Recently, I holed up for two nights in a cabin in the mountains for a much-needed mini writing retreat. It rained nearly the whole time I was there, which helped me stay focused on the task at hand – getting as many words on the page in the limited alone time I had. Free of interruption and distraction, I produced a decent chunk of new content during my impromptu trip and came home re-energized about my work-in-progress. Continue reading
Tag Archives: setting goals
Dear Writer Friends,
On the morning of August 5th, I got my three kids in the car and drove them to school. Summer had been fun and I loved our long, lazy days. But let me tell you, I was ready to get back to work. With the same measure of excitement as my six-year-old starting his first year at a new school, I was going to make the time I had to write massively productive; I wasn’t going to waste a single second. Not even a millisecond. Continue reading
Write by Midnight wraps up today and we hope the past month has helped you create daily habits to sustain your writing through the completion of your manuscript.
In addition to our regular posts, be sure to check back with us on the last Monday of each month for our Write by Midnight Pep Talks that include tips and inspiration to help you keep your momentum going.
Until then, here’s how each of us fared with this year’s challenge.
Laura: Because I was working on a new manuscript during this year’s Write by Midnight session, my goals were to “work on” the project every day in February. Generally speaking, my method consisted of a two-part “plan then write” formula. On one day, I would plan a scene during my designated “writing” time. My planning process included figuring out what needed to happen in the scene, what obstacles and/or growth the characters experienced in the scene, and basic research since my new WIP is a historical fiction piece. Sometimes, the planning process involved talking through what needed to happen next with my writing friends. They are consistently a source of support, encouragement and solid advice. Then the next day, I used my writing time to write that scene now that it was clear in my head. Sometimes, the writing of the scene took me two to three days. As soon as one scene was completed, I repeated the process. Plan, research, discuss, write, repeat. I’m happy to report that I completed five scenes by using this method. But more important, my story stayed in my head every day during the month.
Stacey’s been on fire with her writing, so she’ll check in with us later to share her thoughts on Write by Midnight.
Megan: Write by Midnight was hugely motivating for me this year. I started the month at a good place in my manuscript where I had all (or most) of the plot snarls worked out and a clear outline all the way to the end of the manuscript. That preparation made it much easier to pound out higher word counts and to take advantage of short writing periods. I set a goal of writing 14,000 words to finish my manuscript by the end of the month. I wrote 11,330 words and made it to the end of my manuscript with an entire week to spare. I used the extra time at the end of the month to plan out my revision and set goals for next month.
Naomi: While I didn’t always greet my 5 am wake -up call with a tender nod to the morning, I did manage to write for all but six days out of February. I gotta say, being in cahoots with other writers was a massive energy surge for me this month and I got excited about two projects that had been collecting dust! One of my main goals for this year’s WBM was to revise 1/3 of the YA manuscript I finished a while back (Ok, fine, I’ll be honest. A long while back!) Some days were definitely more productive than others and I confess I didn’t quite meet my goal. I’d like to believe my less productive days, ones where I only managed to revised a single paragraph for instance, still propelled me forward. Everything we do counts. It is believed that Vincent Van Gogh once said: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” It’s a great reminder. Because piece by piece things are coming together.
We’d love to hear from you about your Write by Midnight experience. Tell us how you did, what you learned, what you’d like to see from us next year and what your writing goals are for the month of March.
Back in September when I traded the classroom for my dinning room table, I was overwhelmed with freedom. Instead of just being a 5 a.m.-writer (and occasionally an evening one, if i could peel my eyes open), I now had the whole day between school drop-off and pick-up to write. I was busy, but I’m not really sure I was productive. I’d make to-do lists on post-its, but somehow I’d find myself doing laundry when I should have been revising a scene. To be frank, it was like my brain had forgotten time management. I needed a plan: Enter Analog Journaling.
I’d first heard of this task checking method in the form of Dot Journaling on Erin Boyle’s minimalist blog Reading My Tea Leaves; I had even used it to keep track of research for one of my three WIPs. Though it wasn’t until over a year later that I thought to give this method a try to utilize every second of my day. Leo was a late bloomer and so am I.
Most people reading this likely already know what analog journaling is, and if not, here’s the gist.
Bullet Journals, Dot Journals and Idea Journals (used by da Vinci, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Beatrix Potter) all fall under the umbrella of analog journaling. Think of them as tools to compile calendars, to-do lists, idea-lists, habit trackers, sketches and doodles. Entries are meant to be short; they are meant to be a record of information; to capture an idea you want to explore. As mentioned, they aren’t a new phenomenon; I’m just crazy late to the party.
Of all the methods, however, it’s the Bullet Journal Method that has become most popular. If you type in the phrase analog journal, you will get tsumanied with articles on the Bullet Journal Method. (I apologize upfront, this post is link heavy). While I am not using the Bullet Journal Method specifically–you wont find the Bullet Journal terminology used in this post– the practice of analog journaling offers flexibility and freedom to tailor your journal to address your specific needs. You want to meal plan, train for a marathon, or start a small business? Do all three? This is your jam. All you really need is a journal and a pen, no other fancy equipment required.
WHY I STARTED AND WHAT I GET OUT OF IT: While I have flirted with online task/habit trackers such as Habitica, I’ve been fully converted to the analog camp; it has changed my life since I started experimenting this past November. My initial entries were just a habit tracker and a tentative Mon-Fri Schedule (which would be changed in December and changed again in January to a blend of what worked well in Nov. and Dec.). I wanted to be more productive, not busy, so I was curious to see how I was spending my time. It forced me to be honest with the hours of my day and how I was doing establishing my desired habits and goals. Now it is February and my Mon-Fri Schedule works pretty well, though their are some habits that need to catch up before the train leaves the station.
For me, analog journaling is like a tether back to reality. It keeps me grounded and focused. It’s a central place to gather my ideas, thoughts and lists. Actually if truth be told, I really enjoy making lists; I crave structure–within reason. It’s a place for me to be honest about what I am actually achieving. It tames my daydreaming and meadow prancing while still allowing me an open-ended method that acts as a jumping point to get creative and messy. Complete with a mom-voice reminding me “dinner is in five”.
HOW I USE IT CURRENTLY: At the moment, I use my AJ for tracking habits (which ultimately effect my productivity), recording how I spend my day, daily and weekly goals, a list of story ideas and as a calendar. As mentioned before, I am not specifically using any one method (a culmination if anything) and I created my own symbols and color coding. On my Monday-Friday Schedule, I’ll sometimes use two colors per square if the time I spent doubles as more then one type of activity (for example: being on the phone with my mom counts as time with my community (Dark Yellow) and media time (Light Vermilion) since I am using technology to do so). I also keep a running log for how to improve my AJ’s use, both visually (I’ve been pretty good about not going too far down that rabbit hole, though I’ve been tempted) and in task tracking.
For WBM, my focus has been on meeting my goals for my three WIPs. The first (P1), I hope to have the first-third revised; the second (P2), the premise and the characters established so that I can begin writing a first draft in March; and the third (P3), which is still just a seed of an idea, a solid premise. I also included in my WBM goals the process of minimizing my home and life, which for me deeply contributes to being successful with my writing. Even though I started the process nearly a year ago, my house is still not where I want it to be. I am having to accept that with three kids organizing and minimizing is something that has to be maintained frequently! For my daily to-dos each project’s task is identified by its assigned color: P1: Plum Purple; P2: Bright Blue; P3: Red and Minimalizing: Olive Green.
HOW I HOPE TO USE IT IN THE FUTURE: Having practiced the fine art of analog journaling for nearly four months now, I am interested in taking my task and habit tracking up a notch, and I am especially interested in observing how other writers use them. For March, I’d like to add a Word Counter, Editing Tracker, Reading List & Seasonal Reading Guide ( it’s cool how the author of this blog does her reading list) First Thoughts (upon waking or about something that is happening socially, politically, etc., as that is often a source for story ideas) and a Minimalization chart (to keep my decluttering efforts going). In April, I am sure I’ll add more.
Of course there is debate as to whether AJs actually work or not. In favor of Bullet Journaling, though reluctant at first, Tim Maurer spoke with Ryder Carroll, the creator of the Bullet Journal Method, about the analog system. When asked about the concern that the method requires more effort, as you are often rewriting daily and monthly tasks not completed, Carroll replied by noting “If you don’t have the time to rewrite something by hand, chances are it really doesn’t matter.”
The last few months have shown me, Carroll’s really onto something there.
Interested in giving it a go? There’s a lot of info online, but to help wade through the tsunami, here are a few articles/videos I found useful, informative, or worth stealing ideas from:
Further Reading for a general approach:
Ryder Carroll’s TEDtalk
Productivity Subculture Wont Quit (Part 1)
BUJO For Beginners (Part 2)
A Thorough Guide to BUJO
Ultimate Guide to BUJO (Beautiful examples, might be intimidating for first-timers or those who don’t consider themselves artistic.)
Further Reading for the writer:
Complete Guide to BUJO’s for Writers
BUJO’s for Fiction Writers
NANOWRIMO BUJO + PREP
For the Fantasy Writer
And just because these are deliciously inspiring, if not down right intimidating: 20 BUJO Instagram Pages
You’re almost halfway through our Write By Midnight challenge, so now is a good time to evaluate your progress and adjust your goals for the rest of the month.
After that, try this tip to get more words on the page today.
Get a timer, set it for 15 or 30 minutes – take your pick – and write until time is up. Then, reset the timer for the same amount of time and walk away from your project. Spend that time doing anything other than writing. When time’s up, reset the timer for another 15 or 30 minutes and go back to writing. Repeat this process for as long as you can.
Check back next Wednesday for another tip to help you stay the course during Write By Midnight.