A couple of months ago I hit a major milestone in my writing life: I hit my one-thousandth day in a row of writing. I've written before about the Magic Spreadsheet, back when I first started using it in 2013, and later that same year when I was clocking along at 500 words a day. Now that I'm more than 1,000 days and 1,000,000 words in, it seems like a good time to think about this tool and how/why it works so well for me.
In the history of my writing life, starting when I was a child and continuing until I was 42 years old, I started hundreds of projects and never finished a one. I'd write until I hit something that stopped me (either within the story, or in my life)…then I'd stop. When I came back, I always started something new.
That's fine, if you want to write just for the enjoyment of writing. But I wanted to *be* a writer, with books for sale in bookstores. Maybe even make my living at it someday. You can't do that on unfinished work.
People are motivated by different things. I honestly didn't expect the Magic Spreadsheet to be as effective for me as it has been. After all, I've tried point systems and gamifications of various sorts for other aspects of my life (exercise, chores, etc.) and it only works for a little while. They usually feel artificial and constricting to me--but this one was different.
I don't really care about my number of points or my rankings against other writers that much (Okay, maybe I do check to make sure that I'm ahead of Chad in points, since he'll always be ahead of me on number of days).
But I have a chain--a chain of 1,066 days as I write this. And it's maintaining that chain that has me writing every day, even when life is busy and even when I feel terrible, even when the children are sick and the Internet is down, even when I'm on vacation or have to do my writing on the mom couch at lessons. The longer the chain of days written in a row grows, the less likely it becomes that I will break it. I'll cut myself the slack to make a weaker link on some days (only writing 250 words, the minimum), but mostly I write somewhere between 800 and 4,000 words a day now, and that adds up fast.
Now, that explains why I write every day, but not why it helped me finish things. That, I think is physics: momentum in particular. Momentum fed by sheer stubbornness.
If I'm not allowed to drop a project (because that would break the chain!), then I have to find a way to move forward in it, thinking my way out of corners I'd trapped myself in, digging my way out of holes I'd fallen into. I have to find a way or I'll break the chain, you see.
So, how about you? What works for you to keep moving forward when you hit blocks in your endeavors? Does tracking help? Or does it make you feel trapped? Would love to hear your stories in the comments.
For me writing is like breathing--I can't NOT do it. Even on the days that I don't work on a manuscript I blog and write comments on blogs and write long posts on social media. Writing is just what I do but I applaud you for being so conscientious about your process!ReplyDelete
I'm grumpy as heck if I don't write . . .but I really used to let it get pushed to the bottom of all the priority lists.Delete
It's great that you've found something that works so well for you. That's quite an impressive streak!ReplyDelete
I think tracking would make me feel trapped. The only time I really track my writing like that is when I participate in NaNoWriMo, and I find constantly wondering/worrying about my word count to be very stressful. Especially when I'm behind. Which is pretty much always. :)
Everyone has to find a system that works for them. Honestly, I'm surprised that this works on me . . .but hey when you find a successful technique, you stick to it!Delete
That's an impressive chain, Samantha. I'm delighted to have written every day for the past 187 days and am delighted with myself! I had been trying to write every day for months before this chain started, but kept missing a few days here or there, but, at last, I seem to be in a groove. I just HAVE to write. The day feels all wrong till i do.ReplyDelete
Well done you! What a lot you have accomplished.
Thanks, Christine. And congrats to you, too! Isn't it great to get to where it's a real integrated part of every day?Delete
Excellent work as usual, chain-nemesis :-) Keep up the good work!ReplyDelete
Right back at you, Chad. And as much as I'd love to beat you, I wouldn't want you to break your chain either. :)Delete