“Work” Writing Vs. “Fun” Writing: A Reflection (Part 3/3)

Well, I’ve been trying to shovel out a lot of what our current president might call malarkey, so I figure that I might want to try and bring it to a close.

I started my writing life harboring a small little hope that someday, my talent and great stories might end up making me rich and famous.

As I approach a half century of life, I now realize that my writing goes beyond notions of fame and fortune. I realize that I would be writing and creating even if nobody was reading it. I realize that I would be flinging my work into the electronic beyond even if I didn’t know that someone would be reading it and be interested in it.

It is nice, however, to have someone praise your work and tell you that you are a great writer. That’s the truth even if you don’t know exactly who those people are and couldn’t be relied on to pick out those people in front of you even if they were wearing name tags that bore the usernames that they went by in the electronic Wild West. None of that matters.

As a responsible writing instructor at the secondary educational level (and previously at the post-secondary educational level), this is where I would start insisting, quite annoyingly, that the author of whatever nonfiction writing piece that they are trying to create (and this is, by clear definition, a nonfiction writing piece) needs to lay out, in a single sentence, if possible, what the thesis of their writing is. If they are not able to recite this sentence for me, I often insist, then they will be lost regarding what the intent and purpose of their writing is, and more importantly, their readers will have no idea what in the bloody frozen hells of the lower levels of Hades what the purpose is of what they are writing.

So, I’m going to see if I can manage some sort of thesis statement not just for this piece of writing, but also for the previous two ones in this series. In addition, I think that by definition, it is going to end up being a working thesis statement regarding who I am as a writer.

When I was a kid, I self-identified as a writer. This was what I wanted to be when I grew up, this was how I was going to Make My Living. I also had a small little ambition to become a Famous Novelist, but like all sorts of fame and success, I didn’t know how much talent, desire, and luck1 you needed to get to that point. I had at least just enough of the first one and plenty of the second one, but the third I had no more than most typical people and I hadn’t learned yet how critical that can be when it comes to fame and success. You can almost certainly succeed if you have sufficient levels of all three qualities, but if you only have even just two or one of them, you’d have as much as a chance as most people have on the lottery.

When I was a younger man, there were many times where I did describe myself as a writer but I almost felt like a fraud doing it. Yes, I was making money off my writing skills, first as a journalist, and then as a teacher. In the former case, I certainly could say I was a published author, but it wasn’t like I was a novelist or anything. I had set aside my writing for a while, and there were years that went by where I hadn’t written a single word of fiction. Those novelist dreams of mine kept getting further and further away.

Now, I have actually gotten to be a published writer, even though I am far from A Success yet. I have been concentrating on improving my writing skills, both from a productivity and a quality standpoint. I am starting to see results. The fact that I am not supporting myself as a writer, or that I am producing some work that has no economic or marketing potential whatsoever, is totally irrelevant.

I am a writer because I want to write, I am writing, and I want to grow and improve my craft. No other definition is needed.

How’s that for a thesis statement?

So now, I don’t have any existential debates anymore about whether I’m a writer or not. Whether I’m as good or as productive of a writer as I should be, however… that is a different story.

I’ve managed to set some goals for myself this year. Maybe you heard about them. I know I will have to continue to set new goals and challenges for myself in the years to come. I’m in the process of considering what those goals should be, and I think self-publishing is going to be at the top of that list.

Keep going upward and forward, for as long as my health and faculties hold up. There’s still a ways to go, and any lifetime is never enough time to learn everything that there is to know about writing.

Footnotes:

  1. Luck I define as any other outside forces or circumstances that fall in your favor when you are trying to accomplish something.

Writing Journal 6.1.2022: Disaster… weeklong slump… but I think I might pull it out and I’m not that far off pace so I need to get over myself

[PHOTO NOTE: This was the first thing that popped up when I typed “Disaster Area” in the image search.]

No whining, no crying, no complaining. I sensed there was going to be a slump the minute I looked at my numbers from last year and realized that the end of the school year usually means that mentally I need a break and I usually take a break by sitting in front of a laptop and doing nothing.

But, this year I was aware of it. I knew ahead of time that this was coming, and I decided that I needed to get ahead of it or try to manage it. I also had that goal I’ve been talking about – 200,000 words this year, and meeting my minimum daily goals (500 words a day or 30 minutes of planning/revisions in a day). Now, let’s see how far I am from those goals as May wraps up.

First, here are last week’s totals, which are easily the worst I’ve had this year. The fact that I have only had one week in three figures rather than several is at least good news, because the following numbers aren’t:

Writing statistics for the week ending 5.28.2022:
+580 words written.
Days writing: 2 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 3 of 7 for 105 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 3 of 7 days.

Now, here are May’s overall numbers:

Writing statistics for May 2022:
Words: 12,563
Revise/Plan: 255 minutes
Daily Writing Goals Met: 54%

Again, this was the worst month statistically for me this year, although the second half of the month was when I really collapsed.

Anyway, where does this leave me regarding my goals I mentioned above?

As of June 1, 2022, I am counting 91,179 words to my total so far. I have met my daily writing goals a total of 76 percent of the time. Assuming that I want to be on pace to get to 200,000 words this year, I am still more than 8,000 words ahead of my pace and also ahead of the 70 percent mark.

So… I’m not panicking. I have the feeling that the fact that I have been monitoring the numbers on a monthly basis more closely than I did last year makes me more comfortable than I was last year when I was just guessing.

I have the whole month of June off. It’s going to be a long month, too. I’m getting more confident that this will only be a lost week rather than a lost month.

I’ll leave you with that. Going to get back to some of those things I wanted to write.

Writing Journal 5.18.2022: Looking forward to the summer break

[PHOTO NOTE: I was thinking of the Mississippi River when I was thinking about going on summer break next week. Getting out on the river was always a highlight for me finding some sandbar in the middle of the stream and hanging out there for the afternoon. And now, I’m a 2 1/2 hour-drive from the Mississippi. (Sigh.) I’ve heard some good stuff about Red Rock State Park on the Des Moines River maybe 45 minutes away from where I’m at. I might have to take a look and see what it’s like.]

I’m at risk of having the photo notes for one of these things run longer than the actual meat of the blog itself, heh heh. Then again, I might write a blog post soon where there might be more footnotes than actual text. (Don’t threaten yourself with a good time, Liegois.)

You might not be able to tell, but it’s the last week of school for me for the 2021-2022 year. I’ve observed that teaching an entire school year is the mental equivalent of running a marathon. Some years it is better than others. At the end of my last school year, I wasn’t sure that I was going back into teaching. Now, I feel like the school year breezed by in many ways and I’ll be back at my current district next year. Environment and school culture can be everything, just as with any other working environment.

Anyway, I had to tag and categorize this post as personal. Enough about me, let’s get to the writing.

I do not want to waste this down time like I frankly did last year. However, there were a lot of reasons behind that, I think. I was unsure of what I would be doing professionally, I had several aimless goals, my head was total mush, and I barely got anything done.

However, I’m much more confident that I will have a better summer this year. I know what I want to get done, I have a goal for my writing pace, and I’m feeling much more focused.

Last week’s totals would have been fantastic over the course of last summer, but for me they are not horrific but not nearly good enough. I like the fact that I look at a week that’s a slightly down one and my attitude is to make sure next week is even better. I also appreciate that I have been more consistent with my writing than I’ve been for a long time, and that I’m beginning to merge productivity with consistency.

Anyway, at this point I think I’m rambling. So, I will simply post last week’s totals and tell you that more will be coming. Take care.

Writing statistics for the week ending 5.14.2022:
+3,829 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for 90 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 4 of 7 days.

Writing Journal 5.11.2022: Demanding more of myself

PHOTO NOTE: The featured photo was one of the things that popped up when I searched “Writing Motivation.” Go figure.

It’s… good news that I’m being more demanding of myself? I think so.

In many ways, I’m not doing too much. Work on trying to get my latest OC novel published is… paused at the moment. I honestly don’t have the mental bandwidth to deal with it as I get closer to the end of the school year. The more I am thinking about it, the more I have the feeling that I need to set up a checklist of items I need to do to get it published%. At the end of next week, I think I might want to have this ready and ask the advice of some of my Des Moines writing people to get their advice, even if I can’t make it up for the meeting next week. (I am very happy Zoom exists.)

I do think I need to know what I need to get done. For the first time this year, I set a goal of 200,000 words to write this year, whether fiction, nonfiction, blogs, or otherwise. I wanted to meet my daily quotas at least 70 percent of the time. For the first time this year, I said “this is what I want to get done,” and not just say “let’s see what happens.”

And, it has been paying off. As of the end of April I was about 12,000 words ahead of pace for the year. I estimate that it usually takes me writing 4,167 words per week on a four-week month to keep up with that 200,000-word goal. I’ve matched or exceeded that count 12 out of the previous 18 weeks.

Are my numbers for this week awe-inspiring? Maybe by this year’s pace, they’re not fantastic. But I know I’ve had a much better start on 2022 than I ever did in 2021. If what I write gets actually better in the meantime, I’ll consider that a bonus… or, a goal for next time.

Anyway, here’s the stats for last week. Enjoy, and take care of yourselves, everyone. We live in weird times.

Writing statistics for the week ending 5.7.2022:
+4,752 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for 30 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 5 of 7 days.

% – For a variety of reasons, I’ve decided to go the self-publishing route. One of the main reasons is that I would like to see a version of my book out for people sooner than the 3-4 years it would take to try and query agents and/or traditional publishers. I don’t want to wait that long.

Writing Journal: 3.23.2022: I’m writing, but not what I’m “supposed” to write – or, the difference between total writer’s block and “situational” writer’s block/procrastination

Well, this is a bit frustrating now.

I’m doing… all right with the writing, I guess? I’m well into March, which is one of those “extra week” months where I can get five weeks of writing sorted out rather than just four weeks. Last week’s totals (I’ll spell that out in a moment) were the best I’ve had all year, bar none, and by the time that this post goes online, I might already have achieved my writing goal for this month, to keep on pace with this not-so-crazy 200,000 words in a single year goal for 2022.

But, I’m getting the feeling that I’m beginning to separate my writing into the “serious commercial or semi-commercial writing” and the “totally frivolous and fun writing.” Two different areas, and categories that represent two different emotions for me. I have been associating the first category with success, accomplishment, “being a serious writer,” and procrastination on a very measurable level. The second category is filled with slight embarrassment because most of the writing is “frivolous,” “not serious,” “fan fiction,” “not intended for commercial success or even intended to appeal to a wider audience” and it’s supposedly not something I should invest a lot of time and creativity.

But I’ve had more fun doing that latter sort of writing than any other type of writing during the past few weeks. So, since I’ve been thinking on this subject for more than a little bit, maybe it’s time to take a step backward and see if my behavior makes any sense. Many people have complimented me, both in past times and present times, that I have a good self-analysis of my behavior, my reasoning, and my emotional reactions. Maybe it’s time to apply that to my current writing status.

(I usually post writing journals that either just say “here’s my totals for the week” and hello, or go into a deep dive about what I am thinking, writing-wise, about what is going on. I get the feeling, as I am putting this together, that this entry is one of the latter kind.

So, buckle in.

Some dude found it on Facebook, then posted it on Reddit. I saw it there and thought it was a good visual representation of the weirdness that I was considering regarding the writing output I had recently. Now, it’s on WordPress. You’re welcome.

So, we have the “serious writing” and the “fun writing” categories that I came up with for myself because I need to write about something and I might as well get it out here. My other experience is that once I talk something out with myself, once I analyze it and try and explain it to myself, I usually am able to work my way for it. I often times have eventually found myself repeating behavioral patterns, but it almost always keeps me from repeating not so good behaviors in the short term because once I figure out what is actually going on inside my head, I am able to correct things. So, I think it is good to talk about that here, especially since it concerns itself with my writing and what I am doing with it.

Essentially, what is happening is that I’m doing well at the latter writing but not the former. So, I’m going to make a brief effort to see why that is the case, and also if this classification into good and bad writing actually makes sense or is just some arbitrary malarkey that I decided on.

I’m going to try to, anyway. Or, at least summarize it.

As of right now, I’m seeing the “serious” work as something that I have to do but have to really motivate myself to do. There’s plenty of stakes in it, such as getting better known and possibly making this pay off. While my “fun” writing has no chance of doing any of that, but I enjoy myself when I do it and find the process a breeze to put out new material – new material, that is, that is not even intended to be commercial or be exploited commercially.

This is an interesting conversation… but I think I need to think on it a bit further before I tease out the implications and see the reasoning, whether accurate or false, behind this thinking. For now, just know I had a very productive week and looking forward to many more. After some of the weeks I’ve had last year and early this week, that is a nice change.

All you writers keep writing, and everyone keep safe.

Writing statistics for the week ending 3.19.2022:
+6,787 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 2 of 7 for 120 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 7 of 7 days.

Writing Journal 3.2.2022: Sucky last week but February was better than January

Get ready for Number City today.

This week was not the best writing week I ever had… but it was not disastrous, and what runners might call the “split” numbers for the year so far make me both feel like I improved over a sucky January and might be on pace to meet that 200,000-word goal for the year, and things are looking very nice for me to meet my daily writing goals at least 70 percent of the time.

Usually, I leave the stats toward the end, but they kind of build on each other, so best to tackle them right away. First, last week’s numbers.

Writing statistics for the week ending 2.26.2022:
+3,869 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 5 of 7 days.

Again, not the most impressive weekly stats I ever had, but they are not a disaster. And when you compare January’s numbers with February’s, I see a big increase.

Monthly Statistics, 2022:
January:
Words: 13,954
Revise/Plan: 165
Daily Writing Goals Met: 68%
February:
Words: 16,770
Revise/Plan: 90
Daily Writing Goals Met: 86%

So, nearly a 3,000-word jump from last month, a little lower on time revising/planning, and a big jump in the amount of times I’m making quota. What does that mean for my goals?

Word Count

I’ve already written 30,724 words for the year 2022 so far, leaving 169,276 words left toward my goal. If I would divide those words evenly over the remaining 10-month period, I would have to average about 16,928 words per month.

That is not far off my February pace… and I am going into March, which is a longer month by about one week than the last two. So, I am feeling confident that I can get a good run going in March and manage to put myself well on pace to getting that goal met.

Daily Goals Met

This is looking even better. I am meeting my daily writing goals 77 percent of the time, well above the 70 percent I was shooting for. A few more months like February and I’ll have that goal pretty much locked up.

Well, I actually put out a non-writing journal blog post last week, so that was a positive. I’ll try and put out another one later this week.

Try to stay safe, everyone – it’s not that easy to do sometimes. But give it a shot. Until later.

Writing Journal 2.23.2022: Feeling better about productivity

[Photo note: This is what popped up when I searched for “Productivity” on Pexels.]

I will keep this relatively short. There’s a few good reasons for that, which I am happy with.

First, I finished (or at least finished the first part) of a passion project that I’ve been obsessed with for about the past two years or so. Yes, it’s the fan fiction project I’ve mentioned here before. I’m not going to link to that story, and there’s some reasons for that. However, I am going to talk about it more in-depth in a post I’ve scheduled for Friday to explain why I devoted so much time and energy to something that won’t ever make me a dime and I don’t even want to do anything that would hint at that. Again, I’ve got that story cued up for Friday night.

Some other good news… we had a meeting of the Iowa Writers Corner last week. We got some awards for the year. Crazily, even though I did not join the group until midway through the year, I managed to snag the “Weekend Warrior” award for 2021. That’s the award the group gives to the guys who do not write full-time but write in their free time. (I might have explained this in an earlier post. Oh, well).

And, I managed to get two awards – one the old one (2021) and one for last month in January.

The 2021 award…
…and the new 2022 award, received for winning the month of January.

As for my writing totals, I did better on overall word count than I did the previous week, but I only made my daily quota six out of seven days rather than all seven days. Remember, one of my goals (other than 200,000 words written this year) is to meet my daily writing quotas 70 percent of the time. If I keep meeting my quotas at least five out of seven days, I’ve got it covered easily.

Anyway, I’m also going to shoot for getting another blog post out Saturday, on the subject of The Wheel of Time that I’ve been fooling around on for a while. Hopefully I can get to it… and have some more regular posts on here. Wish me luck.

Here’s the totals. Keep safe, everyone.

Writing statistics for the week ending 2.19.2022:
+5,144 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 6 of 7 days.

Writing Journal 2.9.2022: Trying to pick up the pace, or, have you ever had that one project that keeps sticking around…?

Today’s featured photo is a bit of home, a bald eagle in flight around Muscatine courtesy of Dad (William Liegois) who’s one of the best photogs I ever saw not working at a newspaper. Even though I do like my home, I do miss the Mississippi River and seeing bald eagles now and again.

Anyway, on to the writing. It went OK last week. Not mind-blowing, not a disaster… but OK. But I am driving myself more than I have ever had on just sheer writing.

It was probably about six or seven years ago that I started keeping track of my writing output, and the total number of words that I would write for any given day, week, month, or year. At first, I wasn’t pushing myself. I was just reminding myself that I did want to consider myself a writer and maybe, just maybe, I should write. And that was enough to get me out of the funk where I spent years without typing a single word of fiction or writing that had nothing to do with my day jobs.

Then, I started putting quotas on myself. I’d had some experience with NaNoWriMo, but 1,667 words a day (which will give you a 50,000-word manuscript in a 30-day month) was a little heavy, so I decided to dial it down to 500 words. I hit that number… a lot of times, but not every day. There was at least one day last week where I was so yakked out by a cold I couldn’t even think straight. I’m doing better now, and I had maybe the best weekend (Friday/Saturday) numbers that I’ve had for a while.

And now that I have had a few years of writing statistics, I felt comfortable for the first time setting a total word count goal for the year ahead of time – 200,000 words in total, and a hope that I meet my daily quota 70 percent of the time. (I count time toward planning and revision work toward the latter total – 30 minutes a day of that activity is the same equivalent of 500 words a day.)

Did I meet that daily quota every day this week? I did not. But, I did manage to get more than 4,000 words written. And even with the modest start to the year, if I manage to average at least 4,000 words a week for the rest of the year, I’ll make 200,000 with at least 5K in words to spare.

And I can manage 4,000 words a week as a “weekend warrior,” as my one writing group calls guys like me who have a job but write on the side. I just did that two weeks in a row. That’s a victory I’ll take.

On another note… I am going to write something other than journal posts. Eventually.

There were long stretches of this blog where all I did is post only journals. Sometimes it was all I had to talk about, other times I had losses of ambition. This time it is because I’m trying to finish up the last chapter of a passion project (fan fiction) that I’ve been working on for a while. And I’m so close to getting done. I think I have maybe two scenes left until I can put this story to bed. I’ve felt compelled to finish it, so that needs to get off my plate before I can concentrate on anything else.

I will write about other stuff, eventually. Trust me.

So anyway, here’s the numbers. Take care everyone and I’ll be back here soon.

Writing statistics for the week ending 2.5.2022:
+4,332 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for  30 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 5 of 7 days.

Writing Journal 2/2/2022: The end of the month brings better numbers… but not so better numbers for an entire month… thanks to a bit of a miscalculation… but I’m not that far behind my goal

Hi, everyone.

I had a bit of a slowdown the past couple days due to a good-sized cold – not COVID, this is acting exactly like my typical colds this time of the year. A runny nose is turning into a cough after a few days, right on time, and so I’ll likely have to deal with a cough for the next week or two. Thankfully, my mask wearing at work seems to have been paying off to avoid COVID there (and help prevent spreading my cold to anyone else, a plus).

I actually had a good week of writing last week – the best I had last month.

However, I kind of miscalculated my pace to match my goal for this month.

I had calculated that I had to hit about 3,850 per week to hit my goal, but I realized all of a sudden that I calculated for a five-week month rather than a four week month. So, I ended up dropping below my goal… but not terribly.

My stats for the month of January:
Words: 13,954
Revise/Plan: 165 minutes
Daily Writing Goals Met: 68%

So, about 2,000 words behind my intended pace of 16,667 words per month to reach my yearly goal of 200,000 that I set. Not horrific… and definitely something that I can make up with time, especially now that I know which months are “longer” months and what I have to play with. Also, I’m only two percentage points off my goal of meeting my daily goals 70 percent of the time this year (500 words per day minimum or at least 30 minutes per day revising/planning projects).

I’m this close to getting the main fan fiction project that I’ve been tooling around on for the past year or two done and dusted. Even though there are a few side stories in what I’m now calling a series, I’m not going to feel so time sensitive to getting that work done. Once I get that out of the way, I think that I will be able to devote more time with this blog. I actually did some writing on another blog post that I’ve wanted to get out for a while, so I felt good about that even though I still haven’t finished with it.

Anyway, here’s the weekly totals. Hope your week is going well and stay safe.

Weekly statistics for the week ending 1.30.2022:
+4,398 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for  60 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 6 of 7 days.

[PHOTO NOTE; The featured photo for today came up when I did a search for calculation, heh heh.]

Writing Journal 1.26.2022: It’s becoming a downward trend…

[PHOTO NOTE: I typed “Downward Trend” in the old Pexels free media search and this featured photo is what came up. I’m going with it.]

Last week was not the most horrific of weeks I have had recently writing, not by a good sight. But, I would be lying if I said that it was favorable either.

I’m glad that I’m noticing it now and can take some steps to try and pick up the pace. It’s not like last year when I didn’t realize I was behind the eight-ball in meeting my yearly goals. Heck, I didn’t even have a yearly goal last year or any of the years before, so I’ve been able to get a better handle on how I am doing and working.

Good news: I am only 7,111 words away from making the monthly goal. One advantage I have this month is that there will be an extra week to work with. Two good weeks will get me up to that level relatively easy.

As far as the type of writing I’ll be doing… there’s this fanfiction project that I want to, if not put to bed, then I want to get the big part of it finished so I don’t feel pressure to finish the rest of it so fast. I’m sick of not writing anything more for the blog and want to get that started up again. I’ve got more than a few ideas; I just need to get over the idea that whatever I write has to be perfect.

As for self-publishing… I just have to admit that I’ll likely wait until the summer break to get some of that work done. That’s a bit of research and legwork that takes a bit of time, especially for someone who is doing this part-time like I am.

Random observation: Substack is sending me a lot of emails about all the cool stuff they have to tell me. But I actually have to read through all that and I can imagine that will be a time suck. That in itself might be worth a post.

Anyway, here’s the stats. Hoping for a better week.

Writing statistics for the week ending 1.22.2022:
+2,399 words written.
Days writing: 4 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
DWGM (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 3 of 7 days.
Yearly goal:
GOAL: 200,000
Weekly average (Approx): 3,850
Monthly average (Approx): 16,667
Percentage of daily quota to meet: 70 percent