Back in 2018, I finally reached my goal to write 6,000 words in a day. I beat that word count in 2019, but I still didn’t break out of the 6,000 word range. I’m hoping to reach 7,000 in 2020, even if it’s just one time, so this is my post marking that goal. :)
Wow. I read back through my last two posts and I sound depressed (to myself, I have no idea what I sound like to other people). :D
I haven’t posted in a while, because I just haven’t wanted to. I haven’t been writing either. Just needed a break, maybe? Whatever it was, I think it’s come to an end. I’ve been tinkering with my books again, writing every day, and making time for some household stuff I’ve been ignoring for months.
In the mean time (during the no writing phase of this year), I’ve been reading. My reading list of fiction is up to 384 novels/short stories for 2020. That number, as always, misses some stuff, because I inevitably forget to write down everything I’ve read, and because I had to cobble together the number of stories I read during part of the year from Calibre and can’t include those I deleted during May–July 25 when I decided I wasn’t going to write them down anymore and then regretted it. Because I did regret it! (I don’t know how many I deleted but I only save stuff that I liked enough to possibly want to read again.)
As for posting, I don’t really miss it. I’m not sure when or if I’ll pick it back up, but it’ll be when I need it. As for right now, I’m content as is! :D
I blocked the news sites I visit from my phone’s web browser (the built in apps for news have always been disabled so no worries there) and blocked the writer forum I visit because most of the active threads there are about the news at the moment. I’ve also blocked all those same sites from my computer. All so I can devote myself to my creative pursuits this weekend. :)
In other words, it’s time to get back to writing!
Yesterday I planned to sit at the computer for three hours and write but I didn’t make it there. I’m still fighting the distractions that are all around me right now.
Today, my new washing machine is set to finally be delivered. I ordered it on February 4. The delays on that have been crazy.
But boy do I have laundry to catch up when I finally get it installed. It’s going to be fun doing it because the space is tight and I’ve never installed a washing machine on my own before. The tight fit is my biggest concern because getting it into position is going to be a real chore.
Tomorrow, my daughter moves into her first apartment. Great timing because her university just asked all the students to move out for the rest of the month and move to online classes and I have a feeling that’s going to drag on longer than that even.
She was supposed to move today but spent yesterday rearranging plans to the point that I wasn’t sure what was going on until nearly my bedtime. :-)
I need to finish filing taxes for my 85 year old grandmother today, and help my daughter finish hers. She’s trying them alone for the first time this year but I’ve promised to answer questions and review them before she submits them.
I’m hoping to get started on this new plan I have and will detail later but I’m not sure I’m being realistic about it. I’m writing this post on my phone in bed because I woke up after four hours of sleep and couldn’t go back to sleep even though I tossed and turned for three hours trying. I can already tell it’s going to be one of those days.
I still had time yesterday for writing but what I didn’t have was the desire.
I’m in a different frame of mind today, but time is going to be short.
With so much going on in the world right now, I’m finding it hard to concentrate on writing fictional stories. I tend to fixate on issues and only action makes it better. There isn’t any action I can take right now for the vast majority of issues going on in the world around me, other than the actions I’ve already taken, so I’m stewing in the uncertainties of what’s to come.
I have a lot of family in the at-risk category for this COVID-19 virus and that worries me. I am self-employed as a writer who doesn’t find it easy to write when my mind is occupied and that worries me.
I’m going to have to put off the next book in one series longer than I planned because I just don’t think I can write it right now. It’s a book that touches on the deaths of millions of people because of a virus, so that worries me. Do people really want to read about a virus killing everybody when there’s a real virus out there killing loved ones?
As for the books in my several other series, I’m having no luck getting to the computer and writing, or even reading the rest of the book I’m copyediting, because I’m too busy stewing in all these worries. A lot of my books are light and humorous (not all) and I’m just not in that headspace.
Maybe I’ll find a way. I hope so, because it would be nice to get lost in another world right now.
Wow. That blew up quick. Yesterday, one of the first days in a long while that I didn’t check my email until late in the day because my daughter is home from college on spring break, I got a response to a comment I left on another blog. Admittedly, it was a pointed comment that I probably should have kept to myself, but didn’t, but I did not expect to be followed back to my blog and find a nasty little comment waiting for me. If anything, I expected to be blocked on the blog where I commented or responded to in as equally a nasty fashion as everyone else on the post had been responded to, but nope.
The thing is, I also got an email, which was apparently sent hours earlier than the comment and was considerably more reasonable. But I guess since I didn’t respond quickly enough, I got the more ridiculous, over the top comment on my blog as my reward.
The thing is, I originally approved the comment because I thought that was going to be it. I still hadn’t checked my email so I figured a simple response was my best bet because I was busy and I thought the overreaction (the hissy fit if you will) spoke for itself.
Then I checked my email.
Let me just say that seeing the difference in tone in the earlier email from the comment really pissed me off.
Still, I responded as reasonably as I could. And got another two emails for my trouble.
By last night, my anger had built to the point where I just finally wrote a much more pointed email and then let it go.
And then got another fucking email.
I’m letting that one go. The guy is clueless. He sees what he wants to see, and he thinks the fact that he doesn’t intend to be perceived in a certain way absolves him of his behavior. Good for him. I don’t have room in my life for dealing with that shit.
In light of that, I did decide to unpublish the original comment he made on the blog. I have no interest in making my blog home to someone else’s hissy fit.
I have enough of my own to post here. ;D
The forced change of the clock this morning is just one reminder that laws linger long past their need in our bloated government bureaucracies.
I just want the government to pick a time and stick to it. Standard time or saving time either one will work for me. Just stop making us deal with this horrible sleep disruption twice a year. Some of us already have sleep and circadian rhythm problems and don’t adapt well to changes.
Is anyone going to listen to me? Probably not, but I’ll send another letter, as usual! I am forever optimistic that this will be the year. :-)
I’ll leave you with this link: Daylight Saving Time Is Here Again. So Is The Debate About Changing The Clocks.
There are times in your life when you have to make choices. Today I made a choice to scratch a few sites off my reading list. When authors start having hissy fits in public and trying to knock down other authors because of differing viewpoints on how to write, that’s my cue to move on.
Some authors claim to understand that other people have different processes, but when you read between the lines of their posts, you can see the bias in every word they write. They’re not just offering an alternative way to approach storytelling, they’re calling people who don’t want to do things that way “silly” and “scared” and it’s just… ugly, for lack of a better word, and I don’t like it. So I won’t be reading any more of it.
(The surprising thing is that this alternative way to approach storytelling is supposedly against the establishment, but since I’ve been writing this way for thirty-odd years, I find that hard to believe. I mean, no one ever told me I wasn’t supposed to be a discovery writer. I thought that was how most fiction writers worked—but maybe it was just the particular craft books I chose to learn from. I read all of Lawrence Block’s craft books (Spider, Spin Me a Web is still my favorite of all time), and Stephen King’s On Writing, and Bird by Bird and so so many others, and the bald-faced truth is that of the large number of craft books on my shelves only a few actually make a big deal about outlining. Being a discovery writer is a tried and true method of storytelling and I don’t know where this myth started that everyone pushes outlining so hard. Maybe inexperienced writers, and those that outlining works for? I don’t know. That’s just not been my experience. No one ever told me I needed an outline to write a story, not even the high school English teacher that made me write stories when I would have rather been reading!)
I won’t pick on the sites in question and post links, because I don’t think that’ll help anyone. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to see these kinds of conflicts, you’ll probably choose to avoid these sites on your own.
The good news is that this might mean I have fewer distractions in the mornings that lead me to flit around the internet. :D That’s always good!
February was not much of a writing month, to be sure. I spent a lot of time avoiding my book, because I knew something was wrong and didn’t want to deal with it. The last week of the month, I finally gave in and started reading it, about five to six chapters a day, and yep, once I got to chapter sixteen, I saw that everything I had been worried about was true.
The book is good. Until it isn’t.
Starting in chapter twenty-three or so, I’ve written a whole bunch of stuff that is completely incompatible with what came before. Up to that point, this is an awesome book. It works great. It’s exciting and fun and I love it. After that point, it doesn’t work. I don’t like it. And frankly, in places, it doesn’t even make sense.
That’s my fault, because I wrote a bunch of stuff for that damn streak I should have let die much sooner than I did (I quit the daily writing streak on Feb. 8th and could not be more happier that I did), and then I tried to fit those pieces together like a puzzle, and that’s just not the way I work best. So I made a mess. Of course I did. ;D
But—finally!—I’m ready to fix it and move on.
By tomorrow, I’ll be back to writing full steam ahead. I made a pact with myself on that and I will be honoring it. :D
However, that doesn’t help February’s word count.
It’s bad. My best February day was 697 words. My worst was -1,697 words. That’s pretty much how the month went. February had eight zero word days. The rest were mediocre at best when it came to word counts. The last week of the month was my most productive, if only because I finally got over my reluctance to read back through the book and tackle it head on.
February words: 228
There’s a lot of bad advice out there about writing. The antidote to bad advice is the truth.
No one can teach you how to write a story. They can tell you the elements that separate a strong story from a weak one, but they cannot tell you how to get that story out of yourself and onto a page. They can only tell you how they do it or how other people have told them they do it. But what works for them might not work for you. If they believe their way is the one true path, you’d better run, and run fast, because there is no one true path to writing a story. You’ll waste a lot of time beating your head against that wall if it isn’t the right process for you.
You have to figure out your process for yourself.
Do you sit down to a blank page and start writing with no idea where the story is about to take you, and end up with a finished story you’re happy with? Good. Do more of that.
Do you create the bones of a story and then go back and fill it in and then fill it in some more and some more until you have a finished story you’re happy with? Good. Do more of that.
Do you read back over your story as you go and tweak and fix and expand and contract the words on the page until you have a story you are happy with? Good. Do more of that.
Do you write like you’re afraid to look back because you’ll slow down and second guess yourself and lose all momentum and finally get to the end with a sigh of relief, happy that you’ve done it, and quietly sure that this is the best story you could have written and certain that nothing you could do now would change that? Good. Do more of that.
Do not let other people’s opinions about how you should write a story have power over you and your process.
Do what works for you. Seriously, this is the most important writing rule you will ever learn. :D
It’s the only rule you should follow.
I had a spam comment to deal with in the blog comments today (I moderate all comments so these things never make it onto the site). I get a lot of them, and the anti-spam plugin I preferred got bought out and turned into something I didn’t like, so I end up manually dealing with a bit of spam that makes it through my ever growing list of blacklisted words.
The comment was short, with the usual link in the comment field that pretty much always gives it away.
I have not checked in here for a while as I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are good quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend :)
Because this is how you snow people into thinking you’re real: You say something that only an asshole would say.
The coffee thing might or might not be to blame for February being in the dumps, but February’s word counts are way down. It’s my worst month since July.
I held off the usual slump for January with the daily writing, but it seems to have slipped its way into February instead.
I quit the daily writing on the 8th. I don’t regret ending it, not in the least, because it was time, but it’s very possible that is to blame for the usual January slump becoming a February slump instead.
Because of some things that have to happen this week, it’s not likely that I’ll be able to prop the month up with a rush of words written this week. But, as usual, I don’t care about the facts, and I’m going to push for a better ending to the month anyway.
Finally, I’ll be glad when this month is over so I can reevaluate the coffee situation. The benefits of being off caffeine have not outweighed the drawbacks as of yet. My sleep hasn’t improved in a noticeable way and that was the primary reason I decided to do this experiment.
There are other changes that are negative but I can’t say for sure the coffee fast has anything to do with them. When I think on it, I noticed a trend toward pessimism a few weeks before I eliminated coffee and caffeine.
I’ve quit coffee (and caffeine) so many times over the years that I feel like I should know everything there is to know about caffeine withdrawal. And yet, I’ve been surprised this time, and some of that may be because I’m paying more attention to the longer-term effects of it than I usually do.
Today I noticed for the first time that even though I don’t appear to be sleeping better than I was before I quit, I feel kind of like I’m getting a little boost in my energy levels. And despite the frequent awakening at night, as long as I stay in bed and push myself to get enough sleep, I haven’t been suffering from any daytime drowsiness. Which is surprising, because I am definitely not feeling like I’m sleeping well at night.
I’ve had a distinct lack of motivation to work since I quit caffeine too. I’m not sure that’s related though. It’s been 15 days since I decided to quit, and 11 since I’ve had more than a minor amount of caffeine (a couple of cups of cocoa, and half a glass of sweet tea from a restaurant ordered out of habit before I remember I wasn’t supposed to order tea!). But I started a downward spiral of not really wanting to work on this book 18 days ago.
I guess, in a sense, I was hoping that better sleep would equal more energy and motivation to write, but that has not been the case.
I’d say I’m just going to strong-arm myself back to writing, but when has that ever worked? I’d love it if it did, but that’s the curse of me. I’m not capable of strong-arming myself to do something I’m not in the mood to do and I’m pretty self-destructive about it too. Such as, I really need to finish this book, for the money, for my future, for the stability of writing as a career, but I keep putting it off and doing so many other things that don’t matter at all, because I just don’t want to write (fiction) at the moment.
If I can’t make myself do it for those very important reasons, what possible reason could motivate me?
(I don’t even want to write blog posts. I’ve started and stopped a whole handful since my last substantive post and littered my blog with unfinished drafts that I have now deleted. I’m writing this post because I think it matters, for me. I need to work out some thoughts I’ve been having and writing is how I do that.)
I need to finish this book, and I just don’t care. The book is good, so it’s not a book problem. I realized that the day before yesterday, when I went back to the parts that were giving me trouble right before I quit the daily writing, thinking I would have to delete and just force myself on a different path, but I picked up right where I’d left off with no trouble at all. I realized then that it’s not the book. It’s me.
I’ve kind of known this all along, but I was almost hoping it was the book because the book would be easier to fix. (Pick a starting off point, delete the rest, and start fresh. That’s a very effective fix for most problems.)
So what do I do? I do need to finish this book, if not for me, then for the people who have said they want to read it. Maybe that’s the trick. Maybe for a while, even if it’s just a little while, I need to focus on doing this for someone else. As a general rule, I really don’t like thinking about other people when I write, and I don’t think this would mean I have to do that. It would mean only thinking about other people to get me to sit down and write, which feels like a different kind of thing.
Maybe it is time to change how I think of a few things.
Since my intrinsic motivation to write seems to have disappeared on me (temporarily, I hope), I have to find something else to focus on to get me to the book every day.
Caffeine withdrawal might not be to blame at all. There are patterns to my desire to write that I have to fight now that writing is my career. If I were making enough money and stable enough financially to take long breaks, I’d just build them into my process. But I really don’t so that’s not a reasonable option right now.
I have an inkling of an idea for something I’ll try for a while, and I’m hoping it will help. Maybe I’ll write up a post about it later. Right now, I’m done with this one and feel a need to let some of these thoughts gel.
I should be beyond the caffeine withdrawal at this point, so I’m not sure why I’m not sleeping one iota better. In fact, I’m almost willing to say I’m sleeping worse.
Caffeine has never kept me from being able to fall asleep, but it does make it easier for me to forget that I need to go to bed and get some sleep, so I really thought this would help.
I’m giving it the full month so I’m not ready to call it quits, but I am disappointed and frustrated that I haven’t seen any sleep rewards from this effort.
Sleep was not great last night, but I feel fine today. I don’t have a headache and didn’t have one yesterday either, so I think I’m past that part of caffeine withdrawal.
I will say that my ability to concentrate is toast right now. I’ve had a two hour timer going this morning and I’ve had to stop it three times already to stop myself from pulling out my hair and tossing my computer across the room and there’s an hour and nine minutes left on the timer!
I’ve self-medicated my focus issues with caffeine for most of my life so I guess it was silly of me to think I wouldn’t have to deal with a backlash when I went off caffeine again.
Since the timer isn’t helping today I might just forego it altogether for the rest of the day. We’ll see. I’m going to cut this one short at one hour because I think I can push myself to get back to it for nine minutes, then take a break, then see if I have trouble getting started again.
I’ve made it through weaning myself off caffeine. Today was the first day I didn’t need any coffee (or tea) at all to stave off a headache. Now I’m waiting on any lingering withdrawal symptoms to fade away.
I don’t know that there are any left, to be honest, but I’m giving it another day or two before I expect myself to feel however it is I’m going to feel without caffeine.
As for today and the last several days? My mood has been in the dumps, and I haven’t slept one iota better than I slept before quitting caffeine.
But I’m holding out hope. Last night there were storms and lightning and wind that kept waking me up, and so last night can’t count as a test night of sleep. Tonight, on the other hand, I expect to be a good night, and if it isn’t, I’m definitely going to be disappointed. But like I said, I’m going to give it another day or two before I let myself get frustrated about anything.
I’d almost forgotten to write my January progress post, and although it’s a few days late, I don’t want to skip it because January was actually a pretty good month despite falling far short of the goals I had set for myself. I didn’t come anywhere near 3,600 words a day—or 4,000 or 2,400 or even 2,000.
But January did become my best January on record and that’s not nothing.
January words: 24,213
My next best January was back in 2014, when I logged 23,650 words. That said, none of the other Januarys really come close. My January average now stands at 9,161 words even with the new best January.
I also decided at the end of the month to quit coffee and tea, so that’s something I’m doing now to improve my sleep. I can’t say it’s working, yet, but I have hope! :)
Over the course of the month, I realized the daily writing posts weren’t working for me, so on January 31, I made the call to end them. I also realized that I needed to try something different for a while, so I’ve started putting the focus back on finishing one thing at a time.
I mostly do that anyway, but sometimes I don’t. From now on, the general rule is going to be to keep pushing at one thing until it’s done before I start working on anything else. It’s just too hard to tell the difference between self-sabotaging behaviors like procrastination and beneficial ones like dwell time. I might end up with better word counts on any one day, but I lose interest so easily that letting myself get distracted by other stories only seems to be hurting me in the long-run.
Now, back to focusing on February and working on this book I’m trying to finish. I’m trying to end it this week but if that’s going to happen, I definitely have to get in some words.
The coffee/caffeine weaning is going well. I woke up with a heavy head and a slight headache this morning but overall I feel good. I’ve got my 4 oz of coffee sitting beside me (made with only 1 tsp. of coffee) and I’ll have another in a few hours if this one doesn’t knock the headache back all the way. If it does, then I’ll skip the next one. :D
I always like to hurry these things along, but the one thing I don’t want to end up with is a raging headache so I’m going to be careful not to go too fast on this.
As for the writing, the daily writing streak is still going. I didn’t check on the number of days, because I don’t really care right now. It’s not my priority. I’m focused on a different experiment I’ll talk about later this month, after I see where it leads me in February.
I believe I know now why I was feeling so constricted by the extra challenges I had added to my daily writing streak. It was exactly the same thing I went through with the “no sweets before 1000” streak right before I had to end it. Because I’ve had two negative word days since I failed to meet it and finally made progress yesterday after getting rid of some cruft that was holding me back.
In other words, the perfectionism had cropped up and I kept putting off deleting stuff I needed to delete to make sure I got the words for the streak logged in my daily word count spreadsheet.
I’ve explained before that I don’t track written words separate from deleted words. It all comes together into my daily count. But my inner perfectionist sees a negative count as a failure even if I know I wrote enough words to count.
I deleted a couple of thousand words between 1/30 and 2/2. The only reason my word counts aren’t reflecting that is because I also wrote a couple of thousand words between 1/30 and 2/2.
You sure can’t see that in the numbers.
It’s a minor flaw in my system that I built in on purpose. I only track publishable numbers. My cumulative word count equals the manuscript word counts of all my written stories and all my stories that are in progress, and the moment a story gets tossed, that day’s word count is going to take a hit.
I seem to forget that when I decide to do challenges that don’t allow for the negative days. Maybe next time I’ll remember now that I’ve written it out. ;-)
I do delete and I’m generally not afraid to do that because words are just words. And that means my word counts are what they are and don’t always reflect my true effort for any particular day.
Sometimes you just have to cut your losses on a scene or chapter or three, and start over, maybe going in a different direction, maybe just coming at it again in a slightly different way, with a different perspective. (That’s what worked for me yesterday.) It’s important not to have mental barriers in place that stop you from doing what needs to be done. :)
I feel better, and the book has started moving forward again. I have a feeling I’ll make a lot of progress toward my ending today.
It’s time for an experiment!
I’ve quit caffeine cold-turkey too many times to count in my life and I know what to expect—so I am not going cold-turkey. The last time I quit caffeine, I weaned myself off it and it worked out so much better. That’s the path I’ll be taking this time, now that I’ve decided I need to quit caffeine for a while to see if I can improve my sleep.
I’ve been sleeping poorly lately, and I’ve been drinking more and more caffeine between coffee and tea (black and green), and I’m not reaching to say there is probably a connection. :) I’ve also been experiencing a few more headaches than usual lately, and I’d like to see if it’s the caffeine. I’m bad at routine, so some days I do too much and some days too little and this varying caffeine consumption can definitely cause withdrawal symptoms.
I worry, a bit, because coffee kind of brings the world to life around me, and usually (but not always) helps me focus and feel clear-headed. Sometimes it’s the opposite. I wake up feeling crystal clear and that first cup of coffee steals that away and makes me feel a bit too hyperactive. Those are the days I tell myself I’m going to wait a few hours the next morning before I have my coffee. I almost never do.
It also exacerbates that nervy feeling I get sometimes and can make me feel like I want to jump out of my skin. It only takes one cup too many to give me a bad case of the jitters and an upset stomach, and sometimes I have that cup before I’ve realized it and then I spend several hours feeling miserable. I’ve always thought I am highly sensitive to caffeine.
I’ve had a love / hate relationship with caffeine (coffee and tea) for most of my life. :D It’s time for a break.
I went to bed last night wondering if I had made the right decision in ending the daily postings because my inner perfectionist was telling me that I should have stuck it out even though it wasn’t helping simply because I had said I was going to try to do that this year.
The second thoughts didn’t last long, but there was still a niggle in the back of my brain, the inner voice of my personal critic, calling me a quitter, because of course there was. I manage to ignore that voice more often than not, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get to me after a while.
Negative self-talk is pretty much useless at self-motivation, but that voice never dies because it thinks it knows best and will browbeat the hell out of you trying to get you to listen.
Ignore the fucker. That’s all the advice I have about that.
But then a little miracle happened. :D
This morning I woke up early after a terrible night of sleep and started doing a little online reading. I came across Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s newest post, Nobody Cares.
If you’re doing work you don’t care about, then find a way to move on. Because you don’t care and nobody else does either, so why are you doing this again? Because you made up some perfect ideal, and now you’re trying to achieve it, and it’s only causing you emotional distress.
I always find it interesting that I seem to come across articles like this when I most need them. I realize that a lot of time this is simply confirmation bias at work, but it still often feels like a sign that I’ve chosen the right path.
So, yeah, I’ll take a pass on those second thoughts, thank you very much.