Revisiting a post: The “no timers” thing

I am finally settling into a nice work flow that does not rely on timers to keep me writing. I’m occasionally dipping into more than one story at a time, but I’m surprised at how often I’m staying focused on one book.

It’s obvious to me now that something was wrong then, but isn’t that how it always is?

I can’t remember at this point exactly when I decided I was going to seriously focus on not using timers, because I’d posted about abandoning them, then went back to using them, before deciding to give them up one final time.

On 8/10, I got rid of my time logs and sessions.

In September, I began using timers again.

Sometime in October, I ditched the timers one final time.

On 10/21, I gave up on daily writing.

On 11/14, I had my best one-day word count to date. I broke through the 6,000 words in a day barrier.

My word counts have steadily increased month over month despite (or because of) the changes in my routines.

8/31/18 7,840
9/30/18 13,358
10/31/18 20,602
11/30/18 31,928

I’m writing and I’m enjoying it, and I’m not driven by a timer! It feels wonderful.

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.

Done with timers; wrote more last night but can’t use any of it

So last night I had this idea that maybe what was bothering me about this story was the way I handled the climax. I took my notebook up to bed with me and made a few notes, and then before I knew it, I’d written two pages of new material (and it’s a big notebook with narrow lines).

This is the notebook I’m talking about. I love this notebook. However, I’ve since realized that for long-term preservation of my notebooks, I’m going to have to abandon the metal spirals because of the potential for rust. Ah, well. I have three more in aqua and two in charcoal. I won’t leave them unused. I just won’t buy more.

Of course, the plan this morning was to get it entered and add the word count to yesterday’s total.

Only when I looked back at the scene I’d written in the climax where I would need to insert this (and go in a somewhat different direction) I realized I have a decent scene there and that the new material just wasn’t going to work.

On the other hand, I like the new material, so as far as I’m concerned it still happens in the book, just without the intervention of my main character. It’s part of the hidden story and I’m going to use it in the next book. Probably as the opening. In fact, just typing that has made me feel certain that, yes, the stuff I wrote last night (at least a chunk of it) will be the beginning of my next book in this series. :-)

(Hidden story is the part of the story that isn’t revealed in the story but that must occur within the time frame of the story for the other things to occur—not to be confused with backstory, which occurs before the start of the story.)

Hidden story in this book could easily become backstory in the next book, but since I’m thinking this little bit of hidden story is going to become the opening scene of the next book, it won’t be hidden story or backstory. It’ll just be part of the story. :-)

So, now I just need to get to work on today’s writing and finish this story.

First, no more timers. I’m not even talking about temporarily. I’m doing away with timers.

I know that didn’t work for me at the beginning of this year, but that was because I was using timers in conjunction with no schedule and no goals either. That was a mistake.

I know what I need as far as word counts: 500 words a day minimum, 3,000 words a day goal.

The goal is there to help make a particular dream I have a reality. I want to move. I want a new house. I want a pool. I need money to make that happen. :-)

I really don’t need to track anything else. Those are the numbers I need, each day. One is easily accomplished, the other is a stretch. Tracking my daily words is the only metric I need to know if I’m doing what I need to be doing (500 a day) or want to be doing (3,000 a day).

Update #1

My internet was giving me troubles this morning so I had to delay finishing this post, but that’s okay, because I spent the time writing.

I’ve written 405 words this morning and I need another 95 before I can stop for lunch. I’ll be back with an update when I have them. :-)

Update #2

Time for lunch! My word count is now 559 words.

Update #3

And I’m at 545. Yes, I’m going backwards. Except I’m not because I’m closing in on my ending. Consider it the cost of nearing the end. I clean up as I go.

Update #4

623 words were it for the day, but it is the official restart of my 500 words a day streak—if I can do it again today! Life happened, and I had a big chunk of time between 5:40ish and midnight that I didn’t get back to writing. I did a little more until I went to bed oh so late and was really sad that I didn’t push for more writing so I could finish. But I didn’t finish. Now it’s time to get started with today’s writing, so moving on.

Using the stopwatch instead of the timer—and epiphanies

So today I’m writing with my little timer software set to the stopwatch instead of the timer. I’ve started each session with the intention of writing until something distracts me. Surprisingly, my session lengths have been pretty regular.

This is an experiment, really, because I’ve tried straight-up timing my sessions before (versus using the timer to limit session length) and I didn’t have much luck with it. It was time to give it another try, and I’m pleased with how it’s working out.

Session 1

30 minutes. 384 words. 768 wph. I stopped because my phone dinged with a message in Hangouts.

Session 2

36 minutes. 214 words. 357 wph. Too much cycling and editing of session 1 words.

Session 3

25 minutes. 98 words. 235 wph. Way too much editing of the words from sessions 1 and 2.

Session 4

20 minutes. 106 words. 318 wph. I stopped because I’ve been drinking too much tea this morning and I had no choice. :D

Sessions 5–7

43 minutes. 399 words. 557 wph. Frustration with my plot stopped me this time. I had to have a break or I was going to break something. :D

35 minutes. 281 words. 489 wph. More plot frustrations!

16 minutes. 212 words. 795 wph. Stopped by the phone ding again.

I’ve reached my day’s minimum word count.

It should not have taken me all day to do 3.4 hours of writing, but it really did. I made a note of the start time in my journal, and it was 11:19 am. I ended session 7 at 6:52 pm. So for 3.4 hours of writing, I used about 7.5 hours of the day. I wrote out a (ridiculously) long summary of where my time went and it made me realize my expectations of how much actual, focused time I can get out of 7.5 hours in the middle of the day might be unrealistic.

Getting my expectations in line with reality might go a long way toward keeping me from coming up with ridiculous plans for myself that I have no hope of following through on. Grandiose plans, I think that book The 7 Secrets of the Prolific called them. (It was a good book, if you haven’t read it.)

Yes, I make grandiose plans. I use math to support those plans, and I never build in the time I need for writing these posts, making my notes by hand, or anything else that probably uses up significant chunks of untracked time.*

I’d like to come up with some ideas of how I can stop that from happening, but the only things coming to mind are things I’ve tried a thousand times before and found completely ineffective. And I’m not willing to make myself stop these posts. Although I should probably give some serious thought to trimming them down to basics. I ramble. A lot. And talk about stuff that doesn’t really matter. Mostly because I think better when I’m writing things out, and it’s also easier for me to remember things I’ve written out.

Anyway, I should end this post, because I’ve actually been at it since (*holy shit) 9:04 pm and it’s now 10:04. There you go, an answer to the question of what happens to all that time I lose during the day when I’m writing.

These posts really do use up significant chunks of time. This could explain why my best month ever of writing consistently was February 2013, where there’s a distinct lack of posts here on this blog (as in, none) because I wouldn’t let myself get online before I’d finished my day’s writing and by the time I was done, I just didn’t want to write anymore. (See this lone March 2013 post for February’s numbers. Ignore the rest of the post for the sake of my pride. :D)

Anyway, I now have more to think about than ever. It’s starting to look like the more I write here, the less I write there, and that’s not a good thing at all. In a sense, I’m using up my writing energy writing everything except my books.

I need new habits that prioritize my fiction writing. So tomorrow I’m going to start a little experiment. No more wordy blog posts for a while, and not even an unwordy one unless I’ve finished my day’s writing. I’ll give it a while (a week, maybe two) and see if it makes any difference, good or bad.

Session totals

  1. 384
  2. 214
  3. 98
  4. 106
  5. 399
  6. 281
  7. 212
  • 1,694 words
  • in 3.4 hours
  • for a pace of 498 wph

In fact, looking at this post now, it’s 724 words long! Seriously, ugh.