Prior to every new round of ROW80, I spend a great deal of time thinking about what I want to write about to launch things–what challenge I want to issue or wisdom I want to impart. Some rounds I do better than others. Sometimes life gets bananas and I’m lucky to have three sentences to string together along with the goals linky. And some rounds I have so many ideas, I hardly know where to begin. Today I’m caught up in the latter. Usually I have my post written and all the linkies laid in well before the start of the round so that things run like a well-oiled machine. But I’m sitting here the day before Round 4 launches, trying to keep my eyes open and my cracked out squirrel attention focused long enough to get this done. I’m coming off a serious hell week at the Evil Day Job and it’s thrown me off my game. It was the kind of week that spurred me to start this writing challenge in the first place. Life. Lots and lots of LIFE happening. Under those circumstances, it’s easy to get discouraged and think that you’ll never manage to carve out more time to write, that you’ll never be able to crank out more words.
Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.
The power of what you think you can do is tremendous. Those of you who’ve been around for a while will know that I regularly push you to add just a hundred words to whatever goal you set. Another half hour to your butt in chair, hands on keyboard time. Stretch those writing muscles. If you don’t challenge yourself you won’t get better.
I encourage all of you to track how much you’re writing. For those of you who are struggling to get words, you may think this serves as a reminder of how little you’re getting done. You need to change your perspective. By tracking what you’re producing, how much you’re getting written each day, you have a baseline. And that gives you a frame for getting better. How’s that? Through data driven decision making.
Okay, so I have what might be deemed an unhealthy addiction to spreadsheets. I like tracking things. I especially like tracking things and seeing them go in the direction I want. I approach my writing no differently. I began tracking my daily word count back in 2010. That was the year I decided to take this writing thing as seriously as my Evil Day Job. I figured it would be good practice for eventually having writing BE my day job and also that I’d never get there without some serious discipline. That first year, I managed just over 100k and felt like I’d run a marathon. I averaged just over 600 words on writing days, and I wrote fewer days than I didn’t. In 2011, I set myself a goal to average at least 700 words a day on the days that I wrote. I did that (735 average, which is a 21.4% increase for you math geeks). My number of writing days stayed about the same. In 2012, I pushed for 800 words average (because increasing my output by about 100 words a day had proved to be doable) and also vowed to get my butt in chair to write more days. And so it went. In 2013 I decided I should start counting the words I wrote on plotting (which was a lot). Each and every year, I’ve tracked, and each and every year, I’ve written more and more, figuring out where I could stretch myself.
What’s that look like? Well, see for yourself. This is the annual tab from my spreadsheet as of today.
At this point, I’ve just about maxed out how many words I can write on average, and I write almost every day, so the area I’m striving to improve now is to reduce “waste” (I tend to lose about 35% of my words in revisions, so I’m trying to do a better job with first drafts–I won’t bore you with the spreadsheet tracking THAT). Anyway, my point is, I wouldn’t have any clue how much I’ve grown and improved in my ability to get stuff done as a writer if I hadn’t been tracking.
Now, I’m not saying you necessarily need to have anything as elaborate as I do (although I have my spreadsheet available for download on my blog if you’re into that), but track something this round. After you’ve got a week or two under your belt, take that number of words or number of days and strive to increase it by just 5%. That’s it. 5%. So, if you’re cranking out 500 words a day, you only have to add 25 words. That’s IT. That’s two sentences. You’ve got that. Keep tracking, and each time you feel yourself getting comfortable with whatever level you’ve reached, add another 5%. And when it comes time to set your goals for the first round of 2016, figure out how you can push yourself to be better, to write more. I’ll be right there with you.
Now, GET READY! GET SET! STATE YOUR GOALS! GO FORTH AND BE AWESOME!
Click here to enter the link to your goals post (which should be posted on your own blog–be sure and link directly to the post and not to the main blog). Then hop around and visit some of your fellow ROWers to leave encouragement.