Hell Track Project Diary: Day Three

Here is the upside of running this project diary alongside my six-week project sprint: it forces me to be conscious of my process and the things that affect it. This was particularly useful today, because I hit a perfect storm of three seperate things that had the potential to derail my momentum:

  1. Wednesdays are the days I sent out my Notes from the Brian Jar newsletter, which means that part of my day is given over to preparing the weeks content and setting up the mail-out. Ordinarily I budget two hours a week for this – often spread out across multiple days, but lately it’s been happening on the day.
  2. Wednesdays are also my weekly Write Club catch-up with Angela Slatter, which means there is often as much talking about writing. This skews my writing time later in the day, which means I can’t just schedule more short sprints in the event I’m not getting much done. 
  3. I got about three and a half hours of sleep last night courtesy of some unwelcome insomnia. I work far less efficiently when I’m tired, and I’m more prone to give in to on-the-spot rewrites.

I knew days like this were coming, albeit not this early, which is why I aimed to overshoot the 3,000-words-a-day target I need to hit my goal. On the other hand, it’s easy to have two days where you drastically overshoot like I had day one and day two, then assume this is the new normal with regards to your process rather than taking advantage of an opportunity as it comes.

Because I was keeping notes for this diary – and logging my major challenges for the day ahead of the first writing sprint – I had a chance to review what was going on today and make active decisions about what I was going to head for.

And so, we come to the useful bit, outlining the…

MAJOR CHALLENGES WITH TODAY’S WRITING

  1. Actually getting 4 hours of viable hand-on-keyboard time to conduct writing sprints and looking for opportunities to do shorter-than-usual sprints.
  2. Adjusting expectations given that today’s writing time will be afternoon heavy, with increasingly fragmented attention as fatigue sets in. 3K would be absolutely spectacular today, as it allows me to maintain my lead instead of eating into the extra words I’ve written.
  3. Trying to counter the fatigue problems by mapping out scene beats before I write, as one of the biggest points where I’ll slow down is stopping to figure out what comes next (or how it should look)

PROGRESS NOTES

In terms of raw time-and-word count, this has easily been a day that was just flat-out hard. Only 7 full pomodoros with a couple of shorter sprints, and a much lower average number of words per sprint compared to the first two days.

On the other hand, today’s a day that showcases the problems with using word count alone as the sole metric of success. Here are three things I want to note about today:

  1. I spend a lot of time on my couch while writing, whole days where the only living creatures I see between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM are a couple of guinea pigs, so setting aside time to engage with the outside world through write club and my newsletter are important.
  2. The prime value of Write Club with Angela isn’t how much work I get done, but the opportunity to talk business and craft with another writer (and catch up with a friend). It clarifies my thinking about what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it.
  3. Although today’s word count was low, it includes the scene I’d skipped yesterday because it was too goddamned difficult to write and I now have rough drafts for all but one scene in the first act (and I figured out how to make tht scene work).

This last goal was hit after bunking out to the local cafe for breakfast and blocking the whole scene out over two notebook pages, incorporating new elements and thinking through the implications of each beat as it arrives. This brought a seemingly unachievable scene into reach, and also served to ease my anxiety a little as I nommed down on a glory bowl of healthy vegetables.

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Some days, one of the most useful steps you can take is recognising its time to go easy on yourself.

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