Focus on action and small wins; a new daily minimum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow I resume the challenge to reach 6000 words in a day

Today I haven’t written any fiction. I have a daily writing streak I could keep alive by writing something now, but I don’t think I’m going to. I might, when I finish writing this post, go write a little something, but I might not. I’m tired and I’m not really seeing the need.

Tomorrow I resume the challenge to write 6000 words in a day. I was SO close a few days ago but I just couldn’t get those last 200 words. I’ve been staying up too late and when you’re falling asleep at the computer, it’s time to put the computer up. ;)

I’m just about there now.

There’s a caveat to the resumption of the challenge for tomorrow though. I have to start working my way back into good sleep habits. I’m paying for the lack of them in so many ways. Increased appetite, cravings for sweets, tired eyes, that kind of thing.

Anyway, the point is that I’m still very interested in reaching 6000 words in a day but I also want to not have to work so hard at it. :D

First thing: I need to make sure I’m in a place in my head where I can write freely. I just can’t do this without a better pace. 10 hours and 33 minutes is how long it took me to write the 5,816 words that broke my previous record of 5,758 words in a day. That’s just too much time.

I don’t want to have another 10 hour day anytime in the near future. Seriously, it was rough and I felt very much like all I did was get up Sunday, start writing, and write all day long until I gave up at about 10:30 that night. I know I had times when I was away from the computer, because I only clocked 10 hours and 33 minutes, but I sure can’t remember any of them. It was write, write, write, all day.

Anyway, enough of this ramble. The TL;DR for this is I’m still chasing 6000 words a day, but I’m setting some limits. :)

Goodnight!

The last writing streak ended yesterday

I ended yesterday with zero words written for the day. I had a full day away from home and I just didn’t have the energy to get started. I actually consciously looked at my writing streak in my daily word count log, said, “Neh,” and closed the computer.

Wondering what that big number is in the image? That’s my cumulative word count since I started tracking in 2012.

Anyway, on to make today the beginning of a new streak. I both want and need to make some significant progress today on this book I’m working on.

Today is the first day this year that both of my kids are back in school. I have no reason to put off getting back into this book and fixing the problems it’s giving me. I’m ready.

The writing streaks are dead—sort of

I’ve let the writing streaks end. Last night, I wrote, but I deleted and then wrote and then deleted, and I had a negative day and just couldn’t climb out of it before I was too tired to continue. I’ve been staying up way too late and 1 a.m. last night did me in.

However! There is a however. :D

I wrote. So technically I have a new writing streak to replace the old two.

148 – 12/30
172 – 12/31
203 – 1/1
209 – 1/2
246 – 1/3
277 – 1/4
345 – 1/5
470 – 1/6
(35) – 1/7

 

  1. I’ve written fiction every day

I’d love to know how much I wrote yesterday, because I have a feeling my >100 words streak would still be alive, but that’s not how I count words and I’m not going to change that. It’s not necessary anyway. I have no goals, am using no timers, and following no schedule. A broken writing streak isn’t breaking any kind of commitment to myself.

I’ll just let a new one happen.

The writing streaks live on

Yesterday, at the twelfth hour, I did some writing and managed 470 words.

Another small win and another day to add to my streaks.

148 – 12/30
172 – 12/31
203 – 1/1
209 – 1/2
246 – 1/3
277 – 1/4
345 – 1/5
470 – 1/6

The streaks are:

  1. > 100 words each day
  2. increasing number of words each day

At some point, the increasing words per day streak will end. There’s no way around that, because I do want to write a lot of words on a daily basis. But for now this is a great motivation to keep going.

I’m finding the challenge of doing better every single day not to be much of a challenge at all. Part of that is probably because I’ve let myself write on a variety of stories (all stories I hope to finish writing and publish within the first three to four months of this year assuming I eventually reach four digits with my daily word count). That’s led to me having no trouble at all getting out some new words each day.

I don’t know, it’s kind of making me rethink my ban on writing concurrently on multiple stories.

I’m not sold on backing off the ban yet, but I do notice my motivation to write everything increases when I’m writing on anything. That matters when I’m having a tough time getting myself started. I’ve said it before: Getting started is the single most difficult thing for me when it comes to writing (or anything else).

Anyway, off to work on paperback formatting for some books and then to do some writing.

(By the way, I love this font. Firefox says it’s Libre Franklin, and I’m seriously considering downloading this to my computer and using it for my notes.)

(And I did, and yes, it definitely wasted some time, because I got lost looking at fonts. But I’m away from there now and clicking publish here! Time to get to work.)

Another day goes down in favor of the streak(s)

And another day goes down in favor of the streak(s).

148 – 12/30
172 – 12/31
203 – 1/1
209 – 1/2
246 – 1/3
277 – 1/4
345 – 1/5

  1. > 100 words each day
  2. increasing number of words each day

Although I thought I would write more today, in the end, I’m pretty satisfied that at least I wrote something.

Maybe tomorrow will be the day I break out and write lots of words.

Now, I must go to sleep. It’s 12:55 p.m. and that’s already much later than I wanted to conk out tonight.

Another day, another win

148 – 12/30
172 – 12/31
203 – 1/1
209 – 1/2
246 – 1/3
277 – 1/4

Last night I made time to write again and in the process managed to keep both my streaks going for another day. :)

  1. > 100 words a day
  2. Increasing word count every day

Another small win for me in the new year. :D

Hey, small wins are serious business!*

Today I’d like to write quite a lot more but I had another late night despite hopes otherwise and I have a headache this morning. Only it’s really not morning anymore. It’s noon and looks so dreary out that I don’t doubt for a minute snow’s on the way.

It’s time for an evil glare out my window. I really don’t like snow. >_<

Anyway, off to do some writing or paperback formatting. Haven’t decided yet. The truth is if I procrastinate writing to do the paperbacks, I’m okay with that. One of them has needed to be done since June. :o

*I read an article about small wins a long time ago that has stuck with me… Ah, I think I’ve found it: https://hbr.org/2011/05/the-power-of-small-wins

Another day to add to my streaks!

The streaks continue. :)

148 – 12/30
172 – 12/31
203 – 1/1
209 – 1/2
246 – 1/3

  1. >100 words a day, and
  2. increasing words per day

I’m up to almost a page a day now. :)

I’ve been writing so few words because (1) kids are still home for the holiday/winter break and (2) I spent the last two days working on a massive spreadsheet project I’d been putting off for a couple of years now.

I thought having all my title sales in one Excel workbook would benefit me, but after getting it done, I’m just not sure I didn’t waste a lot of time on this. As someone who will write a book I want to write regardless of the possible payoff, I don’t have any need to see my sales broken down by title or series (which is what I did).

Not only that, but there weren’t any surprises there either. I’ve apparently been doing just fine consolidating in my head the information I gather from the individual sales reports from each vendor. I’d created a very realistic picture of where my money was coming from and the books were all doing just about what I thought they were as far as revenues go.

I don’t think I’ll update the spreadsheet going forward. I won’t delete it outright, but I see no need to keep it current.

I just don’t care how much each specific book brings in, and I don’t even really care how much each series is bringing in. I write these books because I really want to and I’m willing to take my chances with them.

Now, time to go write some words for today. I have to get to bed earlier tonight. I’ve stayed up two nights in a row until 2 a.m. working on that stupid spreadsheet. I need a better night’s sleep tonight so I’ll feel liking writing lots of words tomorrow if I decide that’s what I want to do. :D

The streaks continue!

I’ve added another day to my two writing streaks. My word counts are minuscule but I’m trying to build momentum during a time when I have a lot of distractions going on around me and I’m settling into a new year.

148 – 12/30
172 – 12/31
203 – 1/1
209 – 1/2

  1. >100 words a day, and
  2. increasing words per day

I have two writing streaks going!

Addendum to the aside about my writing streak: I have two writing streaks going now.

  1. >100 words a day for three days
  2. increasing words per day for three days

So—awesome?! start to the new year. ;) (Stop laughing! *evil glare*)

Not only that, but I don’t feel feverish today, don’t feel sick, and don’t feel all that tired either. So good health too.

I think I’m losing weight but since I’ve abandoned my scale (it’s in the closet) I can’t say for sure.

I’m pretty happy with abandoning all these metrics of success and failure and the goal setting stuff. I feel free.

I need, now, to translate that into more writing and some real weight loss. 2017 seems like just the year for it. :D

Happy new year, everyone!

Coming up next: a new year’s update on the progress I’ve had building a pen name. Spoiler! I should’ve just written more books for my main name.

My “no more zero word days” streak

So I mentioned a week or so ago that I’d broken my no more zero word days  (aka write every day) streak, unintentionally. I really have had a hard time getting started again, but a few days ago I managed.

Today is day number 3 of the new streak. I figure since I’ve made it 3 days and today wasn’t a “token” day, I’ll start counting up again.

Here’s what the last three days have looked like:

372
77
1,522

Yesterday was a token day—I admit it. But today I feel like, despite the tiredness and giving up early, I’m back at it. From now until I finish another book, I’m going to be working every day trying to hit that reasonable daily word count I know I should be capable of.

Lost focus and broke my streak!

Well, I’m bummed. I’ve been getting a lot done the last couple of days while fighting that cold, and somehow, on Wednesday, I completely forgot to write anything. Today I had the sudden realization that I hadn’t written anything yesterday and that made me take a look at my daily log, at which point I realized yesterday wasn’t even at issue. Wednesday had already broken my streak.

So I have to start over.

I failed to get started on writing today, but I did work most of the day. I finished the paperback cover for the more recent book and submitted those files to Createspace. I took another look at the cover I did yesterday (or maybe the day before—the days are running together in my head) and made a few tweaks. I’m about to take a final look and decide if I like the adjustments or not.

. . . A few hours later . . .

Yeah, the cover definitely needed the adjustments. I like it much better now. It also fits the look of the whole series better. Someday, I’ll get better at this. ;) I really will.

And now, I’m going to export the sizes and formats I need for publishing and move on to restarting my writing streak before I conk out tonight.

32 day streak

I’m now at 32 days of writing fiction every day. Unlike with previous streaks, this one has no quotas, time or words. My plan is simply to see how many consecutive days I can make it writing fiction every day.

Really and truly, getting started is the hardest part for me. When I do get started, I usually do better than I expect. Like last night. I thought I’d get nothing, but then I decided I wanted to keep my streak alive, want, in fact, to create the best streak I’ve ever had, so I started writing. 439 really decent words later I stopped and went to bed because time had gotten away from me. (A really good thing when it comes to writing.)

I’ve said before, if I eliminate all the zero word days I’ve had in the past and replace them with as little as 50 words, I could have written 15,000 words more than I have since I started writing to publish. If that number had averaged 200 words, that’s an entire extra novel.

Averages are powerful things and I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine I could average 200 words a day for all those days that might be zero word days otherwise.

My ultimate goal is still to reach and maintain a 2,000 word a day average, but these small steps are helping me get there. After a really bad streak of low productivity that lasted more than a year, I’m happy to see improvement.

Daily Writing Streak—The End

Oops … if I have a 100 word minimum, I broke my streak yesterday. However, I did write. Only I wrote 58 words, not 100.

Then today, I just haven’t done it. The change in routine with the school year ending is throwing me off, but really, I just didn’t want to write. Sigh.

This just isn’t working.

I should clarify. My new routine is working quite well. I’m exercising. I’m no longer snacking between meals. I’m not feeling as fatigued as I was. So that’s great. I’m just not writing during the times I have set aside for writing. That’s … problematic.

As for the money thing, well, that’s easy. Apparently money has no motivational power over me at all. I mean, maybe if I was starving or something, but since I’m not… Yeah.

I just don’t understand why I keep trying the same things over and over, except … I kind of do. I forget. I forget why it didn’t work, or I think something’s different this time so I won’t have the same outcome—but then I do. And I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always am.

I don’t know how to overcome that. I don’t know how to make myself remember that I’ve tried the “hours thing” before and couldn’t get it to work for me. Although basing my writing goals around the time I spend writing seems rational and doable, when I put it into action, I end up feeling like I’m trapped, and I avoid writing as if I hate it. As if—ah…

I think I get it now. As if it’s a job.

I just can’t keep doing this to myself. I know better. Treating writing as a job in the sense that most people think of “job” just doesn’t work for me.

I have to take the time scheduling off the table, completely, forever, else I’m just going to try this again in a few months and have this happen all over again.

I sincerely hope this is the last “schedule” post I ever write.

Here’s my plan for the rest of the year: enjoy my writing life and give myself a break.

This doesn’t mean I can’t have goals and dreams and continue attempting to improve as a writer. I will write—I don’t doubt that. I will try to reach a weekly word count goal, and I will continue to try to write every day, because that’s what I do.

Frankly, I don’t have a choice if I want to keep earning a living with my writing. But that doesn’t mean I should spend so much time driving myself crazy with perfectionism—not with the writing itself (I seem to have that under control), but with how much writing I do and how often, because I’m never satisfied. It’s never enough. It will never be enough for the perfectionist in me.

So here’s how much I’d like to write each week—a realistic number that’s going to get me to the number of books I would like to publish each year. 13,535. It’s not my lowest recorded word count for a week and it’s not my highest, so it’s realistic for me. It’s a modest number, and if I don’t make it each week, so be it.

I’d like to do this in conjunction with continuing to write on multiple stories each day, because that’s working for me, and it’s refreshing to be able to switch stories when things get all tangled up in my head. The breaks always seem to do me good.

But it’s just something to keep me focused.

And that’s it.

I will still probably have days where I’ll want to challenge myself—because it can be fun to do that sometimes, but my days will be devoted to enjoying the writing life as much as possible and learning how to let go of the perfectionistic ideals of what my writing life should be like.

Missing Post, Morning Tea Pomodoro Streak, & Schedules

I unpublished yesterday’s post. I added a lot to it last night and ended up with 1,300+ words. Then I looked at it and it seemed like a whole bunch of the same old thing so I put it back into draft rather than try to put it into any kind of order. :) Sorry about that! In case you want to know, I barely topped out at 3 hours of writing yesterday and my word count was dismal at 459 for the day. Procrastination wasn’t the problem as much as lost time.

It’s day 3 of writing with my morning tea. It’s going great! I love the ritual. I really see this working for me long term, even if my numbers are small that early in the day. (I’ve had most of my longed-for but rarely reached 1,000 words an hour sessions at around midday. I’m slow in the morning and less slow in the evening.)

I’ve come full circle back to my schedule, but with changes to reflect my attempt at some motivation hacking.

  • The single biggest issue I face with procrastination is impulsiveness.
  • Relying on willpower probably isn’t going to work. I know my weaknesses so I need to work around them.
  • When I rely on fixed time goals (schedule based) I lose the motivation to work efficiently because there’s no reward for getting done early.
  • When I rely on word count goals, I put off starting until it’s too late because I’m terrible at estimating how much time it takes me to do things.

So I made a new schedule that mixes time goals and word count goals.

I didn’t like the last schedule at all, but I think it goes back to the fixed time issue and lack of reward for efficiency. Also, two hours and thirty-six minutes is just too long for me to work without a break.* So the redone schedule puts me writing in chunks of 90 minutes. There’s even some interesting theory that says this is great length of time for a work session, so why not take advantage of that?

1.5 hours or 900 words
30 minute break
Repeat 3 times.

This should give me my 1,800 before lunch and 1,800 after lunch. Getting started at 8 am is the plan (I usually have my tea at 7), but if I sleep in, I can always start anytime after my tea and breakfast. But once I start, I really hope to be able to push through until I’ve done all 4 sessions. :D That’s the goal anyway!

*Just no way around it … my bladder doesn’t like long work sessions! And once I’m up and about, all bets are off when it comes to distractions.