Progress Update 5/9/16

Getting Out of a Writing Rut and the Value of Easy Goals

Recently my writing consistency has suffered. Perhaps you’re in the same boat. 

One of the best methods to get out of the rut is to set very easy writing targets each day. Once a writer nails these easy goals, he or she can return to their typical, more challenging goals. So if your standard goal is to write a thousand words—which by the way is pretty high for someone who doesn't have much spare time—then you should set the target for fewer than one thousand when getting out of a rut. In such a case, it would be better to shoot for five hundred words, maybe even fewer.

The point is this, when we get into a rut, the most important thing is to get out. That’s where I’m at currently. I’m fighting to get back into a regular writing flow, and I understand that part of what I need to do is to set an easier target.  

Another important element for getting back on track, along with setting smaller goals, is to do some writing strictly for the fun of it. This is another piece I’ve been missing. I’ve made my writing so focused on things that I felt I needed to write that I forgot to write just for the heck of it. I think it’s vital to write occasionally strictly for fun. I’m going to be doing more of that, even if it’s just a few hundred words each week.

I’m confident that I can get back on track. My teaching should be winding down for the summer break in the next month. That will afford me more time to write.

How is your writing going? I’d love to hear!

 

 

Progress Update 4/12/16

This week, I’ve been getting back into a regular morning routine. It’s been tough, because my day job has slipped into overtime hours. Still, I find that doing my writing becomes even more important when I’m busy, tired, or stressed. I need the routine to give my day focus and energy. I’ve said it before, and I still belief it wholeheartedly: when I don’t write, I’m at odds with my own thoughts.  

Another key to maintaining both the writing routine and overall happiness is physical fitness. I’ve been neglecting exercise for a couple of months now. The results aren’t terrible because I have an active day job. I’m not in danger of getting fat. Still, I’m missing a valuable source of mental and physical stamina. This week I made progress getting back into a regular exercise schedule. My arms are sore as I type this because I was trying kettlebell swings for the first time. I can already tell that I have more energy, a better attitude, and a greater amount of creativity, thanks to just two days of exercise.

If I’m going to write consistently, I definitely need to keep exercise a part of my weekly routine. One of my excuses for not exercising is that I can’t do it as much as I’d like, so I might as well skip it. That’s a stupid reason. Even a small amount of exercise each week impacts my writing routine (not to mention the rest of my life). Just half an hour three days per week makes a big difference. And any amount is better than none. My current goal is to do at least one day per week when I am busiest, and as many as four when I’m less busy. I purchased the kettlebell to facilitate short, but effective workouts. 

Let me encourage you, if you’re a writer, but you’re not getting a moderate amount of exercise, start doing something once per a week, even if it’s just half an hour. You can increase the commitment later, but anything is infinitely better than nothing—which is what most people settle for. If you’ve been away from exercise, you’ll be amazed at the difference just a little bit will make for your writing routine. 

 

Progress 3/10/16

Grappling with Mood and Writing

I had a revelation this past week. It was one of those times when I remembered something I’d already learned, but the idea became clearer and more significant. 

I’ve known for a few years now that I struggle with mild depression during the winter months. I live in the Pacific Northwest, where weeks at a time without sunshine are common. Starting about four years ago, I noticed that I struggled with energy, focus, and attitude during these months. 

The strangest part is that I forget it’s going to happen. Because I didn’t experience this until a few years ago, I keep assuming that it isn’t a pattern. Each of the past few winters, I grow unhappy during January and February. Then a sunny day rolls around sometime in March, and I feel amazing. This year, I’m recognizing that I’m going to probably deal with the phenomenon as long as I live in Oregon. Acknowledging that this is a factor should help me to deal with it. 

The SAD has had a major impact on my writing. After months of consistency, I’ve been unreliable in my progress for the past six weeks. I’ve struggled to get up in the mornings, to prioritize, and to take pleasure in accomplishment. 

I bought one of those lamps that simulates daylight and have been using it in the mornings. This should help me to counter-balance the lack of sunshine and get me on track during the mornings. 

Happily the weather should be shifting during the next month. I may not need to worry about it after a few more weeks. 

Progress Update 3/1/16

March 1st was the target for releasing my book on writing process. Unfortunately, it's not ready yet. 

If I hadn't set my target, I wouldn't have made the progress I did. While I need to push back my release date, I'm glad I had an aggressive target. I made better progress as a result. 

Tentatively, I'm setting my new target for April 1st. I continue to revise the draft. Revising is hard! I like drafting much more. Still, I continue to plug away at it. 

Thanks to those who have encouraged me in my progress. I look forward to hearing your feedback when the book is complete!

Progress Update 2/11/16

My progress this past week has been mediocre. As a result, I’m reminded of the absolute importance of focus. Without focus, I can’t hope to advance my writing. 

Last week, I was sick. My illness wore me out, making it difficult to write. I literally fell asleep at my keyboard more than once. This trend has continued because I’m still getting over the cold. I also made a big mistake and agreed to take on extra work for a part-time teaching position. The combination of illness plus extra work has wreaked havoc with my writing routine. 

I have done some writing every day, but I haven’t been consistent in meeting my quota. I’m reminded that I shouldn’t commit to anything that threatens my consistency. If there's doubt in my mind that I can stay steady with my writing, I need to turn down offers to do anything extra. 

Not only has my writing suffered, but my performance on the extra project has not been as strong as it could have been. I’m sure this is true, in part, because I have been frustrated by the disruption of my writing routine, which tends to set a positive tone for my day. 

I’m reminded of a great acronym for the word FOCUS: 

Follow One Course Until Successful. 

That idea of sticking to one course is huge. Most of us are so willing to move on to something new, but we really need to stay with one thing. Let that one thing reach its real potential. Refuse to move on until things are really maxed.

That's my take away for this week. If you’ve experienced a setback in your writing, I hope that this will inspire you. Press on. Don't beat yourself up. Don't dwell on the negative. If you can turn things around by doing just a little bit of writing, you’re on your way to being back in the swing. 

Progress Update 2/1/16

Yesterday marked the end of the period of time I allowed myself for my first draft on my current book project. My goal was to write at least 25,000 words. Last night, I hit 24,241. I called that good enough and went to bed. I've included a screenshot of my target word counter on Scrivener. 

(By the way, setting and achieving word counts is one of my favorite features on Scrivener. I can even tell the program to average out my contribution for each day to keep me on track. I love hearing the program making an audible "ding!" when I reach my daily target.)

Now for any of you who write regularly, you know that 25,000 words is pretty short for a book. (By comparison, National Novel Writing Month suggests 50,000 in just 30 days.) I’m keeping my target low for a couple of reasons. First, I wanted to set a goal that I knew I could achieve when I started drafting in December. I work two jobs that fill most of my time six days a week. I’m only able to write for about an hour a day. So setting the bar low has helped me to stay focused. 

Also, I know that short books are often preferred by readers of practical non-fiction. I want to share a work on writing process that people will actually read and find useful, not a long book that readers will abandon after a couple of chapter.

Going forward, I need to revise. The next few weeks will be dedicated to that. I’ll be looking at the various parts and evaluating their relation to the whole. 

It’s a little weird going through the stages of the writing process with this book, given that’s the topic of the work itself. The meta quality messes with my mind sometimes. 

Stay posted for more info about the book. What are you working on?

Progress Update 1/18/16

I’ve had a busy writing week. 

My book progress continues. I’m well over halfway in my first draft. My target is to finish the initial draft by the end of the month and then spend February revising and editing the work. 

I still haven’t settled on a name for the book. For now, I can tell you that it focuses on obstacles in the writing process. Specifically, I emphasize that writing involves two distinct mentalities, one creative and the other analytical. The key to writing more prolifically, I argue, is to manage those two mentalities well. The book offers ways of thinking and techniques to help make writing less painful and more productive. I’m not writing a handbook, so don’t suppose that it will be a list of rules about grammar or other conventions. Rather, it’s an exploration of how thinking about writing in a particular way can make it less difficult. 

My plan is to offer some excerpts from my draft in future posts. I hope that you’ll offer some feedback, so I can revise to make the finished work as useful as possible. 

Whatever you might be writing, I hope it goes well! Please consider telling me about your project in the comments here or in an email. I’d love to hear.

Progress Update 12/15/15

Not my best moment

This is definitely one of those times when I’d prefer to skip the update. Suck it up, Adam.

I’ve performed poorly in my writing habit since the last update. Of course, I have an excuse. (What kind of writer would I be if I didn’t have an excuse for not writing?) The class I taught this fall was wrapping up. My mornings, evenings, and weekends have been dominated by grading. Few things are more time consuming than grading writing, especially if the teacher truly wants students to improve. It’s been tough to strike a balance between my need to complete the grades for the class and my need to write. On a positive note, the struggle has highlighted some opportunities for improvement.

  • I need to optimize any process that can potentially cut into my writing time. Things like grading or chores around the house can be done more efficiently. I’ve been getting better at this kind of thing, but I can still make my repetitive processes more efficient.
  • On a related note, I need to guard my writing time. I definitely had days that I could have graded and done writing, but because I wasted time on social media or shows, the only remaining time went to grading. Writing needs to come first, every darn day.

What's next?

One last thing—I’ve decided that my current book project will be an introduction to the writing process. This is a topic I’ve studied and taught academically, and also something I’ve explored on a personal level over the years. I’m excited to set up a target for completing this project. Stay tuned for updates on the book. I will most likely be sharing excerpts and ask readers to weigh in on my choices.

Progress Update 11/12/15

Bad+Good=Good

I'm excited to share my recent writing activity. It's not all positive: I have good news and bad news. 

Bad news

  • First, this update is late. I want to stick to weekly updates to keep myself accountable. 
  • Also, my participation in National Novel Writing Month has not created as much content as I had hoped. I am well behind the target for word averages. 

 

Good news

  • I have worked on my novel almost every day. Tuesdays are the day I teach a class in the evening. Between that and my day job, it's extremely hard to fit in a writing session, although I'll try next Tuesday. Aside from Tuesdays, I have been consistent. 
  • I've also made progress on a guide that I will be offering readers soon. It's a review of my favorite resources for writers. I will be offering it via email. 

Goals for next week

Next week I will try to give a more timely update and to write more words for my NaNoWriMo project. My main goal will remain the same, however: write every day. 

The takeaway

Even though I didn't accomplish everything I wanted to, I consider the past week a victory because I wrote every day. As I write in my last update, I think that achieving small goals is far better than failing at big ones. This will continue to be my focus. I encourage you, reader--if you struggle to win big in your writing, make your goal to write a little every day. This will build the skill and mentality that will later take you where you want to go.