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.

Thoughts on WordPress’s new Gutenberg editor

So I ran across mention of WordPress 5.0 and the new editor that’s going to be in it and I was immediately overcome by visions of fear and loathing for something that was sure to ruin a good thing. :-0

Then I followed up on it, downloaded the add-in that’s available (Gutenberg) to give it a test run on one of my websites. :-)

I like it.

I was really surprised by how easy everything was and the clean look of it, and now all that fear and loathing has morphed into something much more like cautious excitement.

My one big reservation about it is how cluttered the text view is now, because it does add in a lot of extraneous (necessary, I’m sure) code to make everything work.

But overall I’m pretty well comfortable with the idea of it, and I look forward to it becoming part of WordPress’s core functionality.

Focus on action and small wins; a new daily minimum

Today I’m starting work on my book much later than I planned. Mostly because I’ve spent too much of the day thinking about a decision I made a couple days ago and trying to decide if it’s the right one. I’ve finally decided it is.

Tuesday, I decided to lower my minimum word count for a day to 500 words. That was a good call, I think. My average daily word count is 614 words. Since I have a complete record of every day’s word count since mid-2012, this isn’t a guess. This is my actual daily word count average for more than 5 years of writing.

That said, just because I’ve averaged 614 words a day for 5 years doesn’t mean 500 words a day should be a no-problem, no-trouble, easy daily goal for me. Averages are just that: averages. And averages never tell the whole story.

Consistent daily writing is still a major problem for me. I do not do well with long term daily writing. My longest streak to date is 122 days and I had to count many days of less than 100 words to even get that.

Writing 500 words a day, every day, will be a considerable challenge. But I don’t think I can go any lower than that, just because it doesn’t feel reasonable and it doesn’t feel like a challenge. It feels like giving up.

Daily, it’s only a small win, but 500 words a day will get me a book of average size (50,000 words) in 100 days. Meaning even if I totally fail at all else and ONLY write the 500 words a day every day and never one word more, I’ll write more words in the next 12 months than I wrote in the last two years combined by a little more than 40,000 words.

That’s a win, no matter how I look at it.

And my hope is, as always, that this small win will drive me to write more and reach some of the bigger goals I have.

Every time I write more than 500 words a day, it’s going to push my average up, and I’m going to get that much closer to my long-term goal of being a prolific writer. I can’t ask for much more than that considering where I’m starting from.

But I have to start somewhere and becoming a consistent daily writer is where I’m choosing to start.

The fact is, a small win is better than no win, and I have to start focusing on action if I want to change.

This isn’t just a post about intentions; this is a post of action! I made this minimum word count change two days ago on Tuesday. On both Tuesday and Wednesday, I successfully met this challenge with 517 words and 533 words, respectively.

Yay! I have a new writing streak going. :-)

Now, it’s time to go write and keep this thing alive.

Update: Yep, I did it. 520 words for the day.

Seriously, it’s time to end this thing

Alright, it’s time to put an end to my misery. I have to finish this book. Today.

Toward that end—:D—I’ve set a loose schedule and some time goals. (Time spent is really the only thing I can totally control when it comes to my writing. I’ve tried to make time quotas work in the past and they haven’t but I don’t think that changes the fundamental truth that if I want to create a daily habit of writing, I’m going to have to focus on time.)

From 11:00 – 3:15, I’m going to try to get in 3 sessions of 1.25 hours each.

I’m already late getting started because of the kittens (they think my deck is a litter box and I’m trying to break them of that habit as quickly as I can) and this post (I shouldn’t be writing it now but here I am), and there isn’t enough break time built in to make the time up easily, but I’m still going to push for it even if that means going past 3:15. If the book isn’t done by then, and I don’t really think it will be…

From 4:15 – 7:00, I’m going to try to get in 2 sessions of 1.25 hours each.

First note: As of right now, I’m planning all my future sessions to be 1.25 hours each, except on days where I might just need to write and be in a hurry and don’t keep up with time at all. I don’t want to feel locked in to the idea that I can’t write or work on my stories just because I don’t have 1.25 hours available. Those days should be rare, because I’m trying to get into a routine and this is the equivalent of my job and the work has to be done. If I can’t squeeze in a few 1.25 hour blocks of time a day for writing, then I have bigger problems. A person has to make a living somehow.

Second note: I did some reading and rereading of a few things and I’ve become convinced that pushing myself past the 4–5 hour range for time spent writing is a mistake. I deal with low motivation regularly after what I consider really good writing days, and there’s a simple explanation: burnout and need for extra rest after pushing too hard.

If I were used to longer periods of focus, it might be different, but I don’t think so. K. Anders Ericsson has some really good papers on deliberate practice and high performance. (Some other related links.) Considering the fact that I’m still under the two million words written mark for fiction (probably), I still feeling like I’m doing high-level practice every time I sit down to write. I’m not sure the good writers ever quit practicing, though, so it’s not something I expect to change. I will always be trying to get better.

One quote:

Elite performers in many diverse domains have been found to practice, on the average, roughly the same amount every day, including weekends, and the amount of practice never consistently exceeds five hours per day.

And from one of the linked papers:

Across many domains of expertise, a remarkably consistent pattern emerges: The best individuals start practice at earlier ages and maintain a higher level of daily practice. Moreover, estimates indicate that at any given age the best individuals in quite different domains, such as sports and music, spend similar amounts of time on deliberate practice. In virtually all domains, there is evidence that the most important activity—practice, thinking, or writing—requires considerable effort and is scheduled for a fixed period during the day. For those exceptional individuals who sustain this regular activity for months and years, its duration is limited to 2-4 h a day, which is a fraction of their time awake.

Going from my daily average word count and the fact that I average 400-600 words an hour during timed writing sessions, I average about 2 hours a day of writing time. Then I read and study and think. Publishing activities drive up the time I spend working even more. I’m going to stop feeling so damn guilty for not putting in even more time. If I ever make it up to 4 hours of writing a day, consistently, I am determined that I’ll be damn happy about it.

Anyway, I just wasted a huge chunk of time on this post and I must go write. This book is going to end today, one way or another. And yes, 5 x 1.25 = 6.25 hours. I’m pushing myself, but I’m tired of dallying with this book. I want it done.

Why can’t I break the Kboards habit?

I’ve gotten myself worked up into a state again, one that isn’t conducive to being creative, and I have no one to blame but myself. I know not to visit Kboards when I’m already having trouble writing—in fact, I know not to visit  at all—but I do it anyway because… because… I don’t even know why.

I keep thinking I need more writer friends but then I read (and occasionally participate in) threads and discover that I really don’t like half the people there. There are nice people at Kboards, really, but they get drowned out by the others, the ones that cannot stand, in any way, for fellow self-publishers to go their own way or walk their own path.

Since I experiment and choose to do things my own way, I don’t usually find helpful business advice there. I visit for the camaraderie—and yet rarely find it. It’s a well-moderated board, but even the most innocuous threads turn divisive and you end up with one or two “successful” authors gently (and then not so gently) scolding  everyone for not doing things the right away—their way. And then their minions or people who just want to be like them jump in and it becomes an echo chamber determined to drown out dissenting voices. Anyone who’s found success on a different path is labeled an outlier and told their advice isn’t valid.

To which I say, massive success in publishing is rare and elusive, and anyone who has found such massive success is probably an outlier and should not be listened to. In all likelihood, they have no idea underneath it all what it was that brought them success other than the fact that they probably work hard and know how to write a good book. (I say probably because half the world will tell you that there are a lot of bestsellers that aren’t good to a lot of people and there is a certain percentage of people in life who do just get lucky and never have to work hard at all.)

I don’t begrudge anyone their success as long as it came honestly, but man, it would be nice if people didn’t wield their sales numbers like a razor-sharp sword and try to skewer everyone on the ladder below them.

Which brings me full circle really. I want to break the Kboards habit. I just don’t know how. I’ve tried blocking the site, even going so far as to block it in my hosts file, and I still find myself undoing all my hard work and going back. It makes me sick every time I do it. Especially when I end up in this same state of mind because of it. I don’t like conflict, but Kboards is a black-hole of conflict. It’s really not the place for me.

Update: Alright, I did it. I edited my hosts file and blocked Kboards completely. I had no choice. Mind the Time tells me that just today using Firefox I’ve spent 43 minutes there—and I probably spent twice as much time as that scanning threads on my phone. >:-{

10/18 update: I’m still visiting on my phone and tablets but I haven’t undone the hosts block on my computer. If I could just figure out something similar for my phone, that would be a huge help.

Update to the update: I use Firefox on my phone with the uBlock Origin add-on. I filtered kboards.com and it will no longer come up in Firefox. I could use Chrome to get around it but since I don’t like Chrome I probably won’t. :-)

Update to the last update: I removed the block from my hosts file and I took the block off my phone. I’ve had a rethink about habits and I don’t think this solution is the long-term answer. However, I have ideas and I’m giving them a go, so this fight ain’t over. ;-) I’ll update with a link to the post I’m currently writing about this rethink once I finish it.

Practicing for pace improvements

Practice is good. I don’t think most people will dispute that. But sometimes I need to be able to visualize what improvement I’m working toward, so I highlighted 200 words of text in my current book in progress and took a screenshot of it.

Here it is.

The blue highlight is 200 words of text in a standard 8.5×11 inch Word document with 1 inch margins in Times New Roman 12 point font.

The screenshot is of a two page spread, giving me the most complete visualization of 200 words I think I’ve ever had.

Here’s the thing: I want to consistently write at a pace of 800+ words per hour. It would allow me to write a reasonable number of words in a reasonable number of hours. I can type 60 words per minute without straining myself.

With that goal in mind, 200 words is what I would expect of 15 minutes of writing and that’s what you see in that screenshot, a visualization of what I’m taking aim at in every 15 minute session I do today.

Seeing it here, in this image, has really made me wonder at the nature of what’s holding me back when I write. I just can’t believe my brain creates story at such a slow pace that I struggle to create this much manuscript in half an hour most days. It’s difficult to understand.

Unless I blame it on perfectionism. Then it makes all kinds of sense.

For the particular selection of text I highlighted for this screenshot, it took me more than half an hour to get right. I know what text is there, nothing was particularly difficult to come up with, and I know it would take me about three to four minutes to type at my average 60 words per minute typing speed.

Tying is not writing, that’s true. But I think much faster than I type so I’m not sure how that flies as an excuse for slow writing.

So today I practice—in fact, I started practicing last night but was too tired to really give it the attention it needed.

I’ll let you know how it goes. :)