If there is anything I am rather wary of, it is one-size-fit-all solutions to increase writing productivity, writing quality or author visibility. I shrink away from flashy titles like Five Proven Ways to Sell your Book or Write faster in only 10 days! They feel like the diet pills of the writing community, and this time, we all participate in it because in our effort to lure ever more people onto our blogs, we come up with ever more hyperbolic statements.
I will try not to do that. But over the last weeks, I have been testing and developing a system that works for me better than any other so far, and I do want to share it in case it can help you, too.
For me, the first step in creating a writing routine was to hold myself accountable. And because we are fallible little humans who like to lie to themselves to create their own more comfortable reality, there are two main ways of doing so – to have a group or a person who reminds us and checks in, or to log every bit of writing we do.
I was always more drawn towards the latter. Being reminded to write and asked about my word-counts makes me defensive and pouty and all kinds of things that I do not have to subject an innocent person to. And so I tried different ways to log my writing. For a long time, especially at the end of last year, while I was finishing my first novel, Svenja Liv’s Wordcount Spreadsheets (http://svenjaliv.com/resources/) were a great help to me and I would still recommend them dearly. But over the course of this year, I quickly stopped updating.
This had several reasons:
- I was working on several things and found it very hard to keep track of how much exactly I wrote in a day. Especially if I forgotone evening, it was almost impossible to reconstruct.
- I was doing a lot of editing, which I couldn’t log in the same sheet in a satisfying way
- Having a big fat zero on there for one day made me feel bad, especially when I did do things like editing, blogging or planning.
And there it was, once I started to feel bad about the system, there was no going back and I abandoned it. I tried smaller trackers in the following months, but mainly I stuck with just chugging along as best as I could – and I know I missed a lot of days in which I could have been more productive for it.
Now, I have a new method, a nice, old-school one. And yes, it is partly that I never had a sticker system when I was a kid, and because I am attracted to colours and the tactile sensation of peeling a sticker from the sheet, but those are just things that make it so helpful :). And it does solve all the problems I had before. It’s also less exact – and I find this helps my OCD brain. I don’t like looking at odd numbers all the time. But anything between 900 and 1100 words and I award myself a little happy dot.
It’s also infinitely adjustable (well – I say infinitely, I personally have 5 different colour stickers, but there’s a row of white ones which you can paint in any colour. I use them to supplement the ones I am running low on, which is currently yellow, my co-writing colour.)
I actually had to make it longer the other day, and pasted a new sheet at the bottom. I have this crazy idea of just going on and on in a long snake full of markings of my writing. Like tree rings, that tell something about the seasons of writing: when fast writing prevails, when editing takes over etc. It’s fun!
That’s really all there is to it. And it’s a tremendous amount of fun. Here is my colour designation:
Red: Writing, by myself on a novel/per 1k.
Blue: Writing, by myself on a shortstory or snippet/per 1k
Yellow: Writing, together with my lovely L.C. Spoering/per 1k
Green: Editing/per chapter
Black: Planning/per hour
Especially for tracking Nano writing, of course, it might be more helpful to award points for 500 words so that 3 stars a day will pretty much get you through. 🙂 And it makes for even more happy colourful stickers.