State of the Writer: Changing Habits

I’ve been about 3 weeks now into some of the small changes to my habits, in preparation to help me eventually write full time.  There were two I’ve been primarily working on, since they have been the most painful ones:

Tracking word count

When most writers talk about tracking word count, they have a daily word count goal, like 2,000 words. They are tracking the word count to show that they are making their goals.  But, for me, word count’s had a real bad history.

You see, I ran short on my last novel.  Not a little bit short, but a lot short.  Word count put a magnifying glass up close on that and kept reminding me of it.  Tracking word count also reminded me of when that word count snagged me up, and I would produce only 100 words.

But I’ve also realized I needed something that told me I was making progress — a sign of success –, and unfortunately, that usually means numbers (the infamous metrics).  So, instead of word count goals, I’ve just been noting word count for various projects, including the blog posts.  I did it in Evernote because I didn’t want to see the running total.

I kept thinking through the month seeing the word counts for the various projects that it wasn’t a lot of writing because I knew how much I was doing, and I knew there was some days where I didn’t do anything at all.  Then I totaled it up about midmonth for a report to the critique group, and it was “Holy cow!  I did that much?”  It all adds up.

As of today, I have 21,014 words written for September.

Time Management: Scheduling

I’ve also spent the last 3 weeks trying out a new time management system, one that’s more customized to me.  The reason is that it’s best to get my act together on it now and not go into failure mode when I am able to write full time.

To do lists, the most commonly recommended thing by the gurus, have never worked for me.  My job is too chaotic for them, as this week demonstrated.  I had an emergency that sucked up 2 days, and everything that I was supposed to do those days had to be pushed back.  AndI already had too much to do to start with.

I also saw one of my warning of failure points pop up — if my email goes belong the screen (a 20 inch screen), the system is in danger of failing.  Below the screen means that I’m not able to stay on top of the influx of stuff coming in, and I get overwhelmed.

This has been one of the places where the other systems have all failed.

This time it didn’t.

I’ve been dragging emails where I need to do something onto the Outlook calendar.  It’s easy to move around, and I only see what I need to for that day — not a lengthy list of things that only reminds me that I have way too much to do.

Once the crisis ended, I focused just on getting the email above the bottom of the screen.  The first step was to delete all the emails from the crisis (those started mating and breeding).  Then I hunted for ones where I needed to do something and dragged them onto the calendar.  I ended up doing this for about 2 days because I couldn’t get enough cleared fast enough before the email edged back to the bottom again.

One of the biggest steps for me in this was deciding that I needed to do this, and when I did, instead of jumping on and trying to finish all the things that had been pushed back.  The full email screen would have kept reminding me how much I had to do, much like the to do list, and I would have gotten to the end of the week and left feeling like I was never going to get everything done.

Projects in progress now:

A science fiction short story for an anthology.  Should be finished with that one early next week, or this weekend.

A mystery novel, which, of course, is ongoing.  The novel is set in Central California, with all the pretty beaches and a murder. No clue who the victim is, who did it, or for that matter, when it happened.  The life of a pantser.

Looking Back at Robotech

I started out science fiction with Star Trek and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  Then Robotech came.  It wasn’t my first introduction to anime.  That was Speed Racer.  But Robotech was something special.  As a cartoon, it did some things that other cartoons did.  The first was a storyline more befitting a TV show or a novel, not a cartoon.  One of the most shocking things for me at the time was seeing Roy Fokker die, because that just didn’t happen in cartoon land.  Or for that matter, most shows don’t kill off what appears to be a major character unexpectedly like that.

The characters were all fresh and real and complex.  The show had a messy romance between Rick, Lisa, and Minimei, and everyone kept doing stupid things that people do out of love. And it was all interspersed with action.  The storyline encompassed three different generation of characters.

After it initially aired in the U.S., it disappeared for a while.  Came out on video, but it was like two 30 minute episodes per tape, and was quite expensive.  Then it disappeared again and came out DVD.

The stories are still great, but I had trouble with the military aspect.  I think I would have been okay with Rick Hunter’s relationship with a senior officer in his chain of command.  It’s not really supposed to happen, but things like that do anyway.  You put people together in war, and war changes everyone in unexpected ways.

But the writers didn’t seem to have much knowledge of the military whatsoever.  They randomly mixed Army rank with Navy rank and had promotions go from enlisted to officer.  I’m not a stickler for accuracy, but this just felt like no one bothered to even try to understand military rank.  For such a good show, it was disappointing that they didn’t take time to make it feel like they knew what they were talking about.