organization · Writing

How I’m Getting Back into Writing

As you may have gleaned from my posts since I started blogging again in the latter half of 2021, I have had a lot of trouble writing since the pandemic started. It was difficult before that, but it really worsened during the pandemic due to stress, worsening of my OCD symptoms, and what I now realize may have been covid brain fog (this seemed to greatly lessen after getting vaccinated). At this point, I’m in a much better place mentally than I was a year (or more) ago. Not 100% but at least 80% of the way there.

Since 2022 started, I have tried to really get back into the groove of writing like I did in 2019, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to optimize my writing routine and do things that make it easier to get work done. Before we get into this, I want to make it clear that I am not into the hustle grind, write a million words a day mentality. I’m literally just trying to get words on the page in a way that doesn’t feel like absolute torture.

Sprints

Something I started doing at the end of 2021 is using sprints. Sprints are setting a timer and writing for that amount of time. This is a branch off of the Pomodoro Method, which uses 25 minutes of work followed by a few minutes of time, followed by another “pomodoro” or 25 minute sprint. I found several authors on Youtube who do live sprints online, and I started joining those to help get started. Even if I found the videos too chatty at times, the synergy of writing at the same time as other people helped a lot. It took me a bit of trial and error to figure out what sprint length works best for me. 20 minutes seems to be my sweet spot. I can do two 20 minute sprints pretty easily and clock in a couple hundred words each time. I’m slowly trying to strengthen my creative muscles and do a bit more writing, so increasing from two sprints to three or even four in the future. I’m not there yet, but it’s a hope of mine.

Tracking Progress

With sprints, I’ve also started tracking my sprints with a printable chart that I got off Sarra Cannon’s website. You can see them in the picture below. Using these sheets and making note of the minutes long the sprint was helped me to find my sweet spot with sprint length. I also liked to see how much I got done each day and how the word count was increasing. Seeing progress makes me believe that it’s happening because adding words feels rather amorphous.

I also use a spreadsheet to track my daily word count. I take the total from the sprints and add it to an excel sheet. These spreadsheets also track my overall monthly goal (which we’ll get to in a bit). The monthly spreadsheets add everything up for me, let me track my progress, and the one I bought can track more than just my WIP. That way I can see that if I have a low word count on my WIP it may be because I wrote a 1,000 word blog post instead. If you’ve ever done NaNoWriMo, the word count trackers are a lot like what they have on their website, but this one covers more than one project at a time.

While tracking my progress has been good for me because I have the visual pay-off, something I struggled with greatly in January was not punishing myself for not writing on a certain day. I originally colored in the days where I didn’t write. That ended up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy where one writing-less day perpetuated more writing-less days. The colored bands stacked up, and my positive feelings surrounding my work plummeted. In February, I stopped coloring in the days I missed. I tried to treat the new month like a clean slate, and with each successive week, I tried to have less writing-less days if possible.

Realistic Goals

Let’s put a big neon, bolded sign around REALISTIC.

I somehow managed to be under the delusion that in the past, I could write like 30k a month despite logically knowing I didn’t write more 1,000 words a day. I actually went back through my blog and found my old monthly check-ins, which had my word count totals for the month. Most were 10k-20k depending on the month and where I was in the story.

This is also something I had to calibrate within myself. The beginnings of new books are a SLOG for me. I tend to have false starts, have a lot more pauses, and I can’t power through the beginnings when I don’t know where I’m going like I can in the middle of a work. What I am having to remind myself is that if I’m working on the beginning of the story (first 10k-15k), I need to be mindful that it’ll take me a lot longer than months where I’m in the middle or end of a book. I may only write 5k a month when I’m starting a brand new story and still feeling out where I’m going.

In January, I wrote 2,800 words, and in February I wrote 10k with the word count increasing each week. This leads me to my March goal. I decided that I’m going to have a good, better, best goal for my March word count goal. My good goal is 10,000 words, which is fairly modest and very doable if things continue as is. My better goal is 15k, and the best goal is 20k. I don’t think I’ll hit the 20k, but it would be amazing if I could. Instead of shooting for the fences and saying 20k for March, I have the lower goals which are more realistic and very doable. Basically, this is positive reinforcement as I stretch and rebuild my writing muscles. I have these goals written down on my sprint sheets and my word count spreadsheet along with how many words per day I need to reach each.

I’m a very visual person who likes data, so having all these spreadsheets and sprint sheets help me manage my goals while tempering my expectations (aka not being totally unrealistic because I can’t remember my past creative thresholds). Not everyone will like this, and I know some will actively hate that everything involves tracking because it has the opposite effect on them. But if you’re like me and need that sort of regimented, goal-oriented, piece-by-piece breakdown, some of what I’ve done these past two months may be helpful to you.

Writing

Writing and Food Poisoning

I am one of those people who rarely ever gets the stomach virus. It’s been years since I’ve had to deal with it, and when I say years, I mean, at least ten because I think I was in middle school the last time I threw up. This past week I felt bloody awful.

In a few of my previous posts, I’ve mentioned that I’m participating in Camp Nanowrimo, which means for the month of July, I am trying to write 15,000 words, which would double what I have thus far of my manuscript. I was incredibly excited about the challenge of this, and within a few days, I made it a nightly ritual to write each night before bed, usually at least 500 words. I wanted to break away from being a feast or famine writer and write every day instead even if I didn’t really feel like it. It was going really well… until the 10th.

nanowrimoI made it through my day at work, and I didn’t feel that great. I felt dizzy, but sometimes my sinuses get clogged and I didn’t think much of it. Friday night, I felt horrible. Nauseous, dizzy, horrible headache, absolutely miserable. I sat staring at my computer with my outline beside me unable to do anything. Flipping tabs to my Camp Nanowrimo graph, I sighed. There goes the writing streak. I ended up shutting off my computer and going to bed at eleven.

The entire weekend I felt off. Just inexplicably sick without having any outward symptoms. I thought I was crazy. As I sat there pecking out as many words as I could before I burned out, I tried to figure out if the nausea was in my head or if I really felt sick. This continued for several days and probably reached its worst on Monday. Tuesday, the symptoms finally seemed to ease. I no longer felt like my head was going to blow off and every movement didn’t make me seal my lips against the threat of vomit. In the past I have had sinus infections that led to dizziness and nausea, so I figured that’s what it was and it would go away in a week or two. The same day, my mom calls and tells me that Shoprite called everyone who bought the frozen, prepared chicken we ate on Thursday because it had been contaminated with Salmonella.

Can I just say that food poisoning is miserable no matter how mild. I know some people become violently ill and can barely leave the bathroom, but this was like nothing I have felt in a long time. If you feel lousy, you probably do. I don’t know if other people sit there wondering if they really feel sick or if it’s all in their heads, but trust your instincts, you’re probably sick and it’s okay to take a step back and recuperate for a day or two instead of stressing over what you haven’t done. More than likely it isn’t getting done well when you’re sick as a dog anyway.

The entire time I wasn’t feeling well, I was so afraid I would stop writing and ditch my Camp Nanowrimo challenge. I ended up skipping a day (the 10th), but the next day, despite feeling crappy, I kept writing and recovered. Thus far, I am way ahead of my challenge goal for the day, and by the end of the month, I’ll have written closer to 20,000 words than the 15,000 I set out to write at the beginning of the month. Now, to get back to writing!

PS- Stay away from frozen prepared chicken. It doesn’t taste that good, and the food poisoning is not worth it.