but I was okay with that because I thought most people wrote longer books and that I was actually writing shorter than average books.

I’m going to work on not doing that any more, because so many of the books in my library that I would have assumed were longer came in between 30,000 and 60,000 words. I just do not need to be writing longer books.

And although sometimes I can’t help myself, I know that I really prefer writing shorter books.

Time to get back to what I love. I’m a little sold on the fact that maybe one reason I’ve been unhappy writing lately is because so many of my books have gone long—much longer than I wanted when I started them.

Long equals a longer time spent writing one book and more chance of boredom interfering with my desire to keep going.

When writing becomes a chore, I’m just not able to overcome my resistance to continuing. Breaks mean I have to spend too much time getting back into the story when I finally do manage, and there’s just a whole lot of baggage associated with all this.

So, shorter books. :D

And a post with no title

Mind the Time says I’ve spent 1 hour and 15 minutes active on this site today.

That time is all related to my last post (except for about 3 minutes for this one). It’s something I’m going to have to think about.

Especially considering that it’s actually been about 3 hours and 25 minutes since I started that post and most of the stuff that took me away from being active on this page was stuff that was still related to that post in some way.

I’m going to have to find a way to put a stop to this kind of thing.

Moving the goal post on 500 words a day

I am a procrastinator. I think I’ve said that many, many times, and it’s right up there in the site description in case I haven’t.

I’m having trouble restarting my 500 words a day streak, and although I know there are reasons beyond the fact that I just want to procrastinate (there are!), I’ve decided that giving myself the opportunity to procrastinate until I’m too tired to hold me feet to the fire isn’t doing me any favors.

So from now on, my 500 words a day minimum (goal, what-have-you) is due before I have lunch.

I could do with skipping a few meals anyway if I’m being honest. :-o I need to lose some weight and I’m not making progress on that either lately, but that’s a story for another day.

As of right now, it’s 2:03 pm and I have to get my 500 words before I have lunch. I had leftover tacos for breakfast, so it’s taken me a while to even start to get hungry. :-) But now that I am, it’s taken my attention away from the tweaks I was doing on this site’s theme (all done, I hope!) and put it back on the fact that I haven’t started writing today.

Since I want to clock six full hours of timed writing today (or finish my book), I do need to get started sooner rather than later.

Making myself do the 500 words a day minimum by lunch might just be the extra push I need to stop this chronic procrastination thing I’ve got going on.

Side note: One reason I was tweaking my theme is because I wanted to change the back-end font to match the front-end font (the composing area in the admin, specifically), and I figured out how to do it by creating a child theme and changing the editor-style.css.

I LOVE composing in this font (PT Sans). I swear it feels like it makes writing easier. I’m considering making this change in my draft style in Word. Who knows? It might make a difference, and I can use all the help I can get.

Anyway, off to write now, so I can eat when I’m actually hungry and not hours later. I know what to do with this story; I just have to make myself sit down and do it.

The benefits of writing 500 words a day

It’s been seven days since I started requiring myself to write 500 words of fiction every day. I call it my daily minimum word count.

I’m deliberately choosing not to call this daily minimum a goal, because I am expecting more of myself long-term—I’m just not requiring it.

500 words is a number that seems almost too small to accomplish anything, but the benefits of setting such a low requirement have really started to make themselves known.

  1. My daily word counts are looking more consistent. (Last column.)
  2. My story is staying more active in my thoughts and ideas are coming easier.
  3. I’m building a habit of writing every day. (Getting started late and finishing late isn’t the habit I want, but at least I’m finishing the words!)
  4. There’s actually a feeling of success associated with this that’s much stronger than I expected. I mean, I want to write more than 500 words a day over the long term, but I still feel really good about where this is going.
  5. 500 words is actually a decent number of words, so even at this pace I can finish a real novel in just a few months, and that is motivational in a way that racking up a bunch of 100 or 200 word days isn’t. (50,000 words ÷ 500 words a day = 100 days of writing; 100 days is approximately 3 months and 10 days; making this a pace of nearly 4 novels a year.)
  6. I’m writing every day. (Because of #5!)
  7. I’m not getting stuck in an editing loop. There are only so many times I can edit 500 words into something I’ve already written. That means I’ve been moving forward with the story. Do enough 100 word days and you’ll eventually move forward, sure, but it’s going to take a loooong time—long enough to be demotivating.
  8. 500 words has yet to feel overwhelming. Even the night I put off writing until nearly 1 a.m., I felt like I could get the words quickly enough to make it worth trying. It’d be the same with an even smaller word count goal, but see #5 for why I’m not giving in and just going to bed. 500 words feels significant in a way a smaller word count doesn’t. It’s not pointless to bother or a waste of good sleep time. It matters if I get them done. So I did them.

The week’s numbers

517
533
520
1,004
515
503
505

Total words: 4,097
Daily average: 585

These are the most consistent numbers I’ve gotten in a while, and after a week of this, I believe I can make it last.

500 words a day might just be my magic number.

I already know that writing faster isn’t really the answer for me, but writing more sure might be. If I were to replace all 697 zero words days in my word count log with 500, I would have written 348,500 more words to date than I’ve actually written. That’s pretty mind-boggling considering that my highest annual word count since I began writing is 268,191 words. :-)

I’m just going to call this an experiment that has shown me a path to success. It has been an experiment in small wins and training oneself to do more by expecting less.

500 words is my daily minimum and it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

A small win last night that bodes well

Yesterday I somehow made it until nearly 1:00 a.m. without writing. But I was determined not to break my 500 words a day streak so I finally overcame the resistance to getting started and sat down and wrote.

Instead of 500 words, I ended up with 1,004. Considering I didn’t use a timer and honestly only intended to get 500 words and then go to sleep, I think that’s pretty amazing. I went to sleep around 2:20 and don’t feel so hot this morning, of course, because I’ve now had two nights in a row of about six hours of sleep, but I feel great that I had that small win turn into a big win.

After four days of the 500 word minimum, my daily average of 644 words is already better than my all time daily average of 614.

This is exactly the result I was hoping to see. It only takes a few days of better than 500 words a day to start pumping up my average. And 500 a day feels like such a doable number of words. It’s enough of a commitment to writing each day to make me feel accomplished and it also seems to be enough words to set off the creative part of my brain so that I’m actually getting somewhere instead of just staying stuck in place.

What I mean by that is that with say 100 words, I can often add a little here and there and never actually move the story forward. I might be able to get away with editing enough words into a scene to reach 500 words once, maybe twice if the writing was thin to begin with, but after that, I have to move forward, which is what happened last night. Once I started moving forward, I didn’t even have to work to pick up momentum. The story was pulling me forward.

Now, despite all that success after midnight last night, I don’t want to repeat the after midnight part tonight, so I’m going to go write. This story is actually interesting me again, and I feel a need to make some more progress on that never-ending ending I’ve got going on! I’ll post later with results, unless I fall asleep at the keyboard. :D

The path of least resistance

What can I do tomorrow to make sure I write early? What’s the path of least resistance?

This was last night’s musings, something I wrote here just to remind myself of what I wanted to do today: start writing early.

It didn’t happen. It’s 3:01—approaching late afternoon—and my word count is 0.

:-0

I should have tried harder to come up with an answer to those questions, because I didn’t even open this site until a few hours ago, and by then it was already past noon.

Then again, it’s only been 5 hours since I dragged myself out of bed (a 2 a.m. bedtime again after doing so well with an earlier (but creeping) bedtime this week) (but I got my 500 words, so yay!). I woke up much too early and tried much too hard to go back to sleep but couldn’t, so ended up wasting several good morning hours. And I have a headache from lack of sleep.

That kind of thing should count as self-sabotage, no joke.

I’m left with the question: how do I make writing my words the path of least resistance?

Update: It took a while, but I finally started writing sometime after midnight and ended the day with 1,004 words.