A Successful Experiment · 7:29pm
For the past month, I’ve been quiet on the fimfiction front.
There has been a reason for this.
Ever since I started writing fiction just shy of two years ago, I have been plagued by slow productivity and bastardized perfectionism. I have sat down at the computer with a free evening many a time, and had barely two paragraphs to show for it after six hours later, while every other chore in my life remains undone.
I have found rare stretches where something like Day of Dash, Morning Glow, The Sunday Session or (to my everlasting shame) Fantasy Horror worm their way into my brain, and with a crystal clear schedule, a lot of coffee and a day or two’s grind, I kick out a whole damn story or a big-ass chapter just like that. These are wonderful times. But these are rare. Far more of my output comes from grinding. Not ‘Oh, I have a day off so I’ll write a massive amount of stuff,’ grinding, instead, ‘I squeeze out words at a constipated rate, but if I can ignore my chores and everything else around me three days in a row, I can kick out enough words to show my pre-reader.’
I’d only feel satisfied if I had something to show at the end of a writing session, and I wouldn’t start a writing session unless I was utterly sure I could get something out of it. This left me with an inconsistent writing schedule, a deep discomfort about sitting down to write, the utter inability to even consider redrafting (if it took me eleven hours to write 1500 words, am I scrapping that scene and rewriting it? The fuck am I) and lots of other equally poor habits.
I’d tried writing schedules once before by aiming to do 1000 words per day, consistently. Failed within a week, I think, and that was back when I had a university schedule. It was a simple problem: I couldn’t produce 1000 words of a good standard easily. It took several hours of no distractions, and I immediately began putting it off until it was so late that my wordcount for the day would be impossible. Within a week, I’d grow demotivated and quit.
Last month, sick of my slow progress and my inability to adapt my writing schedule to my fickle work schedule and fickle-er sleep schedule, I gave the writing schedule plan another try. This time, though, I made some changes.
First, the word target would be 500 words per day. If I found that too easy, I said, I would change to 500 words per working day, and 2000 per day off. Why 500? Because 500 requires sitting down long enough that you can’t scrawl out two sentences, tab back into Hotline Miami, and call it a day, but at the same time? 500 words is a piece of piss. It’s barely a page. If I’m not sweating the quality, I can turn that out in twenty minutes. Even if it’s midnight and I need to be up for work in five and a half hours, there’s no excuse for not staying up that little bit longer to make sure the wordcount happens.
Of course, ‘if I’m not sweating the quality’ is a pretty big ‘if.’ I had this horrible hobgoblin of perfectionism sat on my shoulder, telling me not to put a single letter down unless I was sure that letter was the perfect letter for that word in that sentence.
That was the heart of the other change, which I only got when I finally took this advice:
“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’.... And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.” ~ Maya Angelou
The other change was that the words didn’t fucking matter. It didn’t have to be story related. It didn’t have to be in perfect sentences. It didn’t have to make sense. In fact, “blah blah blah wordcount blah blah I’m literally writing blah blah blah just to add to my goddamn blah blah wordcount” would both be entirely allowable and contribute 21 words towards my count total. This way, there would be no excuse for not getting that 500 done every day.
The philosophy is simple: I will have good days and bad days. If I’m writing every day, I won’t miss the good ones.
I set out to do that 31 days ago, on the 22nd of October. So, how have I done?
Over the past month, not pushing myself on any level like NaNoWriMo, just making sure I get a bit of writing stuck in alongside everything else, I wrote:
27535 words total.
888 words per day.
I surpassed my minor target by 12k words.
I surpassed my target of 500 on workdays, 2000 on off days by a whopping 35 words.
I fell short on two days, and I missed five days entirely.
What did I produce? A full chapter of a clopfic which is more sadistic than Couch and Fantasy Horror combined, a bunch of planning for one of my short stories, half a Banishment Decree chapter, and a lot of random noodling.
It’s gone fantastically well. I’ve had a fairly punishing work schedule by my standards for the last month - not in the sense of long hours, but at hours that do not suit my internal clock whatsoever, and I’ve had my share of distractions, but I’ve still had what I feel was one of my most productive months this year. I’ve stopped despairing over my inability to get things written. 888 words per day isn’t as fast as I’d like, perhaps, but this is still in early days, and that’s even when I’m not meeting my target on one entire week per month. If I can bump up just to 1000 words, that’s a short novel’s worth of writing in just under three months.
My plans are as follows:
1) First draft of non-pony short story, because jesus christ I need something to show to people when I say I’m a writer that doesn’t involve Diamond Tiara eating out a pony’s butthole.
2) Edit and post Pigpen’s Playtime (working title), my most evil clopfic yet.
3) Carry on banishing and decreeing.
My super-mega-ultra goal is to reach an output level of 2k words on a workday and 5k words on an off-day, but I think I’m a ways off from that yet...
Anyway, I’d like to thank my dear Scarlet for his essential assistance and patience over the past month, Darf (I miss that asshole already) for giving me the push I needed to start a word target again, and theRedBrony for putting up with my constant, unrelenting delays of Banishment Decree.
I’m back in the game and I’m playing for keeps, bitches,
Chuckles C. Finley.