Why I’m Not Tracking My Writing Progress Anymore

I’m done. Done, done, done. Forever. Probably.

For 365 days in a row, I kept track of almost every single word I wrote.

There were some exceptions — most tweets (except for one thread in particular that really should have been its own article), most emails, messages to co-workers, family, and friends.

But if I wrote an article, I tracked it. A book review? Tracked it. Worked on a first draft of a book? Tracked that too, Blog posts: Tracked. Cover letters, journal entries, headlines. I tracked it all in one single spreadsheet for the entirety of 2019 until the number at the top added up to 1 million.

This obsessive, time-consuming tracking had a purpose. And looking back, it served its purpose well.

But I’m done with that. Done with counting words, done with tracking number of articles written and books started. I’m done with all of it. And I couldn’t be happier … for a few key reasons.

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The New Story Idea You Never Asked to Meet

Even when you think you are out of ideas, sometimes ideas are waiting in the wings.

It was a Friday night. I had just worked for almost 12 hours straight, because sometimes in online publishing that’s just what you do to set up for a weekend. I was exhausted. Self-care was my new “thing,” it being a new year. Taking care of myself had to be a priority. It just HAD to be.

My plan was specific almost to the minute (because even in relaxation, I have to make some plans — I am who I am and I am not ashamed). Shower. Practice violin. Cuddle underneath a blanket next to my puppy and read a book, or watch YouTube videos — whichever my brain could handle by that time.

I made it as far as halfway through the shower before everything fell apart.

All because of yet another unsolicited story idea.

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12 Secrets of Writers Who Never Give Up (No Matter How Much They Might Want To)

2. They don’t let fear stop them from chasing their dreams.

1. They have their eye on one goal at all times and review it often. Someone once told me that even just looking at your goals every 36 hours or so can help you stay on track. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s hard to argue that keeping your eye on the prize can’t help even just a little bit.

2. They don’t let fear stop them from chasing their dreams. It is completely normal to be afraid of chasing after something you truly want, especially if it’s something big that many people don’t expect you to be able to accomplish. But fear can be used as a strength, instead of serving as a weakness. It can propel you forward, if you let it.

3. They are not hesitant to challenge themselves. Sometimes people consider quitting an activity because they start to feel stuck doing the same things over and over again. To avoid this, many writers seek out different kinds of challenges like contests and word sprints. Some even create their own challenges just to see if they can succeed.

4. They know exactly where to go when they need inspiration. “Inspiration hunting” in its various forms can take up a lot of valuable time if you don’t know what you are looking for. Some writers know that listening to a certain type of music, for example, is enough to get them in the right headspace for creating, and they jump right to that activity before each writing session begins.

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You Might Be Scheduling Your Writing Time All Wrong

Adding time for writing into your schedule is not a bad idea. But thinking there is only one way to do it could limit your productivity and leave you frustrated and sad.

Making the time to write is universally one of the most challenging parts of being a writer.

It does not matter how long you have been writing, how much or little experience you have, how much you have or have not published, how close to your definition of “success” you happen to be at right now. Writing time is precious, but for some reason, each and every one of us seem to struggle with this in different but equally exhausting ways.

Why is it so difficult to manage writing time? Probably because most of us have absolutely no idea how to make time for anything that does not involve an appointment or a solid due date … or other people sending you passive aggressive emails asking you why you haven’t turned in your work yet because it should have been done by now but technically I can’t tell you what to do so … hello?

For many people, taking on a new hobby or skill or line of work such as writing starts with figuring out when you are going to take time out of your day to practice on a regular basis. Yes — even writers practice. That’s why that random 500 words about your cat’s imaginary friend Steve that is still hiding on your hard drive technically was not a waste of time. All forms of practice count.

When it comes to creating schedules, there is a tendency to treat every writing session as an “appointment.” Which makes sense — I do this too, on occasion, to hold myself accountable. But for some people, establishing a set time to write does not actually work.

So are there other options for aspiring and working writers to consider? Of course there are. Please allow me some time to tell you about them — and remind you why it’s OK that there are different ways of making writing work for every writer out there.

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Writers: Beware of New Projects

New ideas are great — except when you can no longer handle them all.

By now, my list of “projects I want to work on when I finish all my current projects” spans multiple pages. When I get new ideas, I get excited. I want nothing more than to drop everything I am doing and start that new project as soon as possible.

Why not wait? Because I might forget about it! Or my enthusiasm might mysteriously vanish! Or — every writer’s greatest fear of all — someone else might get to it first. (This has actually happened to me, by the way. Hollywood made a movie based on a book I wrote, except it wasn’t actually based on my unpublished book, so I got zero credit. It has been seven years. I am still not over it.)

New projects are fun and exciting. Their shine is irresistible, their persuasion cannot be ignored.

But beware. The temptation of new things that can replace the old is often so irresistible that we often find ourselves with too much to do, too much to think about, no time to spare, and much more frustration and stress than anyone should ever have to carry on their shoulders.

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The Most Important Things I Learned About Setting Writing Goals in 2019

Setting and achieving goals is a lot more challenging than you might think.

At the beginning of 2019 — well, technically, just a short time before it began — I decided that I was going to do everything I possibly could to see if I could write 1 million words between January 1 and December 31.

As I am writing this, I am not quite to my goal yet — I am about to take a short writing break and am scheduling posts ahead so I can do that without feeling guilty. But I am close enough to the end at this point that I would be extremely surprised if I had not made it by the time this post goes live.

This was a big goal, and a goal I honestly was not sure I could actually achieve. But I decided to give it a go anyway … for many reasons, it turns out.

One of the most important drivers behind this challenge I created for myself was the opportunity it would present to share with all of you what I learned throughout the year. And in some form or another, I will put something formal together about these lessons, and the mistakes I made, and how it all has changed the way that I write.

For now, I am going to start with sharing some things I learned about setting writing goals. This is something I truly believe everyone SHOULD do but many people do not (for various reasons, many of them justified to a point).

Setting goals is hard. Sticking to them is harder. But it is not, by any means whatsoever, impossible.

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Writers: Care For Your Instruments

We often don’t think of ourselves as the carriers of our creativity. That’s exactly why we need to change the way we think.

When I was 13 and spent a week training and performing with the best vocalists and coaches in my state, one of our directors said something during one of our rehearsals that I will never forget.

“When you’re in an orchestra, you have to take care of your instrument,” he told us. “It’s the same for us. We are our own instruments. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t make good music.”

I understand this much more now that I am consistently using and taking care of a violin. There are many parts that make a violin produce its famous quality sound, all stored within its protective case. All of equal importance, whether you are actively using them or not.

You can’t just leave a violin lying on the floor, pick it up and play it whenever you feel like it, then put it back and go about your day. You have to make sure your strings are in tune and change them out if they break. You have to make sure your bow is tightened and properly rosined. After you play, you have to make sure your violin is clean. Then you have to put everything back in that case just as carefully as when you took it out. Every single time you play.

If you do not care for your violin, it will not produce the sound you want, you won’t get enjoyment out of playing it, and chances are, it won’t last.

The same goes for the entity responsible for producing the words that magically appear on the pages of your paper or digital documents: You.

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Do You Really Have to Set Writing Goals?

What is the point of a writing goal if it is just going to stress you out?

“I don’t want to set a formal writing goal, it will just make me hate writing.”

I have heard this complaint many times. It’s quite possible that I have even said it in the past, back when I was less experienced and convinced that passive ambition was just part of what made me who I was.

Here’s the thing about writing goals: They only sound scary and unflattering when you assume too much about what they imply. This often comes from places like school or the workplace, where goals are associated with a “do this or else” environment.

Writing might technically count as work most of the time, but at the end of the day, it is still meant to be fun and rewarding. So why set a goal if it’s just going to “suck all the fun” out of creative experession?

That’s the point a lot of people are missing: No one ever said it had to.

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The New Idea Euphoria Is Real. Don’t Let It Go.

Hello. My name is Meg and I have a very dumb idea.

Hello. My name is Meg and I have a very dumb idea.

But guess what? I am in love with it. And that love means there is no stopping this inspiration train. It’s already chugging. We’re going. We’re going places and starting projects we probably shouldn’t and that’s OK. Because sometimes, dumb ideas turn out just fine in the end.

I think.

Ever since I took some much needed time off from my full-time job around the holidays, my brain has been accepting and flirting with an alarmingly high volume of new ideas.

This is not the worst thing that can happen to a creative individual such as myself by any means. But it can feel a little overwhelming at moments. Stressful at others. And sometimes I get so excited about a potential new project that I start to wonder … will this euphoria last? Will it stick around long enough for me to make a dent in the planning stage? Or will it, like so many ideas before it, lay down and die before it ever gets the chance to live?

This is not something at all silly to wonder about. You know this because you have had the exact same thought on more than one occasion. Is it really worth it? Will I just give up again like I did with the last great idea I had? Will it be harder than I am prepared for? Is this even something I am remotely capable of accomplishing?

It’s even possible that worries such as these have steered you away from pursuing projects you would have been passionate about because such questions sent you on a downward spiral of doubt and fear — such an intense spiral, perhaps, that you backed out of your plan long before you even came close to finalizing it.

It is true what they say — ideas come and go; not all of them stick around forever.

But sometimes riding the wave of euphoria that accompanies a big idea is the only way to turn it into something bigger than you ever could have imagined.

Continue reading “The New Idea Euphoria Is Real. Don’t Let It Go.”

Need a New Writing Goal in 2020? Here are 20 Suggestions

It’s a new year, which for you might mean a new set of goals to work toward. Some of them might even involve writing.

1. Make it a point to write at least once a week. You don’t have to write every day to be successful, but you do have to give yourself some kind of incentive to make sure you do it often enough to make some progress.

2. Write something that scares you. A story you have never told before, but want to. A truth not enough people are brave enough to talk about. Send a message that matters, even if it’s hard for you to do.

3. Read more. Not a writing goal specifically, but the more stories we consume, the more likely we are to sit down and successfully write our own.

4. Enter a writing contest! What do you have to lose?

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