Wednesday, February 5, 2014

IWSG - February edition: It's the little things...


It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for IWSG! This hop is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh, and it's a great way for writers to encourage and support each other--check out the website or Alex's blog for more info!

This month I want to talk about motivation and reward.  I'm on a deadline for book 3, which has provided plenty of motivation, believe me.  But as I worked, I needed to find a way to measure my progress so I would know if I was on track, ahead of schedule (yeah, right!) or falling behind.

Basically, I took the number of words I had left to write, divided them by the number of days until my deadline, and voila!  I had my daily word count.  Simple, right?  I know, I know--you're shaking your head right now, thinking when is she going to get to something good?

I took it one step further.  I made a spreadsheet that calculated the number of words I had to write based on my current day's progress.  If I had an awesome day, word-wise, my minimum number of words for the next day decreased.  If I didn't get far, the number went up.  That was quite helpful when it came to planning my writing and figuring out how I was going to fit things in with the day job.  Before, I was doing this by the seat of my pants--I knew if I had a busy day coming up, I'd have to write more on other days to make up for a loss in productivity.  But having the actual numbers in front of me made it easier to see exactly how my project was coming along in the face of a looming deadline.

Finally, I wrote down my goals.  Every day, I wrote down the targeted word count, followed by my actual word count.  If I hit or exceeded my goal, I got a sticker for that day (thus rewarding my inner 5 year old. Because who doesn't love stickers?!).  Here's a picture of what my January looked like:

Yay for stickers!
There are a few things I hope you notice about this picture.  The first is that I have a lot of stickers.  That's because I used them as motivation.  On days when I was tired, when I couldn't think of the words, when I wanted to do anything but sit in front of the computer--those are the days I motivated myself by looking at the calendar and thinking "I got a sticker yesterday--I want to keep that streak going!"  It's a small thing, but having that tangible reminder was powerful for me.  So I forced myself to write, and you know what?  The words came.  And they weren't all crap.  Yes, there will be edits, but at least now I have something to edit!

The other thing I hope you notice is that there are days when I don't have a sticker.  But look closely: I still have a word count for those days (with one exception--we all have bad days!). Even though I didn't make my goal, I put words down on the page, and it got me a little closer to the end. Every little bit helps.

So, fellow writers, I encourage you to find your own motivation, and to reward yourself when you meet your goals, even if it is just a sticker on a page (I would have used chocolate, but I want to live long enough to write more stories!).  I've told you what works for me, but now I want to hear from you.  If you have a tried and true strategy, please share it in the comments!

28 comments:

  1. Hi Lara, This is really interesting, Indeed a great reminder of this day,
    I just missed it, now i need to think for the day LOL
    Have a good time of blogging ahead
    Good Wishes
    Philip Ariel

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  2. I LOVE that sticker idea. Probably leads to fewer cavities than chocolate, too.

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  3. Love it!! And we all have to nurture our inner 5-year-old. :) Great job, Lara!

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    1. Thanks, Candilynn! It's amazing how something so small can be such a great motivator!

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  4. Spreadsheets-eek! Sia runs away and hides.Too much like math. Lol!

    I have friends who swear by spreadsheets and do it well. Spreadsheets don't work for me but like you say, you find what does and do it. Something that gives you a sense of accomplishing your goals and do it. I have an excel visual (see, I am coming along, lol) that I picked up from someone our blogging group--I can't remember who right now. But she used it for Nano. Plug in how words you estimate your project to be and then each day it lets you see where you are to the overall total. I like it.

    The other thing I do is mark my calendar. Weekly goal and set out the writing days to do it and then look at each week. I draw pictures when I accomplish it. Stickers would probably be easier.

    I like the visual of knowing you are making your goals I bet it feels good when you look at your calendar!

    Sia McKye Over Coffee .

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    1. Hi Sia! Sounds like you've figured out a good system as well! Glad to hear it works for you! :)

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  5. Great post. Putting a deadline on it definitely helps. So do stickers! :)

    IWSG #298
    (Yup. I got culled and had to start all over. *blush*)

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    1. I'm a firm believer that stickers make everything better! ;)

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  6. OMG! I love your sticker calendar-- it's genius and inspiring! I feel like I need one, but I need a goal first. Thinking... thinking....

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    1. Thanks, Rachel! I'm sure you'll come up with a great excuse to use the sticker method! :)

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  7. Ooooh I like this so much :D
    Sticker calendar is too cute…I'd have to wait and find a way to get my time management going before I can take on something like this. I'd hate to see one lonely sticker a week lol

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    1. Like I said, this won't work for everyone. But you do what you can, and that's all that matters! :)

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  8. Having a goal definitely helps keep me on track and motivated. And I love spreadsheets! I'm a little geeky.

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  9. What a good idea and great motivation. I like! Keep it up girl!!

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  10. That's a great idea, Lara. This post was really motivational for me--I'm still in that writing slump and just can't get my feet back under me. It's frustrating!

    Also-write!write!write! I want more.

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    1. I'm so glad it helped, Tara! And as for the writing--I could say the same to you! When are we going to see your next book? *tapping foot impatiently*

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  11. LOL, I love love love how organized and yet whimsical you were about this. Spreadsheets and stickers?? That's my kind of system! It's awesome. And good for you, seriously, for staying with it, and meeting your goals! That is not easy.

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    1. Thanks, Liz! I'm all about the shiny... ;)

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  12. Your stickers are so cute! You're very organized. It's impressive. As much I'd like to be contracted to a series, the deadlines would FREAK ME OUT!! I'm glad you're made of stronger stuff. :)

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  13. Most of my family are organised by nature. Everyhting they do have been pre-planned and worked out. I have no organisation in me at all. I hate that I can't sit and plan. I don't fight it, it just isn't there. At almost 42 I've learned I am what I am, try to organise, but accept everything will get done it it's own round-about way, at some point. It's hard because I'm a perfectionist too. I'm constantly stressed!

    You on the other hand are awesome! I want to be you for the day, just to see what it's like. :)

    Shah http://wp.me/p2rnfx-2Is

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  14. I love your stickers idea. I collected stickers as a kid, and I looove anything sparkly. I should totally use stickers to motivate me.

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  15. I sure need some of those stickers!

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