And I don’t mean in a vehicle. Although I got some excellent news to close out July! My youngest daughter passed her driving test. She’d put it off, and off, because she was afraid of failing, or of getting in an accident, or… something. Finally, the last straw was that she really needed to drive to get a decent job. That, and I’d told the girls they couldn’t move out until they had their driver’s licenses. You’re vulnerable without that, I told them. So I’m very proud, and happy. And this is totally not what this post is about, just a proud mommy moment.
Or is it? This post was supposed to be about overcoming doubt and reaching goals. I’m going to talk about writing, but the driving is part of it as well. We have to set goal in life. But as we found, my daughter and I, someone external saying ‘I want you to do this.’ even with the urgency that I explained the necessity of her learning to drive, was insufficient. It wasn’t until she decided that “I need this” that real progress and success happened.
For me, it’s the writing. I think I’ve talked about it in posts here on MGC this year, but I’m not sure. I have been vocal over on my blog about it when I do my monthly reports… I’ve been writing in public a lot this year. Not just with The Case of the Perambulating Hatrack, but being upfront about my wordcount goals. As the end of July approached, I was posting on social media about the stretch goal I added to the month (more about that in a minute) when someone commented that wordcounts didn’t really mean anything. The point was that just getting words out does not guarantee quality. Indeed. I’ve promised no-one quality with my writing. However, I have learned this year (so many things) that momentum helps me a lot.
Which brings me back to the stretch goal for July. My original goal when I came into the month was to write NLT 500 words daily. This is a slow, measured acceleration for me. I started early in the year with ‘I’ll write something daily’ which worked up to a hundred, then a couple of hundred, words a day. You can’t run a marathon from a standstill, and I had every intention of running a marathon so to speak. So! July was also the month where I had to take a vacation, like it or not, because work had a maintenance shutdown. My mini-goal then was to write 30,000 words in the 9 days off I had scheduled. I wrote over 23K in three days.
That’s where the long slow training for wordcount production paid off, right in those days. Almost half my monthly productivity in a microburst of butt-in-chair-hands-on-keyboard. Furthermore, although for a few days after I dropped back to my minimum days, I recovered and have had several days where the stories came readily. I’m not fighting the stories out of my head like chiseling ore from the ground with pick and shovel. I’m actually dealing with having too much. I’ve started doing dictation, and the time to transcribe a couple thousand words at the end of the day is hard to find! But it was and is exhilarating to know that rather than needing to give up on writing (or at the very least, publishing my stuff) I am achieving all my goals, and more. Like the stretch goal. I looked at my total on the spreadsheet two days before the end of the month, and realized that if I wrote 3200 words I’d hit 50,000 words in the month. I’d have done a novel in a month… without planning it.
The reality is that while pulp fiction, and Indie novels which are the new pulp fiction, are often 40-60K words in length, what I got done in this month was on several projects. I finished The East Witch. I wrote a bunch on Hatrack, and the military fantasy my husband and I are cowriting. I wrote a nearly-complete short story for my daughter. There may be something else in there, but I think that’s it…
My monthly total for July wound up being 50636 words. I didn’t set out to get there, but once I was close, the momentum to pick up my steps and run to the finish line was there. I did it! The elation of success buoys you toward more success. And if you didn’t succeed today? There’s always tomorrow. But that is why I’d chosen such an easy task in the beginning. Because momentum feeds on itself. I knew I could write every day with no expectations of more than, say, 5 words. My friend Dorothy Grant used a calendar and gold stars to track her writing streak. I use a simple spreadsheet I update right before bed (and I am tracking a lot more than just writing). Once you have the habit in place, you can start incrementally increasing your goals.
Driving productivity by tracking goals – having set small, reasonable goals – and celebrating your successes, no matter how minor they may seem at first, is a great way to do anything. This isn’t just for writing. You can apply the technique to learning to drive… whatever you want to do.
I generate charts, too, because I’m such a data geek.
And to put it into perspective, this is the annual stats chart.
Now, I know I cannot do this in August. I don’t have the vacation time to sit down and pound out a massive quantity of story in such an immersive way. But I’m looking at my annual trend, and I’m thinking I may shoot for 700 words a day, to break through that 20K words in a month barrier I was approaching. With the dictation, where I can get a few thousand words just on my commute, it’s a reasonable goal. I don’t want to overshoot, that’s a self-defeating process. If I get more than 700 great! But if I am having a bad day I’m not averaging these counts – I still want to get the 700. I also know eventually I’ll hit a number where I’m going to top out and just… can’t. I only have so much of me. But I haven’t found it yet. Still looking. Find the brink, then back off of it a little. That’s the plan.