Looking back and I see a pattern

I was looking back at my most consistent year (based on variations between monthly word counts) and randomly reading some journal entries and blog posts that I did around that time and it seems all of them were about schedules (those that I picked at random, not all my entries). But I came across this one and it really brings back memories and seems like the perfect accompaniment to my current thinking: “Reasons matter: a rambling essay.”

I think it’s an interesting coincidence that scheduling my writing were the topics of those posts and entries, considering how I’m revisiting a schedule now. And the post linked above really does still apply. I could write the same things today and it would be just as true. Added to the things about a daily schedule that I wrote a couple of days ago, I see a path to success if I can just keep reminding myself that detours are okay as long as I always make my way back to the main path.

Perfectionism has no place in my life.

On that note, it’s past time to get started with the daily writing, so I’m going to leave this post here. :)

Timed sessions are back (because there’s no such thing as never again)

This post is the result of several drafts. I started it off intending to talk about my attempt to try scheduled writing again. That didn’t work out so the post fell by the wayside.

Me and writing schedules do not fit together, and I can’t believe I’m having to say this again, because I know this.

I’ve been trying to be diligent about not giving in to the urge to use timers for writing, but last night, I realized just how counterproductive that resistance has been.

I didn’t want to give in, but nothing has really been working for me lately. (Well, except for OneNote. My canceled subscription ended without a hitch and I never noticed a thing.) I need to write. I have a book to finish and I am ready (really ready) to become a prolific writer. I’ve challenged myself to improve how much and how often I write so that I can end this year in a much better place than it started. If that doesn’t happen, I at least want to get back to where I was just two years ago (production-wise) and that has felt impossible these last several months.

It’s taking me a very long time to get back into the groove of writing. I feel like I don’t even remember how to do it some days. Everything is choppy and annoying and nothing is coming easy, and frankly, I’m boring myself with some of the stuff I’m writing. Which means I’m probably going to bore other people too.

I suffer from the delusion that you can stop doing something for six months and come back to it as good as you were before. :o

Nope! It takes time to get back into a groove and get comfortable again–to get into habits and routines that make things easier. No one would expect a pro-ball player to take six months off (seriously off, not secretly puttering at it) and then be right back in the zone the very month they came back. It would take time. Practice, exercise, effort. I tend to ignore all that and just think I should be able to fall right back into things after some of my extended breaks and not miss a beat. Oops. Most of us know that’s not how it goes!

So last night I used a few 12 minute sessions to get back into the groove of things and it felt great. I had really missed my timers. Sure, it’s nice to write sometimes and look up and realize I’ve written a lot of words in what feels like no time at all. But it is also nice to write and know that I need to keep going just a little longer before I quit because I might actually get somewhere if I do.

I’ve gone right back to the 48 minute sessions I had decided were the perfect length the day before I decided to abandon timers. (I must not have written about this here because I could find a diary entry about it but not a blog post.) I had figured out that 48 minutes was the best length for so many good reasons, but when I sat down to do them, I could only do one and kept putting the next sessions off, and all that angst led me to decide I was done with the timers. So… good and bad, those 48 minute sessions. :D

I set up a simple table in my spreadsheet to track my current session, and I decided that sometimes, I might want to focus on smaller bits—

Like this:

Words WPH
12 0
12 0
12 0
12 0
0 0

—or longer bits—

Like this:

Words WPH
48 0
48 0
48 0
48 0
0 0

—but which I choose is really just going to depend on what kind of day I’m having.

:)

In the end, it’s pretty clear that I’ve come full circle. It’s 2018 and without even realizing it, I have come back to the very place I talk about in that post.

That post, which I came across today for the first time in ages, could have been written yesterday, it is so close to my current thoughts and goals.

A week ago, I made some calculations (without any memory of that post and what it contained) and came up with 2,192 words as my daily goal. I didn’t post here about that change to my 2,000 WPD plan, because 2,000 was a nice round number and I didn’t think it mattered. Then last night, I decided 2,400 was better, because it fit neatly into the timed writing goals I was working out and would mean I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping my 2,000 words a day average if I missed a day or two of writing every so often.

Really, truly, it’s uncanny how apt that post is for what I’m dealing with right now.

So that’s where I am. :)

Now that’s enough of that. I have writing to do.

08-07-2018 writing

Writing today ~ I’m planning 2 x 53 minutes before noon.

Wish me luck. I want to do more writing than editing but I do still need to get through a troublesome chapter 6 during this time block.

I’ve decided 100% that I need to adhere to some kind of schedule even while trying to write as much as possible. I might, in fact, need a schedule more than ever for that kind of writing because it’s easy to sit at the computer all day and think I’ll have plenty of time to get started.

But getting started is the hard part and I don’t do it well. :)

Today the schedule is this:

10 to 12
1 to 3
4 to 6
7 to 9

I’m trying to write as much as possible right now because I really needed/wanted to get this book out last month and didn’t and this month is already zipping away. It’s the 7th for goodness sakes.

And if that “goodness sakes” bothers you, just think of it as a regional thing. No one actually says “for goodness’ sake” around here, even if that’s what they really mean.

July 9, 2018 Monday writing

Here’s another post about my writing day.

On the one hand, I’m pleased that I started off my plan to write 2,000 words a day somewhat successfully. I ended up with 1,825 words. Not 2,000, but close enough that it won’t drag my average down in the long run (I hope). On the other hand, I’m really disappointed that it took all freaking day to do it, and I didn’t even make it to four solid hours of timed writing. I clocked only 2.67 hours, in fact.

I’m going to say this up front. I have to take breaks between most writing sessions and that’s just the way it is. I pee a lot. I have to move my legs. I can’t sit still for long periods. If I don’t move, I can’t focus. If I don’t click away from my book when I get too wound up, I can’t focus. I need a lot of help focusing, to be blunt.

The most hours of timed writing I’ve ever logged in a day is just over ten and a half and that was the hardest day I’ve ever spent writing. I started early in the morning and I finished late that night. It’s also my record word count day at the moment.

I just cannot sit and write for four hours straight. It’s currently an impossibility for me. I don’t know if it always will be, but I suspect I will never be that person who sits down and doesn’t move until their daily word count has been reached. Well, maybe if my daily word count was like 500 words or something. I might make it. Some days. :)

But one thing I don’t expect is to end up with four hours of timed writing from a 12–4 writing schedule. That’s a completely unreasonable goal for me, and I know it.

But three would be nice. So I’m working on it. I’m going to really focus in on that 12–4 writing time and try to get a consistent three hours of timed writing out of it. The rest of the day? I don’t care. I’ll just do what I can do.

Now back to the post about my writing day. Here’s the log, which I wrote in OneNote yesterday but got too tired to post before I went to bed. It’s long! I recorded a lot of minutia.

  • Start at 12 pm and get as close to 4 hours of timed writing in before 4 pm as I can.
  • Do 20 minute sessions today to help me stay more focused on speed.

(Although the 60 minute sessions do work to keep me focused during them, I don’t like starting them, and so I always feel like I end up doing less writing in the end. I should confirm that with numbers but maybe some other time.)

12:23 – Just finished my first session of the day.

Session #1 didn’t go great. I ended the session at -22 words. Too much editing of yesterday’s words and no forward momentum at all. I will try to correct that with session #2.

To help limit the necessity of breaks, I had coffee earlier so I could move on to something less likely to force me away from my desk every five minutes. I’m having hot water over lemon and honey, instead.

Now, unfortunately, I do need a quick break. :D Be right back.

12:39 – I’m back and ready to start session #2.

1:00 – Session #2 done. 211 words. Total words: 189. Still in the weeds of yesterday’s work. However, I ended up expanding one conversation and that’s where the new words came from.

I posted an update to my CampNaNoWriMo cabin and to a small writer’s group I’m part of on Discord. Grabbed lunch and am eating at my desk today because I forgot to eat lunch before I started at 12.

1:25 – Ready to start session #3.

1:46 – Session #3 done. 156 words. Total words: 345.

2:06 – I had a short break to check the mail (real mail!) because I saw the postman put a package in the box, and sure enough, it was my keyboard replacement and the fan. I’m still waiting on the frame and I’ve decided to let that come before I dig into the computer for the repairs.

I’m actually liking this temporary keyboard quite a bit. I might continue to use it. We’ll just have to see. Now, time to start session #4.

3:02 – Finished session #4. 357 words. Total words: 702. Don’t know where the rest of my time went. I didn’t leave the computer. I think I looked at few reports or something, and time must have gotten away from me before I clicked “Start” on the timer.

3:36 – A cup of cocoa and coffee later, and I am back. I think the honey and lemon wasn’t such a good alternative to coffee, not for the reason I wanted it as an alternative. The lemon seemed to be just as big an irritant to my bladder as the coffee usually is! But at least with the coffee, I get a little caffeine high. So I won’t be doing that substitution again as a way to cut down on breaks, because it did not cut down on breaks. :)

Starting session #5.

4:00 – Finished session #5. 297 words. Total words: 999. About halfway to my initial 2,000 words goal.

4:17 – Starting session #6.

4:41 – Finished session #6. It was a good one! 388 words. Total words: 1,387. That was a pace of 1,164 words an hour. If I kept that up, I’d be done with my 2,000 in a snap. I’m not holding my breath, but it could happen. :)

4:59 – Starting session #7. Hopefully I’ll get a few of these in before I stop again. I’m wearing myself out here with all the jumping up and down out of my seat.

5:29 – Did not start session #7. I played a game of spider solitaire first. Now I’m starting session #7. I’m actually really kind of sleepy and tired. But I’m going to do at least this one more session before I take a dinner break.

5:58 – And an unexpected interruption derailed that attempt. Starting session #7 now.

6:39 – Finished session #7. 211 words. Total words: 1,598 words. My pace slowed, but yeah, no surprise there.

8:56 – I stopped after the last session for a dinner break. I would have preferred to get my 2,000 words first but time kept getting away from me so I decided to stop early enough to come back after. So here I am. Ready to start session #8.

9:54 – Or not. I played a game of spider solitaire instead, ran some numbers on my spreadsheet, and then dealt with an interruption. I’m going to finish my game of spider solitaire and then start session #8.

I’m disappointed that my 4 hours of writing have taken all day. And that I haven’t reached 2,000 words yet.

I’m giving some thought to what I can do differently but there’s not a lot, not while I have people in the house with me all day. I’m just too prone to distraction and I tolerate too many interruptions, from others and myself.

It would serve me well to get up early and start writing while it’s quiet, but I’ve gotten into a nice routine with the 12–4 schedule and I don’t want to mess that up. I also kind of like not having to jump right into writing. If it were just me here, I don’t there’d be any problem at all with 12–4. It’s just that I’m not here alone most days and won’t be until mid-August, and then only some days, and not even close to most of them.

So, I have to learn to get by even with the interruptions. Things won’t change for a few more years, I expect. Time waits on no one.

10:35 – Alright. I’m done with that game. I’m not finished with it, just done. The biggest impediment to this plan of mine is my laptop’s broken keyboard. I’d love to take my computer up to bed and sit there and do some last minute writing but I can’t, not unless I want to have my space bar doing ridiculous things to my book. So I’d better get started. I’m fast running out of all steam. Pretty soon I’m not going to even care if I reach 2,000 words today and I’ll give up. Happens every time I let myself get sleepy.

Starting session #8 now. Also, my music has reached the “driving me crazy” phase of the day, so I just turned it off, with prejudice.

11:53 – I’m not sure when session 8 ended, but I wrapped up by updating my spreadsheet and then ended up working on the story a little more after that.

Total words for the day: 1,825.

Tomorrow, the only thing I’m going to focus on is staying on task and getting my sessions done. I think I’ll try 30 minute sessions and see how that goes.

July 8, 2018 Sunday writing

It’s 9:18 in the morning and I’m going to start today’s writing soon. I prefer to write every day, so Sunday is no day off for me. I’ve tried taking weekends off, but I just do not do well when I change up my routine. I’m much better at sticking to something if I don’t allow myself to ever skip a day.

My current philosophy: write every day!

So here I am, ready to write. I was trying to stick to 12–4 as my writing time, and I do plan to go back to that, but right now, I’m falling so far behind where I want to be with my current book in progress that I’m trying every day to start a little earlier than that.

The plan today: write in 60 minute sessions to limit breaks and distractions. I would like to write at least 4,000 words today but I’m not setting that as a goal. I’ll be satisfied if I just write as much as I can during the 6 sessions I have planned.

So really, my goal is to write for 6 hours today. And a subgoal of that is to focus on writing as fast as I can during those sessions.

9:22 – I’m going to grab breakfast, make coffee, feed the stray cat and her brood, and sit down to start my first timer. I hope this doesn’t take too long. I’d like to be writing before 10 am.

10:40 – I’m starting a little later than I wanted but the first timer session is ready to go!

I’ll probably do my updates in OneNote and post them here after the fact. I do happen to find the internet very distracting.

12:30 – Finished first session. 259 words.

12:51 – Ready to start session two. Try not to judge so hard and write more freely. The story isn’t going to fall apart if I have a little fun.

1:13 – I got distracted after all. I’m trying to find a new launcher for my phone and I spent a few minutes looking at those in Play and sending them to my phone. But I’m ignoring my phone for now and getting started with this second session instead.

3:32 – Stopped to pre-prep lunch/dinner and ended up working on my spreadsheets instead of finishing my second 60 minute session. I have 23 minutes left, but it looks like I won’t be getting back to it until after this meal.

Time is really getting away from me.

5:25 – I’m ready to get back to writing now. Time to finish that last 23 minutes, then start another session right away if I can.

6:02 – And there I went again. I spent some more time working on my spreadsheet, running various numbers. I think I’ve decided pretty definitively (sure sounds like it, huh?) that I’m going to try again to start averaging 2,000 words a day. Not just as an average though, but as a “more days than not” thing.

I have books I want to write, sooner rather than later, and I’m just not writing them as fast as I want to. I mean that. I want to write these books sooner than I’ll ever be able to write most of them if I don’t improve my daily average. Not to say that I wouldn’t appreciate an increase in income, but I really want to write these books and other books, and more books, and just… I want to be prolific as a writer. Don’t ask me why. I don’t really know, and even though I’ve thought of a thousand reasons why it might be, none of those reasons feel right to me. I just know I want to do this. I want to be prolific.

And there’s a reason 2,000 words a day feels prolific to me.

2,000 words a day gets me 730,000 words a year, and that’s 14 books of about 52,000 words each. Some could be shorter, some longer. The actual average for all my novels is 60,844 words. But even at 60,000 words for every book I were to write, 2,000 words a day would still allow me to write 12 books a year.

At 12 books a year, I would get through all the books I’d like to write in about 3 years.

That’s where I’d like to be.

2,000 words a day.

Now I’m going to have to make today the first of many 2,000 word days. Anything less will be a joke on me. :)

6:14 – Time to finish that second hour long session.

6:54 – Finished session two, finally. 332 words. 591 words total.

7:11 – Ready to start session three. But first, a quick game of solitaire.

7:18 – I won! Okay, time to get busy now. I’m really going to try to write more words this time. I don’t know if I can do it, but I’m going for at least 1,000 words in this hour. It’ll be a freaking miracle if I reach it, but I want to try.

8:16 – A few small interruptions mean I have 10 minutes left on the timer even though it’s been an hour since I started this session. I’m not sure why I stopped, but I’m having a lot of trouble concentrating. It felt like I didn’t have a choice but to take a quick break. It’s also obvious that I’m going to come up far short of the 1,000 words I wanted for this session. However, at least I’ve been writing and I do have some words to show for it—and some forward progress in the story. Ugh. I need to get back to those 10 minutes. Okay, okay. I’m going.

10:55 – I did not get back to those 10 minutes. Honestly, I’m just going to have to remember today tomorrow, and try not to make the same mistakes. I started a little too late, I didn’t stay focused and ended up sitting at the computer much too long doing unimportant things unrelated to writing, and that tired me out before I needed to be tired out.

Anyway, I’m calling today done. I added 1,053 words to my novel today.

June 1–15 progress

Today I’m writing. I’ve written something every day for seventeen days now, in fact. Some days, of course, were longer than others when it comes to how much time I spent writing. On the whole, though, I’ve stuck to my 12–4 schedule and created a bit of a routine for myself.

The fact is, I need to start finishing books again. I’ve had way too much time off on the whole over the last couple of years and it’s time for me to start pushing myself again to do more.

I can’t really explain why I hit such a bump in my productivity. I have children, and they’re definitely in a transitional phase since they’re both in the 18-20 year old range now (and were in the 16-18 year old range when I started to fail a bit at keeping myself writing). Their transitional phase translates into a transitional phase for me, and I’ve just now accepted that despite the societal expectations I grew up with, my kids aren’t leaving home any time soon. So my own transitional phase isn’t quite the one I was expecting, and I need to find a way to work through it.

At this point, it’s like having adult roommates who don’t pay rent. I’m sure of only one thing: I don’t like it. On the other hand, I’m not exactly rushing to kick the kiddos out on their tushes. :D I do love them and want what’s best for them. Neither are in a position to take on the real world just yet, no matter how ready I am for them to do it.

Too bad, so sad for me. :D I will cope though, and I seem to be getting my writing mojo back. Not that I have any way of knowing for sure that their transition to adulthood has been my problem, but hey, I need a scapegoat and the kiddos make for a good one.

The biggest issue, really, has just been the changing routines. No school days to count on. College has different expectations for them and their schedules, and work too, for college students tend to have the kind of work that has variable schedules.

All this means that my schedule feels in limbo more often than not. But no more. That’s the reason I set my 12–4 schedule and why I’ve been sticking to it. I just really need some routine in my days. If I can hang to it for long enough, I’m hoping it will counteract all the unpredictability I’ve been dealing with for a few years now.

Now, on to the writing update.

June 1–15: 7,175 words.

I scheduled writing time and finally got started writing again

After months of having trouble getting started writing again after finishing my last book, I went to bed one night with the plan to sit down the next day from 12–4 and write.

Nothing else had been working to get me started again and this really was a last ditch effort to just put in some time at the computer. I admit, the first day, I spent the majority of my time doing writing related things and very little writing. In fact, that’s still what’s happening after nearly two weeks, but I’ve maintained the schedule and have finally got an opening for my new book written and hope that I’m finally putting that terrible creative dry spell behind me.

 

My schedule is killing my productivity

No joke, my schedule is killing my productivity. The unfortunate truth is that I need a schedule. That doesn’t seem to matter. I can’t stop myself from constantly making changes to any schedule I create, and even when I leave it wide open for writing and just fill in the basics like lunch, supper, and the like, I still can’t stop messing with it.

It turns out that having a schedule is just a massive distraction I don’t know how to handle.

Is this that moment where I look back and realize I really should have seen this coming? Probably.

Something new

It’s interesting, because I thought I’d tried just about everything to get myself writing faster and more regularly, but obviously I haven’t tried everything, because I tried something yesterday that’s working out pretty well (between yesterday and today) and I really don’t remember having tried it before (or at least in this way).

Here’s what I did (and am doing again today): I simply listed out the hours of the day (10–11, 11–12, etc.) and am running the timer during that time, accumulating as much time as I can, without any specific session lengths, with the goal of reaching 500 words for each hour in the day.

Yesterday I ended up with this:

Minutes

Words

Session

WPH

50

246

246

295

30

439

193

386

25

207

-232

-557

20

199

-8

-24

33

240

41

75

38

571

331

523

39

1138

567

872

31

1557

419

811

27

1894

337

749

22

2224

330

900

16

2270

46

173

12

2342

72

360

WPH

410

Hours

5.716667

Which really did not seem bad to me at all. If I hadn’t had such a slow start finishing/editing chapter 23, I would have done a lot better on my word count.

Today I’m doing the same thing as yesterday. I’ve had some interruptions and delays that I’m hoping won’t affect my day too much, in the end, but it remains to be seen how things are going to work out today. Overall, though, I’m really liking this structure around my writing. It’s loose in some ways but strict in others (I can’t change the fact that 11–12 and 12–1 have already passed and I got no writing done), and I like it.

Gotta go now, because I have a personal deadline I need to meet. I’ll post results for this informal little experiment in a follow-up post sometime later. :)

I have five minutes to write this post

I realized yesterday that what I’ve been doing isn’t working. I haven’t been writing at the pace I want to write, and I got frustrated last night, set my timer for 30 minutes, and wrote 449 words. Which came to 898 words an hour, and if that isn’t some kind of sign, I don’t know what is. :D

(Okay, yes, it could have totally been a huge coincidence that yesterday my goal was to write 898 words in each of eight blocks of writing, but I’d rather see it as a sign because something has to change if I’m going to successfully finish this book and start finishing and releasing books with more speed and regularity. Once every 7 or 8 months isn’t often enough for a variety of reasons.)

Oops, well, time is up. Suffice to say I’m feeling good today, I’m going to start with the goal to write 1,557 words, but I also have a goal to write for a minimum of 5 hours (timed writing) today and I’m starting early. It’s 9:31 am.

Goal 1: From 9:30 to 10:45 finish two 30 minute timed writing sessions.

Result: 123 words, 1 hour of writing. Too many interruptions of my first session! Unfortunately, the interruptions were clearly not that big a deal, because the second 30 minute session had no interruptions at all and I didn’t improve. Too much self-editing as I went was the problem.

Goal 2: From 11:00 to 12:15 finish two 30 minute timed writing sessions.

Result: 468 words, 1 hour of writing. Finished a tad late at 12:32. But not bad at all. Will probably adjust start times for following sessions because I need a longer break than I’m going to get if I stick with 1 pm. But I’ll decide that closer to 1 pm. :)

(Yep. I adjusted my start times for the following by one hour.)

Goal 3: From 2:00 to 3:15 finish two 30 minute timed writing sessions.

Result: 522 words, 1 hour and 1 minute of writing. No problems at all in these sessions.

Goal 4: From 4:00 to 5:15 finish two 30 minute timed writing sessions.

Result: 333 words, 1 hour of writing. Finished a lot late on this one at 5:52 pm. Not sure at all how that happened. I had fewer interruptions than I had with my first session today, so it’s left me scratching my head…

Goal 5: From 6:00 to 7:15 finish two 30 minute timed writing sessions.

Result: 592 words, 1 hour of writing. Finished a bit late but done, done, done. :)

And there you go. Done, at 7:48 pm.

Final tally: 2,038 words and 1 minute over 5 hours of timed writing.

Can I explain why today just worked, when yesterday and the day before didn’t? Not really. Sometimes it’s not easy for me to recognize when I need structure. Sometimes structure chokes me, and sometimes, like today, it’s the only thing that can keep me focused.

The challenge of quotas

I was writing myself a rambling note in OneNote and I had this realization: Word count quotas don’t hurt the way time quotas do. One is a challenge, the other is work.

Anytime I make a schedule, I’m setting myself time quotas. I could try to look at it differently, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t matter. I have an inherent dislike of schedules and I’m tired of trying to force myself into that box.

So here’s the thing. I deleted all references to a writing schedule from my calendar. Time blocking, fixed schedule productivity, etc., they’re all just ways to tie my brain into knots. I get the most joy (and do the most work) when I’m pushing myself to write, but not when I’m pushing myself to write at a certain time of the day, for a certain length of time.

Word count quotas have a purpose in my world. They provide the kind of structure I work best in.

It does mean my life is a little messier. No set start and end times for my days. But you know what? I really like it better this way.

I’ve been struggling with this schedule again over the last few weeks and I’ve gained nothing from it, except stress I really don’t need at this time of year while I’m already stressed about a looming deadline (or two). If I keep to my goal of writing about 2000 words a day on average, I’ll get this book written and I’ll be able to make an educated guess about how many books I’ll be able to write every year, and I’ll reach my overriding goal to become a prolific writer.

:D

So here’s an early New Year’s Resolution for 2017: I’m done with schedules. It’s back to word count quotas for me.

I’m adding a 250 words a day minimum, and I don’t have to count deleted words in this. (So my actual daily word count log entry might be -1,112 words, but if I wrote 250, it’s good.) Every day, because I fall off and I take a nap before I get back up. ;)

After that, it doesn’t really matter where I end up for the day. My scale remains the same.

1,000 = low word count day
2,000 = average word count day
3,000 = moderate word count day
4,000 = high word count day
5,000 = record breaking word count day (always, because 5k is huge!)

I want more average to moderate days and fewer low word count days and every so often, I’d like to have some high and record breaking days just for fun.

Every day my goal will be to evaluate where I’m at, then do my best to reach or maintain a 2,000 word a day average, and if I can get a bit ahead… that would be fantastic, because I still dream of writing ALL the books. ;)

New schedule update

So is this a new schedule update or a new schedule update?

Just pretend it’s either. It is a new schedule, and this is a new update.

Here’s the thing: I really like the new schedule. Here’s the next thing: I haven’t been able to stick to it for an entire day once since I set it. Not all three blocks for all three 2 hour sessions. That was Sunday. This is Wednesday.

Today I’ve managed to miss hitting the 2 hour goal for the first block (by 14 minutes) and skip the second block of time (1:00–3:30) altogether. I’m still okay for the third block to start at 6:00 and run to 8:30, so that’s good, but I really need to make up that second block, so I’ve planned to give it a second attempt at 9:00 pm.

If all this is true, why do I like this schedule?

  1. Because I really feel the need for structured work hours right now, while everything else seems to unstructured around me (and it is).
  2. Because it’s helping me rein in the time I spend not writing during writing time.
  3. Because it’s nice to have time where I don’t expect myself to be writing.

A new writing schedule

I have a new writing schedule. I wasn’t sure I was going to try a schedule again so soon, but I realized I just wasn’t getting anything done without one right now. So I created this one. (I’ve been sick and I’ve found it’s really hard to work when you feel sick.)

9 to 11:30
1 to 3:30
6 to 8:30

Of course, I keep finding myself wanting to push all the writing time closer together, with very short breaks between, but I stop myself, because it feels pretty obvious to me that one reason this one is working for me (and it really is at the moment) is because of those generous breaks. They give me time to breathe and they help keep writing from feeling like all work and no play.

My goal for each 2.5 hour block is finishing a 2 hour timed session, during which I pause for breaks and come right back to the computer.

I didn’t finish all the time yesterday, and I haven’t (and won’t) finish it all today, but I have finished considerably more than I’ve been doing and I’m really happy with that.

I’ve let myself get behind—by a lot

I have a deadline coming up, very much a “can’t miss this date” deadline. It’s making me anxious.

I mean, technically, I could miss it. The date is still listed as tentative, but in my head, I know it’s not a deadline I need to miss. I don’t want to miss it. The fact is, though, that it’s really getting beyond my current capabilities to reach unless I have some kind of breakthrough in my writing.

So here I go trying to force that breakthrough.

I’ve found a schedule I don’t remember having tried before, and I’m going to try it today.

It pushes my pace a little bit, but nothing out of reach (~667 wph needed to stay on track). Where I’ll have the most trouble is just focusing on start and end times for my sessions and actually doing them when I’m supposed to do them. Five minutes late getting started is no big deal, but my history shows that I tend to get behind early, start every session late, until it’s snowballed and I’ve eliminated massive swaths of writing time just by letting five minutes here and there become twenty.

Here’s the plan.

1.5 hour writing sessions where the goal is 1,000 words each session. (Yes, I’ve tried this part before.)
.5 hour breaks between sessions (This is where it’s different. The writing sessions are all evenly spaced all day long.)

Here’s where I’ll update results.

12:00–1:30 – 1,296 wordsWoo hoo! Things are off to a good start.
2:00–3:30 – 977 wordsOnly 1.23 hours, because I’ve fallen pretty far behind. I’ll have to skip the next session to get back on track. I’m hoping I can get ahead with some better word counts for the next couple of sessions. I had just enough time before 6 to finish it off before I started that one. :)
4:00–5:30 – Skipped to catch up
6:00–7:30 – 840 wordsI’ve fallen behind again. It’s 8:17 and I have half an hour on this one to go. I’m going to keep going with it at this point.
8:00–9:30 – Skipped, because I was still working on the previous session.
10:00–11:30 – Skipped because I’m exhausted and I’m going to bed early so I can start off strong tomorrow.

If I get behind, I’ll cut a session or break short and move on to the next session.

If this goes well, I’m going to try it again tomorrow, starting earlier and taking a full hour between sessions (if I want—it certainly won’t be mandatory). The only reason I’m not doing that today is that I’m starting so much later than I planned when I came up with this idea last night.

Now, gotta go. I’m already 15 minutes behind. Yeah, I know. Not kidding. :o

**This might seem like it hasn’t gone well, but considering how badly I fail at this and how often, I’m actually really pleased with what I accomplished using this schedule. I’m definitely going to try the slightly modified version tomorrow, with the hour between sessions and see how that goes. I don’t yet know if the longer breaks will help or hinder my ability to stay on track.

Schedule update: times are almost right, sessions keep changing

Since I started following a writing schedule again, I’ve found that some adjustments have had to be made. A few things just weren’t working out how I’d like.

I added an extra half hour for the midday break. I also stopped an hour earlier for lunch and moved that hour to after lunch.

Scheduled times

7 to 12 became 7 to 11, while 1 to 4 became 12:30 to 4:30.

I’ve only tried this for one day, and not successfully, let me add, but possibly because it’s fall break for the schools here and I keep messing up my 7 am start time. Still, the lunch hour wasn’t working. I’ve had to adjust it every day, so building that into the schedule makes more sense than not.

Session times

First it was 50 minute sessions, then 15 minutes, then 25 minutes. They each worked at different times this week, but I’m moving permanently back to 50 minute sessions for planning writing output because of how well they work within the framework I’ve constructed. It’s very easy to account for how many sessions I should have completed in any number of hour long blocks if I assume 50 minutes writing time to 10 minutes break time.

One change I’ve made is that I’m not longer stressing over whether or not I can complete the entire 50 minutes without a break. (Too much tea, I know. I can’t help it. I feel compelled to have something to drink while I write.) I just plan to write for 50 minutes, pause the timer when necessary, and aim to complete the 50 minute session within the one hour block. Now this? This is something that’s actually had a much bigger impact on how I feel about these long sessions than I would have thought. The new perspective is working great. No more resentment for long sessions, or hesitation to start one, because it’s perfectly okay to pause the session. In fact, I expect it. There’s also a bit of pressure to get back to it quickly that’s helpful (because the timer is paused). It’s working out much better than the break between sessions. That’s where I’m still having a lot of trouble with distractions. :)

Session goals

One thing I realized right away was that I wasn’t just pushing for higher word counts per hour with the sessions. I was also demotivating myself a bit. Not much, just enough that I really started to notice it yesterday. The problem is that I use my number of sessions times my word count goal to estimate what goal I should have for a day’s writing. The numbers made me feel too optimistic about the chances I’d have of reaching really (really) high word counts, despite what I know of my historical performance.

So I scaled back. I might want to write 250 per 15 minute session, or 325 per 25 minutes, or 600 or 800 per 50 minute session, but that’s just not that likely, and it’s no way to plan. I can still hold all those numbers in my head as goals, but they’re really no good for planning.

I’ve settled on a 550 word goal for each 50 minute session for planning purposes. That’s 660 words per hour. My average the last time I checked was about 641 wph, and my all time average was about 541 wph, so it’s a bit of a push, but not an overwhelming one.

I know how many words I need to finish several of the books I’ve got going, I just needed estimates of sessions and words to get me to a daily plan to make it happen by the deadlines I’ve set myself (publicly this time). The book lengths are estimates, of course, but I don’t mind adjusting how much writing I need to do each day if I see that a book is going longer than I planned. It happens more often than not, to be honest, and that’s another reason overly optimistic word count expectations are a problem for me.

My former session goals led me to create deadlines that were just too tight. I gave myself some much needed breathing room. :)

Self-discipline: a necessary evil–and possibly the key to my happiness

So… I’ve been thinking again. We all know I favor thinking over action as often as I can. ;)

I was writing my word count post yesterday when I realized that I really have become the kind of writer I don’t want to be: unreliable, undisciplined, and full of excuses for why my books are languishing unwritten.

Even knowing how badly I needed to produce words yesterday, I put it off and ended up wanting to pull my hair out over my own resistance to doing something I like to do (write). I ended up here, writing that post.

What I realized is that I’m going to have to change, whether I want to or not. I’m not going to be that kind of writer. Or person. Or whatever. :)

I have the ability to self-discipline. I just really don’t like doing it and I talk myself into the mindset that life shouldn’t be about schedules and discipline, especially if I’m doing something I like. But that’s just not true. Maybe it should be about discipline and schedules because it’s something I like.

Anyway, I’m here only to say that I’ve made a new schedule. It’s one I’m going to start following today, and it’s not a guideline this time, it’s a rule.

I’m going to adjust it as needed to make sure I meet my writing goals. What set this off yesterday wasn’t actually me realizing I was putting off what needed done, again, but a conversation I had with my sister about needing to lose more weight and what I was going to do about it. I told her I was going to go back to counting calories in a spreadsheet I have, because that’s what really works for me because I’m very numbers oriented.

That made me realize that for my writing, this probably explains why my spreadsheet is so motivating to me, and also made me realize I need to utilize that more. I had at one time included deadlines on the spreadsheet but decided they sucked the fun out of writing. But I’m not so sure about that. There’s definitely fun to be had figuring out how many words I need to write to meet that deadline.

I think the problem was thinking of those deadlines as set in stone while I kept underestimating the word counts for book length on most of my books. As long as I keep in mind that adjustments are perfectly okay and not a flaw in the system, I can see this working for me.

On the other hand, I really only want to do that for the books I’m behind on, so I can get them out ASAP, and then settle into my goal for more 2000+ word days. :)

This is not an experiment so much as it’s a challenge. I’ve told myself I can’t drop this plan or decide I don’t need to follow a schedule after all because it’s too restrictive—what silly nonsense. I made the schedule based on my own needs. No one is telling me what to do here; I’ve just figured out that these are the best times for me to do what I already want to do, for the benefit of both my future and current self. Being schedule-less just isn’t working out well for me and my sinking numbers for this year are yelling at me to make changes or risk losing the future I most want (continuing to write fiction for a living).

I’m going to do my best to follow the schedule. Some days, like today, I’ll have to make adjustments right off, but it’s a plan and I plan to keep on it.

7 to 12: writing, 3 sessions of 15 minutes, with a goal of 250 words per session (on publishing days I won’t be writing)
1 to 4: currently needed to catch up to where I need to be on several projects, writing some days, same as above, more likely doing publishing stuff, such as proofing chapters of whatever I’m working on

Because this is a 7 day a week schedule, the 1 to 4 won’t continue indefinitely. That’s 56 hours a week, and I don’t want to work that many hours every week unless a story is driving me to it. It’s just that right now I’m really behind on some stuff, so I need to work until 4 if I want to get this stuff done. By the middle of October, if I can stick to this, I’ll be in a much better place and will be able to adjust my schedule accordingly, for shorter hours. 5 hours x 7 days a week is a much more comfortable 35 hours a week, doing something I really like doing. And if I show that I can meet my goals and work fewer hours, I’ll take advantage of that.

However things end up, the plan is to have regular hours for my writing and publishing, so I can settle into a strong routine and actually start being productive in one way or another most days. I’m done ending every day feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything worthwhile.

Now, I’m late starting my work today, because of writing this post, so I’m going to call this post done.

Day 2 of the new schedule

Scheduled 9:00-10:30 1:00-2:30 7:30-9:00 Words
Day 1 10:15-11:57 4:29-5:22 .75 hrs  771
Day 2 none  none  none  0

All sessions are 1.5 hours of writing time regardless of length unless I say otherwise.

Day 2

As you can see, I’ve written nothing today. I wasn’t sick, despite being sick yesterday. I just didn’t get started. Instead, I spent lots of time with my daughter and the stray puppy my daughter recently adopted. My daughter left this evening for a week, and the puppy isn’t feeling great after having been spayed yesterday, and I guess I’ll just have to try extra hard to make tomorrow a really good writing day.

Puppy is cute though, huh?

Puppy

Turns out she’s about 6 months old. She’s a very sweet puppy. I wish I liked animals more, but I really don’t. Luckily, my daughter does, so the puppy has someone to play with her.

The puppy makes me pet her every time I go to the door, and she licks my toes. It’s yucky, but I put up with it because I can’t stand the thought of being mean to her. :o

The vet says she’s a mix of a mix, possibly with some Labrador and German Shepherd in her. Whatever she is, she listens better than most, and she’s one of the friendliest dogs I’ve known.

When she arrived, she was clean and well-behaved and looked like she’d been eating well. I also had one of the weirdest incidents I’ve ever had here a night or two after she showed up, and it has me convinced that the puppy showing up on my doorstep wasn’t by chance.

Someone dumped that poor little dog in my yard on purpose.

At about 8:30 the night after she arrived, the neighbor across the street called to let me know someone had stopped in my driveway and then left quickly. Thinking it was strange, and that maybe they’d been messing with my mailbox, I took a flashlight and walked down the drive.

There, right in the middle of my driveway, someone had left an aluminum pie plate piled high with dog food and another full of water.

Someone obviously wanted to make sure the puppy thought my home was her new home.

Like I said, weird. Who the hell stops in someone else’s driveway and leaves food and water for a dog?

Also, what an asshole thing to do. I really didn’t need or want a pet, but I couldn’t very well let the puppy starve. I tried to find her a home, but I couldn’t find anyone interested, and by then, my daughter had really taken to her.

So now we have another dog. Blackie’s getting old so he wasn’t that thrilled to find himself sharing attention, but he’s adapting. I’m not sure I am. I don’t want to care about another dog, but it’s hard to stay hard hearted when they look at you like they do.

Today starts a two week experiment with a new schedule

Here’s the writing schedule I’m going to follow for the next two weeks.

9:00-10:30
1:00-2:30
7:30-9:00

Why have I changed my schedule yet again?

The other schedule wasn’t working for me. At all. I didn’t write one single time during my scheduled writing time. Right now, in particular, I’m having trouble with getting started, and the large blocks of time weren’t helping that. Even two hours felt like too much of a commitment when there wasn’t a lot of time empty between the sessions.

So I created this new schedule with one thing in mind: making sure I don’t feel like I have a job.

That’s important. I don’t ever want writing to feel like a job.

  • I split the time blocks up so that I have huge breaks between writing sessions.
  • I made the sessions as short as I could while making them long enough that I can still get into flow during them.
  • I gave myself 3 of them so my total writing time each day fits into my long-term goals. 3 × 1.5 = 4.5 hours.
  • I started the first one later in the morning so I can sleep late if I have a bad night of sleep.
  • I’m not going to move the scheduled times if something comes up to preempt the time. I’ll just assume that I’ll miss one or two of these a month and live with that knowledge. (I won’t schedule anything during these times unless there’s no other choice.)
  • I’m not going to skip a session and claim that as a preempted time. I’ll just start writing as soon as I can near the time I was supposed to start and write for 1.5 hours. There’s enough time between sessions that this shouldn’t be a big deal.

I’m feeling hopeful this morning that this is the right thing to do.

Now, I’m off to get that first session done. I’ll post later today with the results for the first day of this experiment.

Here’s an update on a few other ongoing experiments

The no sweets experiment has been working really well (I’m down 4 pounds in two weeks), and I’ve decided to extend it indefinitely. The only exception is that I will allow myself sweets if I go to a birthday party, which is rarely more often than once a month, and usually less often. I’ll also allow myself sweets at my family’s annual Christmas party, but that’s it. These exceptions are clearly defined so they shouldn’t put any decision-making stress on me. That’s something I’ve liked about this experiment: no decisions. If it’s a sweet, the answer to “Can I?” is simple: “No.”

No caffeine: I haven’t had any coffee and I haven’t had any other caffeinated drinks either.

No Kboards or TPV: I haven’t been back to Kboards or TPV since I started that experiment. The fear of missing out is what was keeping me clicking on links. I’ve read a few author blogs I’d begun to ignore and checked out a podcast or two, but I don’t really feel like I’m missing anything, other than the entertainment factor I get from reading the posts themselves. This experiment has been good for me.

The experiment begins: rules of adjustment

So today I’ve already had to make an adjustment to the schedule (but only for today) because I rose late and I’m not getting started at 7 am.

The first thing I decided was that I’m going to have to have some rules for adjustments. :)

Rules for adjustments to the schedule

  1. Lost time should be made up in the same day.
  2. Lost time should be added to the end of the 1–3 time block.
  3. The 11 am to 1 pm break should stay the same no matter what time I get started.
  4. Assume there’s an “if possible” tacked on to the end of every rule above. :)

Benefits of the rules

  1. Sticking to the planned number of hours of work gives me plenty of time to meet my writing goals: 3,233 words a day, 98,333 words a month, 1,180,000 words a year. If it’s ever going to happen, I’ve got to guard the time I need for it.
  2. Even if I skip my entire morning, I’ll still only have to work until 7 pm to make it up! Meaning I don’t even have to take a break for supper because although I don’t like eating late, 7 pm isn’t too late. ;)
  3. A simple, recurring lunch schedule throughout the summer means my children can plan to have lunch with me if they want without having to wait to see what kind of work day I’m having. At their ages, they don’t always want, but sometimes they do.
  4. Having some leeway in the application of the rules always makes me feel better.

I’m feeling hopeful about this schedule. I’m also not feeling pressured the way I usually feel, even though I’ve already messed up with today’s late start, so I’m hoping that’s a sign of good things to come from this experiment!

Experimenting with a schedule again

I know it’s crazy. I know I’ve done this before. I know it didn’t work. I kind of don’t care. I need something to get me out of this black hole my writing productivity has fallen into and I’m thinking a schedule might be what I need.

It’s a move born of desperation, I promise. My last resort, if you will.

Starting tomorrow, I’m going to a 40 hour a week schedule (okay, technically 42, but I like working with whole numbers and I want to write 7 days a week). This plan came about because of an article I read today called “The Unexpected Freedom of an Eight-Hour Workday.” It touched a nerve.

So I’m giving it another shot. Anything to save me from myself.

I’m planning to work for 6 hours each day. I’ll write until I reach my 3,233 words a day goal (hopefully in 4–5 hours) and fill the rest of my time with publishing work.

The schedule for almost all days: 7–11 & 1–3.

So that’s it, the sum total of my plan.