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 5.11.2022: 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.

Why It’s Tough For Me to Write Anything of Value on Sundays During the School Year: A somewhat thought-out analysis

If you took a look at my writing journals – not the ones I post here on the blog, but the actual Microsoft Word Docs where I keep my notes on what I wrote every day of the year – you would notice something of a pattern.

Actually, you might notice several of them, but we’re not going to worry about all of them now. What you would notice is that there are quite a few… empty spaces on Sundays.

Oh, I might do a short blog, or maybe a few revisions or planning, but not heavy writing. And that’s all about what Sunday is like.

Since I’m not interested at the moment with writing something “important” or “buzzworthy,” I guess I might talk about this for a bit.

Weekend thinking and weekday thinking are prevalent things in America, where some people can’t seem to find work/life balance. Some people my age might think Loverboy’s song “Working for the Weekend” is the perfect song to express this type of yearning for the end-of-week break. (They’re wrong; the best weekend song is “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” by Richard and Linda Thompson.)

For teaching, it is a different situation. Those who don’t know what it is like, you might think, “Well, they only work some 180 days out of the year and get something around two whole months off? Sounds like an easy deal?” And I admit, the summer vacations are a good thing.$

Anyway, the point is that full-time teaching is a more intense experience that most jobs. You have to have a plan to educate a group of children for a given time and to make it meaningful during that time. You actually have to relate to those kids, even on days when, in some cases, they are dealing with massive amounts of mental and emotional trauma. (If they are lucky, the source of that trauma is not their own homes.)

All of this tends to take a lot of emotional and likely physical stamina over a nine-month period. It’s not a surprise that many of my colleagues wind up more susceptible to illness during the school year with the stress they are under. These past couple of years have added COVID, distance learning and hybrid learning to that level. I have to say that I have been fortunate that I am teaching in a relatively good environment and my health, while it could be better, is holding up.

Let me explain a typical Sunday for me, writing-wise and personal-wise.

First, some background. I would say that my weekend would extend, mentally, for approximately 36 hours over a typical two-day weekend. That 36 hours spans from when I leave school on Friday afternoon and runs until I wake up on Sunday. Because on Sunday, you’re going to be getting yourself ready for the week to come. Sometimes that involves grading, or perhaps planning for the week ahead. Maybe you’re trying to get some last minute paperwork done. Or, you could be distracting yourself from all of that coming up%.

Morning – wake up, try to have breakfast and relax. Some people will watch the NFL all day or maybe the NBA – my sport winds up being soccer. Since I’m watching the European leagues (and their season extends throughout the entire school year), I find myself getting up a bit early to catch the live games. Sometimes Formula 1 will have a race, and I’ll take a couple hours to watch that.

Later in the morning – I’ll try to get some housework done@ – cleaning floors, laundry, vacuuming, maybe a little yardwork. Or not. Maybe the late game in the Premier League?

Afternoon – if I am doing any schoolwork, it will be that time. For my sanity, I have restricted any work to this time. So, either I’m doing a little bit of work or I’m trying to distract myself from doing work or thinking about work. That’s because by 6 a.m. the next day, I’m already getting ready to shower, change and get ready for work#. That’s not too much time when you think of it.

Evening – Dinner is done, Laura and I relax for the night. We both have gotten obsessed with the cartoon TV series Bob’s Burgers, so we tend to try and catch the new episodes playing on Sundays. (Yes, we are preparing to watch the movie when it comes out later this month. It looks like a lot of fun.

About 9 p.m., maybe an hour before I go to bed – Wait a minute, I have to write something before I go to sleep?

So, now you know. But I did write something today, so that’s a success. I’ll take them any way that I can get them.

$ – In the spirit of full disclosure, however, many of my colleagues are actually taking on second or third jobs during that time to help with their bills. The more unlucky teachers have to do that during the active school year.

% – Where do I fall into this spectrum? I usually try to be as efficient with my time away from school as possible. Everything else on that subject I’ll keep off the record.

@ – Full disclosure – if it were not for my loving wife who is a much more dynamic go-getter and Type A personality, our house would not look as nice as it does.

# – Protip – always make sure you have the coffeepot set, your lunch packed, and your clothes picked out and ready to go before you go to bed the previous evening. Trust me, it saves a lot of hurrying and stress in the morning.

Writing Journal 4.20.2022: No jokes to be made

Heh heh.

Right, on with it.

Despite my slight self-handicapping, a slight hiccup regarding my writing space, and the Easter weekend, I wound up having… not a bad writing week? And maybe one of the better writing weekends that I’ve had for a while, despite not typing anything during Easter Sunday. Anyway, I’m going to keep up with my new routine and see if that doesn’t have repeat results%.

I’m also happy that I wrote some blogs, even though they were sort of first-person-heavy, but I think some people might have gotten something out of it? Anyway.

My plan for the next few nights:

  1. Write, no matter what it is or what type of quality results.
  2. Somehow complete this review regarding Wheel of Time that only I think I probably care about all things considered.
    1. Again, at this point quality is not the primary concern, completion is.
    2. This is more a point of pride at this moment than anything else.
  3. Maybe, possibly, fool around with Substack and see what sort of information I can find out about writing there.
    1. It could be an interesting idea where I would build a small side living with writing.
    2. I have a long way to go before I get things going there.
    3. It would not take the place of this site. Somehow, I would crosspost somehow.
  4. Start thinking of a gameplan of how I’m going to use all this free time from mid-May of this year to mid-August. I don’t want to waste it like I did last year.
  5. Keep up the writing pace. At least that’s working for now. Even with the lighter numbers, I was still on pace for this week, both in total words and the percentage of days I met my quota.

Anyway, here’s last week’s numbers. Hope your Easter/Passover/whatever season worked out for you.

Writing statistics for the week ending 4.16.2022:
+4,229 words written.
Days writing: 5 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.

% – I’m not getting into what the routine change is. Honestly, it’s so mundane that it would hardly qualify as good advice for anyone. Some things I’d prefer to keep to myself.

When Your Writing Gear Goes Down: A downer

Not sure if this entry is going to be any good. However, it’s what’s on my mind, and I figure it’s either write about that or sit and mope around in my living room trying to choose between movies.

I talked about my writing gear before. A person’s writing space can be a pretty sacred spot.

My primary writing space.

In recalling the hassles of this day, I think back not only to the little writing space you see above, but in the homes I lived in the comfortable river towns of Clinton and Muscatine, Iowa. Those homes and my current one have pluses and minuses. (Clinton’s was older and centrally located, but both convenient and inconvenient at the same time. Muscatine’s was big and more modern, but a massive hassle to keep up. My current Chariton house is older with an older home’s issues, but it’s small and cozy, and pretty easy to maintain.)

You want to have everything perfect. It should be relatively secluded from the hustle and bustle of wherever you are living – that is, not right in the middle of everything where people and.or kids and pets are running around and making noise.

Current writing spot – Secluded? – Check X for yes.

If you can keep it private, that would be great. Windowless works, although some writers need to be “inspired” by the nature outside. That’s cool and all, but I can get by without it. It’s really helpful to have a door that you can close. I did used to have said doors in the last two homes that I lived in (one a pair of vented doors, the other a regular room door that actually had a lock. That was pretty cool@.

@- I was also often sleeping in the same room, which I don’t exactly recommend. Maybe some other writers can explain it better. However, it feels like you are mixing too much of the energy of the sleeping room with the creative room and it mucks everything up. Something about the feng shui about the situation throws me off, even though I can barely even define the term and couldn’t explain the specifics of the situation. Now that I don’t have that going on, I think it’s a healthier mental situation@@.

@@ – You’re going to have to get used to these footnotes because I find myself getting into all of these non sequiturs and I’m not too inclined not to include them. I’m not a fan of David Foster Wallace’s fiction, but I did like some of his shorter nonfiction.

The Chariton home does not have a door, so it doesn’t block out any noice unless I’m wearing headphones. However, due to the twisting nature of the stairs up to that space and my bedroom, you can’t see my little area from the ground floor no matter where you are looking up. (Of course, that was the staircase where I dislocated my toe, but advantages and disadvantages, I guess.)

Privacy – little x, I guess.

Then there’s the storage capacity of the area, either for writing materials, books, accessories, and sundries. In my Clinton home I had built-in shelves, which was very cool and where I stored a massive amount of books. I managed to fit all of the books into some new shelves in the Muscatine home, as well as some shelves I installed myself in that room#. As you can see from the photo included with this blog, it’s a much smaller space than I had before in my previous homes. But, I culled some of my books, put others in storage, found some storage for some of the books in my bedroom, and we’re ready to go. With the top of that one bookshelf, the portable storage bin to the left of the desk, and the desk itself, I have just enough room for the storage.

Storage – X.

Which makes today’s dilemma a tough one. I turned on my computer after it made a Windows update and somehow my laptop is not able to access the Internet. The update apparently shut down the WiFi driver on my computer. I raged about it for two hours without figuring out how to fix it. I assume I will at some point, or I’ll have someone else be able to do it.

It means that I was writing this in the living room/dining room of our home on a hard chair and an unfamiliar place. But, I got a halfway decent blog post about it, so that’s something.

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 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

Writing Journal 1.19.2022: Ugh (not a horrible week, but I got behind)

Making this really quick. Even though I have not had a horrific week of writing last week, I am a little behind the pace and I want to pick it up this week.

I was 600 words off-pace last week… not a good place to be, even though I was meeting writing goals 5 out of 7 times due to my revisions. Not enough for me. Now that I have a goal to match, I don’t want to miss it.

One bit of good news is that last weekend, I received an award from my writing group, the Iowa Writers’ Corner. I had been getting the monthly trophy for the highest word count in the “weekend warrior” category (for writers like me who are not writing full-time). Due to my word count for the year, I have this now to keep.

It does look nice.

However, I’m not going to be just satisfied with that. I want to bump up my game. And I’m starting this week.

Anyway, here’s the stats. I’m going to get to work on some fiction projects and hopefully more blogs this week (haha). Cheers.

Writing statistics for the week ending 1.15.2022:
+3,276 words written.
Days writing: 4 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 3 of 7 for 75 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 5 of 7 days.
Yearly totals:
GOAL: 200,000
Weekly average (Approx): 3,850
Monthly average (Approx): 16,667
So far: 7,157
Percentage of daily quota to meet: 70 percent