Trying for a daily routine

I’m of the opinion that having a daily routine helps protect space for creativity. If I don’t have a routine I tend to lurch back and forth between neglecting the mundane affairs of daily life and allowing them to consume the time for creative pursuits. I actually wrote a Wise Bread post on the topic: Being Routinely Creative.

Merely knowing this about myself does not automatically provide an effective routine, so I’m always on the lookout for good models. One that I spotted a while back was the daily routine of Charles Darwin. I tried briefly to follow a similar routine, but didn’t manage to turn it into a habit. Now I’m trying again.

There are several things I like about Darwin’s routine.  For one thing, it was obviously effective—Darwin managed to sustain a high level of productive creativity over an extended period. Its priorities (work, fitness, family) are general in accordance with mine. As a bonus, the amount of time and the times of day that Darwin spent working roughly matches what I find lets me be my most productive.

So, today I tried to block out my time along the lines of Darwin’s schedule. It didn’t quite work out, partly because of details of the schedule itself and partly because I was still lurching between ignoring the schedule and following it too enthusiastically, but it was a good start. I’ve blocked out a modified version of the schedule for tomorrow.

Tracking words

I go back and forth about tracking words as a useful metric when writing fiction.  Currently, I’m back on again.

Over the past few days, I’ve created a spreadsheet along the lines of the one Toby provided in his post on creativity and word tracking.  Mine is simpler than his; I don’t have a deadline, so I don’t need to track progress toward one.

My main input is simply the length of the current draft.  From that I calculate the words written that day.  I’m also tracking a 5-day moving average (although I’m thinking of changing that to a 7-day moving average, to smooth out the impact of weekday issues).  I calculate a “words to go” value (by subtracting words written from an estimated final length) and a “days to go” value (“words to go” divided by the moving average).  Currently I’m using 60,000 words as my estimated final length–a reasonable value for a short novel, I think–but if I come up with a better guess as I proceed I can change my estimate.

I’m currently at 7555 words and my current 5-day moving average is 745 words per day, so my estimated days to completion of a first draft is 70.  We’ll see.

Is this useful?  I’m not sure yet.  But I do know that I wrote 318 words of fiction yesterday, even though I also wrote a new Wise Bread post and was feeling a bit burned out.  The fact that I’d otherwise have had to plug a zero in for words written yesterday was significant motivation for getting me to put in the time to get some fiction written.

Once again working on a novel

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo (because I’m not going to try to write this in a month, and also because I started a couple of weeks ago), but I am going to be cranking away producing novelish prose over the next month, so I feel a certain kinship with others doing the same.

I’m doing several things differently this time.  In particular, I don’t have an outline.  In fact, I have only the barest notion of where things are going.  This will no doubt mean that a whole bunch of rewriting of the beginning will be required (so that it ends up being a beginning that heads to the end that I end up writing), but that’s a small price to pay if the result is a novel that I’m pleased with.

The other main thing that I’m doing differently is giving chapters to Jackie to read as I write them.  Doing so has prompted me to try to make each bit exciting, which I think is having a positive effect.

Taiji, manuscripts, database

Today was Taiji class.  The instruction is following an interesting direction.  It’s our third class, but we have yet to do a taiji form.  Instead, we’re learning pieces.  We spent two days doing the upper-body parts of Cloud Hands one-handed.  Today we did them two-handed for the first time.  Separately, we’ve done several bits of footwork:  shifting weight, empty step, etc.  We’ve not yet done anything that combines upper-body and lower-body motions.  However, I have a strong sense that we’re building a proper foundation.  By the time we do our first actual piece of the form, I expect we’ll have most of the moves for doing the whole thing.

Got some writing-related work done today.  I put two manuscripts in the post.  I also revitalized my old submission-tracking database, which I hadn’t gotten properly set up when I got a new computer several years ago.  I wasn’t actively submitting manuscripts, so it didn’t seem urgent.  Then when I started sending them out again I didn’t want to wait to get my tracking system working, so I just did the tracking in a spreadsheet.  Today I got the old tracking system working again, and moved over all the data from the spreadsheet.  So, I once again have complete submission information for all my manuscripts, including a few old manuscripts that hadn’t yet been submitted to every market.