Today (20 November 2022) is the first day of the sixth week of my Q4 Challenge.
Which means that I’m thirty-five (35) days into it.
Out of those thirty-five days, I’ve had nine (9) days where I wrote zero (0) words.
Four (4) days, I’ve wrote less than 1,000 words.
So far, I’ve only hit my stated goal of 25,000 one week (the second).
Despite all this, however, I’m happy with how it’s going. I’ve written more in the past five weeks than I wrote across the months of January through June plus August and September.
Seriously… I have.
Those nine months (January through June plus August and September) have a total word count of 88,171. The word count for the first five weeks of my Q4 Challenge is 89,027.
That’s not a huge difference, but it’s still a difference.
The last sixteen days of October (the first two weeks plus two days of the Q4 Challenge) made October my highest word count month so far this year. It beat July by about 5,500 words (plus or minus).
Now… there’s nothing magical or superhuman in what I’ve achieved these past five weeks.
Matter of fact, it’s far from superhuman. Superhuman–by the way–would be writing for twelve to sixteen hours straight at 2,500+ words per hour without ever developing any health problems in my forearms, wrists, hands, or fingers. I think we all know how likely that is, regardless of age but especially at the age of 42. 😁
In my previous (catch-up) post, I wrote about how tired I was when I got home from visiting and having sushi with my friend yesterday. When I walked into the house, I had every intention of going to bed.
But I didn’t.
I sat down and wrote new words. I didn’t write as many words as I would’ve liked… even though I had plenty of time to do it. The simple fact was that mind and body both basically said, “Nope… it’s bedtime now,” around 1,800 words in. I managed squeak out a few more, but I was seriously in danger of waking up this morning with QWERTY stamped into my forehead.
This is the power of making SMART goals and strong habits.
Which anyone can do.
Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Time-bound (or Time-sensitive).
My goal for the Q4 Challenge: I will write 25,000 words each week for the last eleven (11) weeks of 2022.
Is it Specific? Yes, very.
Is it Measurable? No doubt. If you think it isn’t, I have a spreadsheet that proves you wrong. 😁
Is it Achievable? Yes, I’d say it is totally achievable with a little bit of a push, considering I’ve never written every day for eleven weeks before (and given the numbers, I still haven’t 😝).
Is it Relevant? Absolutely. I am a professional fiction writer. I want to be a long-term professional fiction writer. To do that, I need good, sustainable habits.
Is it Time-bound (or Time-sensitive)? Absolutely, yes. 25,000 words per week breaks down to 3,571.42 words per day. I have yet to see .42 words, so I’ve been rounding it up to 3,572. It’s time-sensitive in both days, weeks, and the challenge period as a whole.
So, yes… it’s a SMART goal.
Now… I have made some mistakes along.
One of them was “unofficially” increasing the daily word target to 5,500 words. This was very impatient on my part. It’s something I need to work up to, rather than leap right into after a really good week. And honestly, I’m not sure but when 5,500 might be too much.
Yes, I know… I’ve talked a lot about having 1,000 major projects (mainly novels or novellas) to my name when I finally ‘retire,’ which for me–hopefully–will translate to when I die. If I have any choice or say in the matter, I’d like for someone to find my corpse on the floor laid out beside my writing chair with a story open on the computer. That’s honestly how I’d like to go. I’d like to be old, old, old… like 95+ and still writing stories.
So, I need to change my mindset now to make that more of a possibility. I’m not sure I have the proper life habits to achieve that, at present.
The word-count bump was the biggest of my mistakes. There have been a couple others, but that was the snowball that started the avalanche, I’d say.
There’s an old, old story. It’s attributed to Greek fellow by the name of Aesop. It’s a fable called The Hare & the Tortoise.
I won’t go into it here, the Library of Congress has a great site where you can read many of them. But the moral of the fable is that slow and steady wins the race.
I honestly don’t know about that. I’m not convinced that’s true in every situation. If we change it to “slow and steady finishes the race,” I can see that being true in 99.999%+ of all situations.
So… for these last six weeks of the challenge, my goal is to write 3,572 words each day. If I’m on a hot thread… sure, I’ll finish it. But being consistent in my daily word count–not just the fact that I wrote–is more important to me… not only for right now but also across the next thirty, forty, fifty, who-knows-how-many years.
There will be days that I miss. I understand that. But I’ll do everything in my power to ensure I don’t.
Another mistake I’ve made is not adhering to another rule that made my life better over the past few weeks: no caffiene within eight hours of bedtime. I’ve broken that rule twice (literally the past two days) and totally feel it. I also figure it’ll help corral what I call my “sleep drift,” which I’m honestly not fond of.
I’ve mentioned this numerous times. As far back as I can remember, my sleep schedule has “walked” through the entire 24-hour day multiple times throughout the year. It wasn’t so bad, back when I had a day job. The weekday commitments actually helped keep me on track. When I worked at the college, the long break that accounted for Christmas through New Year’s was absolutely horrid. Yeah… I liked the break, but the break didn’t always like me.
But now that I set my own schedule and have a daily commute of twenty feet on a bad day?
Yeah… it’s been a challenge. I’ve spent numerous months in the 4am to noon sleep schedule, and while that worked really well for me personally, it made interacting with the ‘traditional’ business world somewhat difficult. Especially banks. If I didn’t pay special attention to the time, I’d get all set to leave and realize the bank would close while I was still driving.
I enjoy living where I do. I love that my nearest neighbor is a solid three- to five-minute walk. I could tell you a couple fun stories of “training” my neighbors when I lived in Mineral Wells. But where I live also means I have a minimum 30-minute drive to reach a town of any size… and much longer if I want to go some place like Morgantown, Pittsburgh, or Columbus.
I was recently talking with someone who said they enjoyed coming here with her family, because she valued time with her family… but she didn’t like the lack of convenience. Where she lives, she’s only ten to fifteen minutes from everything, and that’s definitely not the case here.
My reply was, “Well, it depends on how you define convenience.”
But I’ve digressed again…
In short, I’m very glad I decided to do my Q4 Challenge. It got me back to writing again. It has started me on the path of making writing part of my daily life (which I’ve always wanted, especially since I went full-time with it).
But even better, it helped me sort out a few things around what I want for my life. And that right there is worth as much as–if not more than–the words.
I hope the days treat you and yours well. Be safe out there.