Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tracking and Focus and Unsurety

In my first post on developing self-discipline one of the main themes I found when reading about the subject was the benefits of tracking progress.
Although I do love a good spreadsheet, I am not sure that will be sufficient. Perhaps just a daily note in an online private journal about what I did toward my goals will work, when combined with weekly and monthly reviews to see if I am able to improve time spent actually writing. Not only will it track improvements but during the first month or so it will help me gain a true sense of my capabilities. This morning for example I have a special request book review to work on. I received the book yesterday, read it completely last night and woke up this morning ready to write. I was able to get a rough draft of the review completed but after only about 40 minutes of work my brain started to feel fried. (fumbling around for the words I wanted, losing focus, increasing frustration levels as I flailed around trying to express my opinion on the book etc)
This was quite a bit short of the time I had hoped to remain clear enough to produce a completed review.
I can and will keep the file open on my laptop, and add words or phrases as they come to me during the day but that is a very different style of time-use to what I had in mind when I started thinking about this stuff a week or so ago. I should be able to wake up tomorrow and use the 'crystal' time to finish up and polish the review before submitting it even if I get only 30 minutes or so.
I guess one question tracking will answer is how much time in general I am able to stay focused enough to accomplish what I want to do.
There are maybe five levels of productivity, based on clarity of mind.
At the worst, I cannot seem to concentrate enough to read a book that is new to me. I cannot follow directions when knitting or crocheting something. During those episodes/flares I am limited to re-reading books, watching reruns on TV and knitting or crocheting simple shapes using stitches I know well and that are easy to execute (no counting).
One level up from that, I can read some new books in an easy genre (like many romances) but need to stay away from science fiction, mystery or non-fiction books.
I am able to write general information for the review (like researching which book in the series my book is, names of characters, time period and location) but other than basic impressions and the occasional phrase I can only take the rough draft so far.
I can follow patterns for types of things I have made before and even learn simple levels of new stitches.
At the next level up, I can read anything and get the review almost finished. There may be a word or two I want to use that I can't quite grasp, and when I read the drafts written at this sub-level of efficiency I always find syntactical or other errors that, no matter how often I re-read them at the time I am writing them, I miss.
It is comparable to where my level used to be in the afternoon of a workday; a little fatigued but able to do solid if not finished work on a task. I can also follow most patterns when I am at this level and do basic layout and design for publishing my own patterns.
The best is when I am at the same levels I used to have every day in the mornings. I can comprehend anything, learn just about anything, and even if the review is not completely finished, the essential ideas are there and just need a final polish when I look at them a second time.
At the old place I had this level of 'sparkle' maybe a few times a month, for maybe an hour each time, always in the morning.
Although I haven't tracked it yet, I think, barring flu or cold or fatigue from insomnia, I have that clarity more often.
Although many people state having concrete goals is an essential part of their writing plan, I think I need to find a different (sorry, a bit foggy) criteria/method/focus.
If I set a goal of writing two pages of fiction every day, would a bad spell of a series of days of foggy brain end up making me feel like it is impossible, and discourage me enough to give up?
On the other hand if I don't have a stated completion goal like X pages per day, will I be underselling/under utilizing /underachieving what I might be able to do?
Anything I discover over the next week will be skewed to what my health level is right now. Even if I expanded it to a month or six weeks, my health levels are kind of erratic.
Perhaps it would be best to simply get up every day and honestly try, then track what I was able to do without using that data to put any expectations on the ability to work in future days. I would simply use it to track progress, not potential.
One day at a time.
Writing blog posts is easier than writing reviews, as whatever comes in my head can flow from my fingers. Even so I often wind up rereading and finding errors later.
Writing with a more concrete purpose is more difficult, but given one clear day in three I can still produce reviews on a fairly steady basis.
I am a bit worried that writing fiction will be harder.
Of course, writing that first flow of idea is the easiest bit, I can use parentheses to set aside ideas for which I can't find the exact word then go back in editing to fix it up. I imagine having days with the clarity to truly edit otherwise finished work will be at a premium
But even if it takes me three years to write a novella, I will have tried, which I think is my ultimate goal: to have sincerely tried my best to write a work of fiction.
If I end up hating to write fiction, that too would be a valuable discovery.

1 comment:

Don Meyer said...

Something I learned long ago when I was in school is this: When mind gets foggy, STOP! Working (writing or whatever) in a fog is likely to result in poor results -- for me, anyway. As to writing, even with a clear mind, I discovered that I'm a better editor than writer. So I get the thought down on paper/computer, and then go back and edit it.

Hope that helps.