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The check phase

After only getting in about 9000 words during the first half of November (way off the 25K needed to stay on track for NaNoWriMo), I decided to reevaluate my writing habits. The check phase of my own personal Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle for continuous improvement.

Sure, I have excuses. I scheduled too many things, got thrown off—and helped—by the Michael Hauge workshop, was struggling with my storyline, couldn’t deal with the early mornings forced by my kids’ swim schedule.

But in the end, regardless of all my reasons, I wasn’t putting in the required amount of time needed to get down the words.

So what was really getting in my way? The usual suspects: email, Facebook, blog reading, Twitter.

I have this desire to start my day by clearing my Inbox and getting all distractions “out of the way”. But you know what happens when I do that? By the time I’m done—often hours later, despite thinking it’ll be much less—I don’t have the productive energy left to write.

After spending half the morning online, I’ve used up all my mental enthusiasm on activities that don’t produce words.

This wasn’t really news to me. Or probably to you for that matter. I reassess every few months, and it’s always the same thing. The hard part is getting over that feeling that I need to respond to emails right away. That blog comments should be acknowledged as soon as I see them. That if I don’t answer Twitter mentions or respond to Facebook comments someone will actually care.

But, wow, I’m just not that important in the scheme of other people’s lives. That’s not a statement of low self-esteem, it’s an affirmation that my priorities should come first.

So, this week I changed things. I now start the morning with writing.

I let my gym membership expire since I have equipment at home, so now while my boys swim, I write. I can get in 600-1000 words before 6:15 in the morning! That’s a good feeling, and gets me in the mood to keep going.

Then I keep writing through the morning until I meet my word count goal. If I hit lunch before my word count, I let myself take a break, just like I did when I worked full time. Eat, read a good book, maybe watch a quick TV show, but most important, stay off the computer.

And then, go back to work.

Only when I’ve met my goal do I get online, write my blog, or work on other responsibilities. Just like if I were still working outside the house. I need to remember that paid or not, writing is now my job. I have to treat it as such. Only I can make it happen.

Simple, but not always easy.

So, is it working?

On Tuesday I wrote for almost five hours and got in 3500 words. Yesterday in just over three hours I did about 2700. Hard to argue with numbers like that.

Will it work every day? Probably not, but it’s a good start.

How about you? How are you doing with your goals?

0 Comments

  1. Reply

    For a few moments, I thought you had been spying on my daily behavior 🙂 It is so easy to get distracted with all the other stuff. Just like you, I want to get the “little things” done with before I get to the real stuff. But that has always been the seal of doom for me.

    With my last WIP (60,000 words in ten days) I did not blog, I checked twitter two times a day at very specific times of the day for only 15 minutes, and did not read any new books (other than what I would listen to in the car). The result was groundbreaking for me.

    I will do the same now that I am bout to do a major rewrite of the same WIP. If I want to create, I have found that I need to segment my day, week and month so that I don’t let anything else get in my way while I am on a “self-imposed” deadline. You said it perfectly, just like if it was “at work.” I think the only way to make this “work” get off the launching pad is to build some structure around our madness called life 🙂

    Best of luck with your NaNo WIP!

    • Reply

      Thanks, Ara. You have to be even more disciplined than me because you *do* work during the day! The annoying part for me is that I know what I need to do. It’s just making myself do it that’s hard for some reason.

      It’s like trying to lose weight. We all know the key is eating better and working out. Simple right? But if it were easy, no one would be overweight.

      Thanks for chiming in. I’m in awe of your productivity. Good luck with your revisions!

  2. Reply

    Gwen,

    This is way to long. But, you’ve touched on what is critical or was for me and I will share how I solved it.

    A quick review of a “real job.”

    Company expectations implemented by “boss” driven supervision and a check every Friday is the American Dream version of a “real job.”
    Notice, the bulk of a “real job” is based on an employee “working” in the context of structure external to them and with the reasonable assurance of money.

    Writing looks, feels and functions like anything but a real job.
    Writing is creating/ manufacturing— that should gag everyone— a product that someone else may or may not buy from us.

    No product, no pay. This uncertainty, which we experience as risk is aggravated by the long sales cycle for a book. I mean from inception to check is a long wait time where books are concerned.

    How to make the jump from the debilitating mindset of the “real job” to writing as job and getting that job done. Decide you are a writer. That’s it. I’ll say it again. Decide you are a writer. That’s all. No proof. No credentials. No check to cash. No degree. No cap and gown. No boss. Nothing to show for the decision. No title. No business card, yet. Nothing but the raw blaze of a decision. It did it for me.

    I am a writer. It is who I am and it is what I do. I remember the night almost thirty years ago when I decided I was a writer. The “I wish” became ” I will ” through the strength of decision.

    When I decided I was a writer I did what writers do. I wrote and I published. Until I decided I was a writer I piddled around with words. Once I decided I was a writer that was it. I wrote and published. When I stopped writing I didn’t publish. It is painfully that simple. For me it was is a decision.

    Like I said, way to long.

    • Reply

      Curtis: Long, but important. When I see “aspiring author” on people’s webpages or Twitter bios, I cringe. But I’ve been there. Only in the last six months or so have I finally felt comfortable enough with the idea to call myself a writer.

      I had to get over my old identities first, the ones I worked so hard for and went to school for. The ones that showed I have a brain, an education, 60-hour work weeks under my belt…

      Embracing what I do now took some guts for me. I’m aspiring to get published, but whether I ever do or not, I still write. Therefore, I am a writer.

      I have to take responsibility for that. Thanks!

  3. Reply

    Yes, this is precisely the same problem I have. I still put too many other things ahead of the writing. Every day I say I will do the writing first, but I always seem to find an excuse to “just check something quick” on the internet. Of course it is never quick, it’s hours and hours and the drive for writing fades. So I need to follow your example. I was ahead on NaNo for exactly one day. Now I’m behind again. Not a lot, but there really isn’t any good reason why I’m behind at all. 🙁

    • Reply

      Maura, just imagine me slapping your hand any time you find yourself online instead of writing. 😉 You’re doing great, still 8K ahead of me at least. There’s still time to get back on track. You can do it!

  4. Reply

    Good strategy, Gwen. Write first, everything else later. I’ve also decided, for me, to include, “No excuses!” as my mantra. Yeah, we all have life issues that interfere and impede us from reaching our goals, but we have to want this badly enough to make it happen.

    I know you will, and I will, too. 🙂

  5. Reply

    I wrote a similar blog about time management. Bottom line: write first. That’s it. Despite all the distraction I’ve had this month–sick me, vet visits, etc., I have already written 48,000 plus words and I have sent 3 entries into the Golden Heart. One to go.

    No excuses.

    Family is on board. I am ready to knock the next one out of the park.

    🙂

    • Reply

      Great job, Christine! It always comes down to putting writing first. Harder than it should be to stick to sometimes. Once I started really writing (around the 9th), I took off. If I do in the next ten days what I did in the last ten days, I’ll still get there.

      Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with your GH entries!

      • Reply

        Thanks Gwen. I hope you get it done and that it is a successful project for you. I feel like I have 50K under my thumb so to speak and I always do GH so there’s no time to do both. I think the polishing phase is much harder, but at least you’ll have something to work with when you get started on your revisions.

        🙂

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