I mentioned in my last post that I'm trying to rely less on motivation than on discipline.
My results with this have been mixed.
In spite of lagging motivation, I've managed to develop a daily writing habit--mainly through the use of a tool called The Magic Spreadsheet. This gamifies daily writing, giving you points for each writing session, each consecutive day, the number of words written, and so on. You get enough points, and you "level up." It's a pretty neat thing, so if you're trying to build a daily (or at least consistent) writing habit, I'd recommend it.
All told, even with the funk I've been in for the past couple of weeks, I've been getting work done. But I've noticed something: I might be working consistently, but the level of output--the words-per-session--has dropped.
Part of this is a business issue. At the same time as I'm trying to put together the draft of this new piece, I'm also prepping a summer course that starts at the end of the month, nailing down my teaching schedule for the fall, putting together my teaching portfolio, and celebrating weddings of two of my best friends. So, yeah, 1,000 words a day isn't really as feasible under these conditions.
The other part is that sometimes I want to do things other than work. I mentioned in my post about my process that, when I panic about my productivity, I pretty much stop doing everything that's not work. The flipside of that is that sometimes, when I'm working, I'll latch on to any distraction that's available. (The past couple of days, it's been the YouTube series JourneyQuest. If you're a fan of D&D, I highly recommend it.)
I don't think that this sort of boom-and-bust productivity cycle is out of the ordinary, and since I'm not having periods where I stop working all together, maybe it's not bad. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling badly about it.
Every time I look at the relatively tiny word counts for the past week, I'm disappointed in myself.
"You were doing so well last month," I think. "You're just gonna fall back into old habits. You'll never be able to make this work."
In the past three months, I've had more success with my writing than I've ever had in my life. The possibility of writing going from a hobby to a side job is more real than it's ever been, and I'm terrified that I'm going to screw it up.
If I'm being honest, I'm probably past the point where I'm likely to fall into the habit of months-long hiatuses from writing. My schedule has been pretty consistent for almost six months--that's going to be a difficult habit to break. My panic isn't necessary--and is probably more hindrance than help.
There's a balance, somewhere, between panic-induced writing whirlwind and writing two words per hour between watching YouTube videos. I think maybe the first step is taking the self-criticism out of the equation. I don't mean that I'm going to stop being critical of my own work, because that's never going to happen. But I'm going to try to cut myself a little slack. I am working. I'm working at a better pace than I ever have. And it's okay to have some lower word count days--it might even be necessary.
And seriously, JourneyQuest is absolutely hilarious.