Writing numbers for 2010

January 2, 2011

A couple of years ago, I discovered the benefits of keeping a writing log. I’m working on writing a book, and so often, I would get discouraged about my progress. I decided to keep a writing log and it truly revolutionized the way I work and it inspires me to keep going.

You see, with a writing log, I merely keep track of my activities of the day. If I spend 4 hours and only write 1 page, then that’s OK. I write it down.  Although I do keep track of my time, more for just general basic recordkeeping purposes (taxes, etc.), the real heart and purpose of the writing log is keeping track of what I actually do, my “production.”

So, for example, it might look something like this:

12/13/2010   Edited 4 pages.

12/14/2010   Edited 7 pages, wrote 1 page.

12/27/2010  Wrote 1 page.

And so on.

The miraculous thing to me is that when I tally these up at the end of every month, I am absolutely astonished at what I have been able to accomplish.  In the daily grind, I often feel like I am hardly doing anything. It is easy for me to get discouraged.  But then at the end of the month, I find out just how much all of those – 1-page-days add up. It’s remarkable.

Then, when I do my year-end numbers, it is truly phenominal. Keep in mind, I am only a “part -time” writer – it is not by any means my full time occupation. I do this as I have time, but I also deliberately make time for it and remain committed to it. I have even sacrificed time with family and friends to do so. So I am quite serious about it.  But check these numbers out!

GRAND TOTALS FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR OF 2010:

Edited: 452 pages

Hand-edited: 494 pages

Wrote: 57 pages

Read: 445 pages

Whoa!!  Now keep in mind that those 400+ numbers mostly represent multiple times-through something. Meaning I may edit the same page or chapter 2 or 3 times, not just one go-round.

Still, it totally astonishes me that I managed to accomplish this much in the past year.  It tells me that “I can do it” (see it through to completion); it tells me that even though I had hoped to finish my book by the end of 2010, and I’m disappointed that I did not, I can still point to these numbers and say that I really did work on it hard in the past year, and if I didn’t finish it up, it wasn’t for lack of trying.  It just wasn’t finished, is all.

I highly recommend the practice of keeping a writer’s log, especially if you are working on a longer work and sometimes feel overwhelmed or discouraged. This practice has helped me a lot.

© 2011, writingreading


Keeping a Writer’s Log

September 30, 2009

It seems like many of us struggle with the idea of calling ourselves “writers.” I know that’s true for me, and I know many of my writing friends feel that way too. In a writing group I belong to, one of the great sayings is: “A writer is one who writes.”

I love that phrase. It is simple and inspiring. And unarguably matter-of-fact. Even so, sometimes I still doubt.

One method that I have started using which has helped me immensely in any number of ways is to keep a writing log. No, not a journal. It is not a place to write. Rather, it is a way for me to keep track of my writing.

A typical run of entries might look something like this:

9/30/09 Wrote 2 pages.

9/28/09 Edited 7 pages.

9/18/09 Wrote 2 pages.

9/15/09 Read 10 pages, edited 3.

9/12/09 Cut 4 pages.

And so forth. This technique has helped me so much. First, it keeps me accountable, if only to myself. If I choose to share it with friends (as I have elsewhere), it makes me even more accountable. If they are paying attention, they can tell me “hey – I see you haven’t written anything in the past few weeks – everything OK? Need a jump start?  Keep going, you can do it.”  Or, they might notice that I’ve had a good run, and might cheer me on. Even if they don’t respond in any fashion, it still helps me to be accountable to myself, and to a community of writers.

Second, it’s useful for me to see where my time is going. Have I been mostly writing, or mostly editing?  After a few weeks or months of keeping a log like this, I may be able to notice patterns. I might find that I’m more productive at the end of the month. Or that when I am editing, I move much faster than when I am writing. Or that when progress seems slow, that’s OK, because it will be followed by a strong outburst of activity.

Keeping a log like this also helps keep me in a routine. I know that every night I write, I have to “check in” and make a note of my progress. It’s kind of like the ol’ marks on the wall to mark a child’s growth. These are my marks. Sometimes the growth is tiny and incremental; other times it comes in great bursts.

Finally, what I like best about keeping a log like this is when I tally things up at the end of the month. I come up with some amazing and surprising numbers.  For instance, all along, maybe my progress has been “write 2 pages” or “edit 4 pages” for many days.  Well, at the end of the month, it’s not unusual for me to total everything up and be astonished to discover that I’ve written 60 pages – or edited 80!  Yes, folks, those are real numbers. And I am not a full time writer.

It helps me realize that even just a page a day can add up to a whopping 30 pages by the end of the month. That even the smallest work, if done consistently, can add up, and can get me where I want to go. I can now say, with confidence – I am a writer!

© writingreading, 2009


Procrastination: Read, instead of Write

December 7, 2008

Yesterday a friend shared with me a writing quote that was very inspiring. It turned out it was from a book I have, but have not yet read. I’ve had to resist the temptation to go pull it off the shelf and start reading it.

One of the best ways I know to procrastinate on my writing – is to read about writing. How perfect! I can read about writing instead of doing it!

So far, I am managing OK to avoid this – probably because I’ve had a good run lately with my actual writing. I’m getting lots done and it is progressing well.

But Beware the Writing Book. It is procrastination poison in a candy-wrapped shell!

© writingreading, 2008


Procrastination Busters!

June 1, 2008

For the moment, at least, I think I’ve finally managed to break out of the procrastination bind I was in for a few weeks. I spent almost the entire day working on my NF book yesterday, and boy, does it feel good! I had enough momentum going I could have worked through the night, but decided getting a little rest might help me have a strong day today, too!

I thought about it, and here’s what has worked for me, to help get me out of procrastination and back into “real” writing (off-line, working on my book). For purposes of this post, I think for me I have two types of procrastination – active and passive.

Active procrastination is when I deliberately avoid work. It is a conscious decision. For example: write on my book or clean the bathroom? I think I’ll clean the bathroom.

Passive procrastination is when I try to sit down and write, and allow myself to get distracted. Maybe I decide before I get started to zip in and check my email – then look up two hours later and decide I hardly have time to get anything done before bed, so give up for the day. Or similar things. The passive procrastination method has been eating me up lately, so overcoming that is what I’m going to concentrate on, here.

Ten Ways to Break through Procrastination

  1. Avoid TV. Sounds simple, but hard to do.
  2. Avoid the Internet. Ditto. Email, websites, blogs – all are the pitfall here.
  3. Avoid doing “extra research.” This one is a tough one for me. I’m working on a non-fiction history book. Research is what it’s all about. But it’s easy for me to spend hours on this – and avoid writing – when maybe what I was “researching” really isn’t that important, at least, not in the first draft.
  4. Ignore the phone. I need to consider my writing time sacred. Just like I would turn off my cell phone if I went to church, I need to have the same sacredness and respect for my writing time at home. And ask others (friends, relatives, telemarketers) to have the same respect as well.
  5. Avoid re-reading an entire chapter. Sure, reading what you’ve written is an essential part of the writing process. But when I’m working on a book – there’s a lot to read. Instead, I need to stay focused only on the last page or paragraph that I’ve written – not the entire 20-page chapter.
  6. Stay focused. A corollary to #5 – I need to know where I’m going next in my narrative, and concentrate on that. “Avoid narrative distractions” is another way to put this. Do I really need to tell about Abigail’s dress at the ball when the storyline in this chapter is about the use of cotton bales to protect Union ships during the Civil War?
  7. When I stop for the day, make a note of where I’m going next. This technique has really been helpful for me, when I remember to do it. It helps me know exactly where to start the next time I sit down, and sometimes it has helped me to see gaps in my storyline or research that need to be filled in.

    These last three have been the most important for me, lately:

  8. Get right to work! I find the simple act of getting started to be my most difficult task. I can spend an entire hour meandering around before even opening the document on my desktop and sitting down and getting to work. Once I get started on writing, I’m fine, and can usually keep going. But it can take me an hour to get to that point, sometimes – and by then, it’s easy to be distracted and not-write at all.
  9. Make sure you are seated comfortably. The other day I figured out one of the reasons I couldn’t sit still at my computer while writing was simply because of my uncomfortable chair. I would fidgit, my legs would get twisted and cramp, and my arms hurt too because of the position of the keyboard on my desk in relation to my chair. I put a seat cushion in the chair, and voila – I have a six or eight hour day to my credit! Small things – big changes.
  10. Use music to my advantage. I’ve found that playing a CD of some of my favorite music helps in many ways. First, it puts me in a good mood. It gives me a positive outlook, and also helps focus my mind. It helps me avoid TV. It also, in some inexplicable manner, helps me stay focused enough to get started (#8). It helps me over that hurdle – which is a big one for me – and once I’ve cleared it, I can get underway. Music is so important for me to get started on my writing – that within 30 minutes, I am so engrossed in my writing that the music fades into the background, and I often don’t even notice when the CD finishes playing. That’s the kind of concentration I’m aiming for!!

I hope that I’ll be able to remember these techniques the next time I get stuck in a procrastination rut, and I hope you might find some of them helpful in your work as well. I’d love to hear from other writers about what works for you in overcoming procrastination.

©2008 writingreading