Habit Tracking, in Theory and Practice

Happy belated Canada Day to all who celebrate(d.) For those of us south of the US/Canada border, the big summer holiday is tomorrow, July fourth. I, personally, will observe the holiday by changing my desktop wallpaper to something more appropriate (but the maple leaf flag is pretty, and there is a Canadian connection in Her Last First Kiss, so it really is work related,) listening to selections from Hamilton, and getting a flame grilled burger in my stomach by whatever means necessary. Some things are non-negotiable, and that is one of them.

I am not a summer person. I never have been. When I got heat stroke at 22, that sealed it. This fair-skinned, heat-sensitive body does not do summer.  Give me some ice water, a nearby fan, and an ice pack when needed, and wake me in September.  I’ll be fine, really. I have books and notebooks and pen and paper.  Depending on what day it is, I am actually in March of 1784, (okay, verging on April by this point, because I am now thisclose to the halfway mark on draft two of Her Last First Kiss) or in, well, spring again, in the eternal now, in Chasing Prince Charming. Kind of easy to forget what’s going on outside the office when I am elbow deep in one book or another.

Because I did not write “take picture of writing tracker” on my daily task list, I did not get a picture of my writing tracker in my daily carry notebook, but Banastre Lobster did help me get a better shot of my reading tracker.  I’m kind of proud of this one.

 

ReadingTrackerBanastre

reading tracker, with lobster

 

Three days into July, and how am I doing on the reading front, now that I have a tracker? Let’s take a look:

July1st3days
on track so far

 

Knowing that I get to color a teeny tiny square if I read 25 more pages actually does seem to be working.  I always think I can draw a straight line on graph paper without a ruler, but then I try actually doing it, and remember I can’t, so that is why I have multiple rulers on my desk. The other months look a lot neater, and I look forward to turning them into colorful checkerboards, when their turn comes. For right now, though, I’m keeping my eyes on the day at hand. If, okay, when, I read more, that can carry over into tomorrow’s tally, because there are going to be days when I don’t get even 25 pages read, and I want to color all of those squares. Do not ask me why this is the motivation that works; it is, and that’s enough.

Since I now have a reading tracker, it made sense to make a writing tracker, but I can’t do it exactly the same way.  Story time:  one of the RWA chapters proposed having members report their monthly word count on the chapter loop. Many members thought this was a great idea. One other member and I, however, sat there, consumed by immediate panic. Cue Hypercritical Gremlins. Our then-president was quick to assure us that participation was voluntary, not mandatory, but it took a while for pulses to stop racing and the walls to stop closing in around us two unicorns. Word count doesn’t work for every writer. The key to tracking my writing, then, lies in finding out what does.

So far, the plan is to proceed as normal for the next three weeks, and then look back at what I did, then figure out how I did it.  How much did I produce, and what were the conditions around that? What prep work did I do on the days when I produced more, and what were mitigating factors on the days I produced less? I will probably count pages instead of words, because that’s how my brain works, and, by the end of the three weeks, I will probably have something that looks neater (and probably prettier) than this, but it’s a good place to start:

 

WritingTracker1stTry

1st try at writing tracker, with lobster

 

 

Is this going to have any effect on my productivity? I have no idea, but if all this experiment does is rule out this method of tracking, it’s still time more spent. Here’s the deal: I want to get more books written and out there, in the hands of readers. That means I have to produce more books, and get them out there, into the hands of readers. After far too long a time without a new release, and having two second drafts going at one time, (a third waiting sometimes patiently, sometimes not, if I count the medieval novella, which I usually do) this means that, theoretically, I could have three new titles on their way to readers next year. That’s pretty exciting.

Although six-year-old me would undoubtedly scream and kick the back of the Rambler my mom drove my protesting self to first grade in, on a day when I’d tried my best to convince her to let me stay home, her voice remains clear in my head: the more you do, the more you’ll want to do. If that means I get to uncap a brush pen and fill in another tiny square on a piece of graph paper, I am there, baby.

This also has a connection to Her Last First Kiss.  Ruby also keeps meticulous records that relate to her work and her interests, so I think she’d approve of me charting her and her Hero’s progress this way. Dominic, the hero of Chasing Prince Charming, also keeps a notebook close at hand, and makes use of it a few times during the course of the book, and his heroine, Meg, is a writer with a goal of restarting her own career, so I feel close to them when I’m planning and tracking, too.  If this method of tracking doesn’t work, then I’ll try something else, but the destination remains the same: get both books to The End of draft two, and embark on the next great adventure.

 

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