Writing by the Numbers by Deb Kristy

Well, based upon my replies this week you’ve likely come to the conclusion that I’m a bit of an organizational freak (because you’ve all been so carefully following my replies, right?).  But when I look around, frankly, I don’t have much to organize. When it comes to paraphernalia, I’m a bareback kind of gal. I have one laptop, one red pen, one spiral notebook, one cardboard box. That’s it. That’s my book right there. Research is thrown in the box, notes are made in the spiral with the pen, book is written on the laptop.

It’s my actual writing routine that’s a psychologist’s dream. I have a tough time just getting down to it. I have clear-cut goals. 2,000 words a day. That’s my goal. Another goal is less than seven games of four-deck spider solitaire. Another? Okay, how about no blog activity until 500 words are down? More? No phone calls until 1,000 words. Still curious? No checking Amazon stats until 750 words.

Oh, I’ve got the goals! I’ve got the numbers, the statistics, the punishments and rewards. And the thing is, none of them help my writing routine. What does help?

  • Removing guilt from the equation: I’m doing the best I can. I set aside excess guilt from that little part of me that believes that I’m not doing “real” work, and from the sneaky suspicion that others don’t believe I’m doing “real” work, either.
  • Becoming blind to dog fur on the floor: I have a 120 pound dog in south Florida (yankees, think about your dog’s shedding in summer all year round), there will ALWAYS be dog fur on the floor. There will always be laundry, There will always be a dish in the sink. I’ve lowered my standards and, surprisingly, we’ve managed to survive.
  •  Acknowledging that self-employment is full of pitfalls: I am my own boss. I am a niiice boss. I let my employee go to Starbucks for Chai tea lattes and seven layer bars. I want my employee to like me. But I also need my employee to respect me. And if I don’t demand a certain level of professional behavior, then I will foster an atmosphere of disrespect, and productivity and morale WILL decline. I must be a nice boss, but a stern boss. I also must pat my employee on the back once in a while.

So I’m back into a WIP. And I’m doing okay. I’m aiming for my 2,000 words a day, and I’m fighting my usuals. But it’s coming. And one thing I’ve noticed that I am adding to my routine is frequent periods of conscious gratefulness. Over the past several months I have come to realize what extraordinary people I’ve met over the course of this journey to publication.

There has never been any other period in my life in which I have had the good fortune to be involved with so many genuinely kind-hearted, intelligent people, and I am finding myself especially touched at the level of support being shown to me in these last six weeks to publication. This appreciation has worked itself into my writing routine, and I’ve come to look forward to it and being buoyed by it.

Whatever your routine, organized or messy, word count or page count, cut yourself a little slack, demand enough to challenge yourself, and remember the things you have to be grateful for.

And if you have any tips for that four-deck spider solitaire, let me know…

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12 thoughts on “Writing by the Numbers by Deb Kristy

  1. You do have a nice boss! Mine takes me out to lunch whenever I achieve a significant goal followed by a grande at Starbucks. She’s pretty good to me.

    The fact is, we could come up with a plethora of excuses to not write, life is busy, writing is hard, but we do it because we are compelled. Nothing makes me happier. Well, having a good book on my nightstand, say Cathing Genius, is pretty terrific too.

  2. I laughed when I read that.
    I,too, say “2000 words a day.” These last few months I find myself checking email accounts, blogs, more blogs, message boards…(where am I now?!)
    One of my deadly time sucking vices was removed by getting a mac…that’s right! No spider solitaire!
    (Don’t you guys DARE tell me I can buy the game…)

  3. Only six weeks to publication! I’d be a ragged nerve, but you sound like you’re almost finished your next book. I told myself this morning, “It’s 2,000 words today or no double caramel latte, bitch.” I got to 637 words but somehow find myself deep in the blogosphere, drinking Chai tea with too much Splenda and eating Dad’s oatmeal cookies direct from package. I wish I had your self-discipline 🙂

  4. Ha ha! You are going to LUVVVV me — I found a site that lets you keep track of your word count! It’s the Zokutou Word Counter from the UK. It’ll become your next best friend, I guarantee it. It shows you the percentage of how far you’ve gone to your goal, and you can even put the graphic on your website or email or blog! It’s better than my damn Excel worksheets …

    http://www.zokutou.co.uk/wordmeter

  5. LOVE your counter idea, Mia. Thanks for the link! Maybe it’ll help me meet my next book deadline. Either that or it’ll polarize me with fear when I see what I’m NOT achieving each day. I’ll let yah know.

  6. How ironic that playing solitaire can be a writing diversion when writing is such solitary work. Or is it? Deep down inside of us, don’t we write to ultimately connect with others? That’s what you and Mia are experiencing now, Kristy, as we’re thrilled to discover/share/enjoy what the rewards of Chai tea lattes have created.

  7. I think I’m a crappy boss… I don’t keep on my employee to make sure she gets her work done. I let her go out with her friends instead of working. I let her go to way too many movies and watch too much TV. AND I make her feel guilty about these habits all the time.

    Must fix that. I love your mid-day goals… No blog surfing until 500 words, etc. I do that to some extent, but not nearly as well defined.

  8. Make sure you get your boss something for National Bosses Day. They always appreciate the effort. I love your organization. Can’t do it myself- but really admire it in others.

  9. I gave up on word count goals ages ago, but admire writers who stick to it (or try anyway!). And I love all your mini goals and reward system!

    I agree that it’s also important to cut yourself slack and avoid guilt whenever possible. (This is the big one I need to work on these days…)

    Great post and great advice.

  10. Kristy, I love your boss!

    We’re so isolated in our work–giving ourselves tangible goals is a great way not only to keep forward momentum going, but also to keep us from forgetting to have lives. When the writing starts flowing, it’s easy to get lost in it. Reward trips to Starbucks help keep that from happening.

    That said, someone should probably disconnect my phone and the internet. I think I could write four books a year without them…

  11. I love your boss too. And Tasha’s. And mine, for that matter. Mine insists on bi-weekly pedicures and daily Starbucks.

    Hey, we do what we need to do. I was giggling at you post and hubby asked what was so funny. I read it to him, and he said “You guys have it pretty easy.”

    Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say THAT, but we are blessed. We’re getting paid to think and type. And not too many people can do that. So if we need to take little sanity breaks here and there, set goals and rationalize how we get those books done, so be it. We always get them done.

    Celebrate yourself, darling Kristy. You deserve it.

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