Keeping things in perspective

I didn’t write last week due to a family emergency. While the situation hasn’t really resolved, my involvement has lessened enough that I can mostly get back to life as usual.

It was a good reminder of why I need to keep track of things like my word count, instead of just looking at how much I write on any given day. If I looked solely at my word count on a single day, it would be easy to give up – there are days when I might not even hit a thousand words. Those days are rare, but they happen, and when they do, it’s easy to be disappointed and frustrated.

This is why I use my planner to keep track of everything in one place, including my word count. I write all my appointments for the day, all the errands I need to run, and the things my kids and I need to do for homeschooling. I put my word count when I’m done writing for the day, and at the end of the week, I total up all seven days worth, and put that total at the bottom of the page.

Planner Week

This affords me several things. One, it allows me to keep track from one day to the next that although I may have only written 1,000 one day, the next I wrote 4,000 – which means, since my daily goal is 2,000, it evened out and I essentially met my goals.

It also allows me to go easier on myself on those days when the word count isn’t as high as other days. I’m able to see my whole day mapped out on the page with the word count, so it’s easier to realize that because I spent 7 hours out of the house with appointments and errands and field trips, it makes sense that I didn’t have the same kind of time to write, and therefore, the word count reflects that.

It also allows me to see those numbers for what they really are: when my word count is 1,000, and I only had a half hour to write, that’s not nearly as bad as when my word count is 1,000, and I’ve been writing for 8 hours.

And my weekly total helps me, too. It helps me to see the fluctuation from week to week, and allows me to figure out if I’m going back and editing too much (if I’ve written 50,000 words in the last few weeks, but my document has far less, that’s a big problem). It keeps me on track, keeps me accountable (if only to myself), and keeps me reasonable about my expectations of myself. If I’m pushing too hard, I can see that by looking at what I’ve been putting out the last few weeks.

It’s not a perfect system. Sometimes inspiration just isn’t there and the words don’t flow, and I still have a bad day that I can’t justify with a list of appointment or errands. But the majority of the bad writing days are the result of other things that need to be done, and by keeping track of what’s going on and the writing for that day, I can avoid the feeling that I’m not even trying and avoid that internal conversation where my mind tries to tell me I should just give up and do something else.

The awesome thing is that, despite dealing with the family situation, I did actually manage to keep up on my writing this week. The blog got sacrificed in order to make that happen, but funnily enough, this was the topic I planned to write about anyway, so it actually works out. Proof that the system isn’t perfect but it does give me perspective. I had to make a choice. Without something to help me keep track of what was going on, what my word counts were, and what kind of time frames I had, I might have sacrificed writing to write the blog post, and then I would have gotten out of routine with my book, and that could have really thrown me off. Instead, I made the choice that made more sense for getting the book done. I feel good about that choice today, too.

Planners are such useful things, aren’t they? 🙂

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