Mid-year Review, 2021: Not as bad as I feared, but not progress

So, I’m a bit overdue for an update on how I’ve been doing production-wise for the first part of this year. I have typically finished up a first part of the year review by the beginning of June, but I had to settle for the end of July this time. Oh, well.

If you did not know, I have been keeping track of the productivity of my writing for the past several years – since about 2013. I settled on the format that I currently use for tracking my productivity by 2018. As a result, I now have 3 1/2 years of data to compare with and see how I have been improving (or not) over that time.

What I have to report, essentially, is that I unfortunately did not have as good of a first part of the year as I did last year, which is the best of the four years I have to judge. However, despite my decline, especially in June, it is still the second best first part of the year I have recorded since I began this.

Just to go over the rules I have set myself:

I meet my daily goal if I write at least 500 words per day or plan/revise my work for at least 30 minutes a day. That would be an average of 3,500 words per week (or the equivalent time in planning/revisions, or some combination of the two.
The numbers I will show will include the total words written, the total number of minutes I spent revising/planning, and the percentage of times that I met my daily writing goals (DWGM). I’ll also give the monthly averages for words and minutes, and the DWGM average for the first part of the year as well.

And now, here are the writing statistics for the first part of 2021:

  • Jan:
    • Words: 10,764
    • Revise/Plan: 750 min.
    • DWGM: 67 percent
  • Feb:
    • Words: 17,042
    • Revise/Plan: 450 min.
    • DWGM: 68 percent
  • Mar:
    • Words: 19,396
    • Revise/Plan: 0 min.
    • DWGM: 66 percent
  • Apr:
    • Words: 12,728
    • Revise/Plan: 30 min.
    • DWGM: 54 percent
  • May:
    • Words:  16,931
    • Revise/Plan: 0 min.
    • DWGM: 57 percent
  • Jun:
    • Words: 9,991 words
    • Revise/Plan: 60 min.
    • DWGM: 29 percent
  • 1st half of 2021:
    • Words (total): 86,852
    • Words (avg.) 14,475
    • Revise/Plan (total): 1290
    • Revise/Plan (avg.) 215
    • DWGM (avg.): 57 percent

As you can see, there was a bit of a fall-off in June, and there might be a similar fall-off this month, but we’ll have to see.

Now, I will show the comparisons with previous years:

  • 1st half of 2018:
    • Words (total): 31,683
    • Words (avg.): 5,281
    • Revisions (total): 3,965
    • Revisions (avg.): 661
    • DWGM (avg.): 43%
  • 1st half of 2019:
    • Words (total): 76,038
    • Words (avg.): 12,673
    • Revise/Plan (total): 3,495
    • Revise/Plan (avg.) 583
    • DWGM (avg.): 67%
  • 1st half of 2020:
    • Words (total): 114,459
    • Words (avg.)  19,077
    • Revise/Plan (total): 2,340
    • Revise/Plan (avg.) 390
    • DWGM (avg.): 66%
  • 1st half of 2021:
    • Words (total): 86,852
    • Words (avg.) 14,475
    • Revise/Plan (total): 1290
    • Revise/Plan (avg.) 215
    • DWGM (avg.): 57 percent

I’ve secretly suspected that my tendency is to slack off during times I am on vacation, which frustrates me because I think that I should use that time well if I have it free. Maybe I find it too intimidating? Maybe I just procrastinate. Well, I’m trying to fight that procrastination over the past few days and have been doing well to get some writing done on this blog.

And it turns out that I blew past my four-year anniversary. I’ll talk about that and some other stuff this weekend, too. Thanks for checking in with me, and all of you writers keep writing.

Writing Journal 7.28.2021: Statistics can lie their butts off if you let them

I’ll make this one brief, because there’s not too much to this post.

I will say this, however. Numbers can be spun many different ways. For example, I could say that I wrote three times as many words last week as I did the previous week. I can say that I wrote 50 percent more days than I did the previous week, and I can also say that I doubled the amount of days that I met my daily writing goals. And, I would be 100 percent accurate in all of those statements.

That doesn’t mean I had a good writing week. I managed to get 1,714 words written last week. Now, if I manage to meet my goal of writing 500 words every day, I should be up to at least 3,500 words per week, so you can see the math on that.

(Or, I could make up that if I am doing some planning or revising for my stories, I should be able to include that time in my calculations.
Remember, kids and non-kids, under my current calculations, 30 minutes of planning and/or revisions = 500 words written.)

So, last week wasn’t all bad news. I think I am getting used to my new writing rig, and it gave me an idea – I really haven’t had a “tech talk” about the equipment and software that I use for writing. That might be worth a write-up this week.

And, I got some other ideas, as well. So, I might have one idea, or two, that might come out on Saturday or Sunday. Though actually, the last post I put out on Monday got some good hits. Maybe I save one for then as well? Also, I’ve hit a few milestones that I probably need to address soon, so that will guarantee me some

I don’t want to devote too much time to this blog, but I do want to write regularly and more often. The fact that I’ve actually kept this site going longer than any writing project I’ve ever done is pretty incredible.

Anyway, here are the stats, as always. I think I’m making a comeback this week. Take care, everyone.

Writing statistics for the week ending 7.24.2021:
+1,741 words written.
Days writing: 3 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 2 of 7 days.

A Writer’s Biography, Volume III, Part 6: The importance of writing groups

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: My deepest apologies for releasing this blog Monday rather than sometime civilized on Saturday. Still getting used to the new schedule.

[SECOND AUTHOR’S NOTE: OK, it’s at 12:10 p.m. rather than 12:00 p.m. Still pretty close to what I promised, right?

[PHOTO NOTE: This is not my actual writing group, past or present. This is the first image that popped up when I did a Pexel search for “writing group.” And, there you go.

If you would, permit me to make a small detour into the world of politics.

It was in the middle of running for his second term as president in 2012 when Barack Obama got into a minor controversy over a statement he made on the campaign trail. At a campaign stop in Virginia, he was trying to make the point that rich people don’t become rich just because of their own efforts, but from the help of others, the help of government, and good fortune. He said in part:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

Barack Obama

I bring up this statement not to debate its value (I personally agree with it) nor to explain why it is so. I wanted to compare this idea with another idea that has long been popular – the idea of a writer as a singular artist.

This is an idea that, if it cannot quite be classified as a cliche, maybe could be considered more like a trope. I can remember so many scenes in films, television, and (yes) books as well, scenes of serious, dedicated writers hunched over hand-held notebooks, legal pads, typewriters, or word processors. They’re always so serious, aren’t they, their isolated rooms echoing with the scritch scratch of pens or pencils, the slamming thunk thunk of typewriter keys or the tiki-tak tiki-tak of word processors. Those scenes burned into my brains so much I’ve worn out keyboards for the past 25-plus years. Wasn’t it Sean Connery in Finding Forrester who said “Punch the keys, for God’s sake!” Oh, I lived that idea for many years. It is the reason that all of my spacebars on my keyboards have some worn-off parts, as well as a few other keys.

A writer lends a person so well to being a solitary artist. Not quite sure an idea is going to work out, or if somebody else likes it? Who cares, nobody is going to stop you, right? You are the final say over your story except for those sorry brothers who agree to collaborate with one or more writers. No worries about how much it would cost to render a scene for your reader, no worries about filming budgets or payrolls for actors and crew – you can build any world you want, any characters you want, for the cost of your imagination, your time imagining, and the cost of a workable computer or typewriter if you have a real 20th Century mentality. Especially if you have a nice little writing space, you can shut everyone out and everything out except you and your imagination. You would be the classic, mythical rugged individualist as artist.

However, as Barack said at the start of all this, “You didn’t build that.” Sure, you did build those worlds, those fascinating characters, those wonderful stories. Those are your words on the screen or the page. But, you didn’t get to that point on your own.

If we look into ourselves and understand the real writing process, the real ins and outs of how literature comes to be, we know that we are not just lone gunmen spewing our stories into the ether. There were so many that got us to the point where we were able to tell our stories and share them with the world.

There were other people that helped us to be able to share these stories, these writings, with the rest of the world. It is the same for all you writers out there just as much as it was for me. For me, I admit, I relied on my fellow writers to get me to where I have gotten to today.

I specifically remember the late Aughts of 2007 or so in regards to myself. I was returning to my hometown (Muscatine, Iowa) after a 10-year stay in Clinton, Iowa, and what felt like an equally long hiatus from writing. (I was writing off and on, but in no way consistently at all). In fact, initially I just sat and stewed for a while, which I might have attributed to entering the teaching profession and getting adjusted to that. But another part of that was the fact that I was writing in a vacuum, with nobody I could turn to for advice or guidance.

It was then that I remembered a local writing group called Writers on the Avenue. There were many differences between me and the other members. I was generally younger than most of them. Many of them preferred to work in poetry or mainstream literature, and I was the crazy kid writing thrillers or sci-fi/fantasy. We had differences of opinion on a lot of things about life. But we all had writing in common.

I went off and on between not participating in the group to at one point serving as club secretary. However, the feedback I got from them all about writing was invaluable.

They helped shape what eventually became my first published novel, The Holy Fool. They also provided critiques of my other novel projects as well. It was through them that I was able to network and get in contact with groups such as the Midwest Writing Center, where I learned a lot from the seminars and critique groups they had. I was able to network with other writers and get ideas about expressing myself through writing that eventually led me from repurposing an old Facebook page I had used as part of my past journalism career to creating the blog that you see here. I even got into poetry because I kept listening to their work and finally decided to try my hand at it. Some of those poems you can find here.

One of the real downsides of moving to South Central Iowa (Chariton, to be exact), is that I’m not able to meet with those groups on a regular basis. I’m glad now that I have started to settle in and get to be part of groups such as the Iowa Writer’s Corner. I’m hoping to get together with some other writers in the Des Moines area and continue my progress as a writer.

And who knows? Since Zoom has become such a thing, maybe I can get together with some of my old Eastern Iowa writing friends without burning too much gas.

Getting Caught Up…

… and I screwed up getting a blog out this weekend. I am in the process of writing it, but since it is getting late, I will be putting it out at noon tomorrow (7.26.2021). Once I get that done, I’ll get the writing journal blog ready for Wednesday and another out for Saturday at noon.

I may not have mentioned it, but I decided a few months back to go to another school district to work, and I found out that I will officially be on with them next academic year. With that in mind, I will be working to make sure I can keep up this writing schedule not only in the summertime when I have all the time in the world to work (or procrastinate) but later when I get back to teaching full-time.

Maybe I am right – in the end, I do better when I hold myself to a hard schedule and not give myself much time to make it. Maybe I do better on a deadline.

See you tomorrow.

Writing Journal 7.21.2021: Worst week this year

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: I typed in “Worst week ever” for my Pexels image search and the featured image was one of the images that popped up.]

I’m not even going to try to whitewash things today: Last week was a disgrace for me writing. Absolutely the worst writing week I’ve had all year after one of the best ones last week.

I could mention that I had finally gotten a new laptop after a week of mucking around with the old one, I could tell you that I got hit with the procrastination bug – but that would all be excuses. I just need to sit down and freaking write and get it over with, starting with this blog.

It never ceases to stun me how when I have more time than I could ever make use of over the past several weeks that I haven’t made use of it at all. Sometimes I waste time so much it’s disheartening to me.

The one good thing I can say in my defense this week is that I am sticking to this new program of doing the basic journal updates on the Wednesdays after my writing week and my more feature-type blogs on Saturdays, as well as some other times during the weekend. In fact, right after I finish this blog, I’m going to look through my drafts to see which one might be the best candidate for this coming Saturday.

So, here are the stats, for those who want a laugh. I know I’ll manage better this week. Hopefully, I’ll manage a lot better.

Writing statistics for the week ending 7.17.2021:
+553 words written.
Days writing: 2 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for 30 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 1 of 7 days.

Writing Journal 7.17.2021: Hitting a good stride… for now

I’m only sort of celebrating today. I wound up getting an award from my writing group for my work output last month – the Weekend Warrior award. It will be interesting to see how often I might win it, but I will bring it back to Des Moines for our next meeting.

Whether I will be a repeat champ is a big question. One issue I can blame it on is attempting to find a new rig to write on. But I also think there is still a bit of procrastination, especially with writing actual blog posts that have something to do with more than just my weekly totals.

Since I have been doing better with planning writing journals in advance, I need to make a similar vow for my blogging on other topics. I am going to make a resolution here that I will put out a midweek blog about non-journal stuff. Or, now that I’m thinking about it, should I do the journals on Wednesdays and save the other stuff for the weekends? I just thought of that right now.

Let me try that this coming week, and I’ll see how it goes. I have a backlog of material I keep saying I want to get to, but I never do. Now might be my chance at that. So, next journal blog on Wednesday, and at least one other blog topic on Saturday. Let’s see if I can stick to that.

So. here’s the stats for last week. These are much better than the last couple of week’s to be honest. Actually, I’m not going to lie, this was a rock star week for me. Actually, forget rock star, this was the MOST PRODUCTIVE week I’ve had all year. That is cause for celebration (yea, yea, yea). See you around.

Writing statistics for the week ending 7.3.2021:
+9,328 words written.
Days writing: 6 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 6 of 7 days.

Writing Journal 7.10.2021: Up against a deadline – again

Man, I wish I did this more often without leaving it until the last minute. But, I’m an old reporter, aren’t I? I always seem to do better when there is a desperate deadline rather than getting things done casually.

One thing that has become clear to me (even though I am not acting on it – yet – is that I need to be blogging more. People want to read more than just my weekly totals. And, I think I have more to say. In fact, I think I will try to blog something tomorrow. Trust me, it won’t be trash lol.

Here’s my numbers for the previous week. A little lower than the previous week’s, but I think I really bumped up the numbers the next go-around, trust me.

Anyway, here they are. Writers keep writing and everyone keep safe.

Writing totals from the week ending 7.3.2021:
+3,206 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 3 of 7 days.

Hello From Des Moines

I’m at the Indie Author Book Expo at Valley View Mall in West Des Moines. This is my first opportunity to do one of these fairs and my first time that I have gotten to do an in-person event.

If you’re out in Des Moines, come out and see me and the other authors out there. I’m signing copies for sale, so get them while they last lol.

Writing Journal, 7.3.2021: Getting back on track

[PHOTO NOTE: Just literally did a Pexels search for “getting back on track” and that popped up. Anyway.]

Not too much to talk about on this blog – I’m hoping to get into a lot more with some other blogs this week. However, I will say I wrote more this last week than I did for the entire rest of the month of June combined, so I’m considering that a win to build on.

Hey, just a reminder that I have an actual, no-lie appearance on my calendar coming up! I’m going to be appearing at the 6th annual Indie Author Book Expo at Valley West Mall in West Des Moines July 10th. I will be at the expo from 11 am to 5 pm that day. Come down to talk with me and pick up a copy of my novel The Holy Fool. Here’s a link to the event. Hope to see you there.

Writing statistics for the week ending 6.26.2021:

+3,720 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 4 of 7 days.

I’m Having A Promotional Event on July 10th. Think anybody can make it out there?

After an extended absence from doing any sort of in-person promotional events due first to my move out to South Central Iowa and the whole COVID situation, I thought it was time for me to finally bring that dry spell to an end.

I will be making an appearance at the 6th annual Indie Author Book Expo at Valley West Mall in West Des Moines July 10th. I will be at the expo from 11 am to 5 pm that day.

Come down to talk with me and pick up a copy of my novel The Holy Fool. It’s my debut novel, a journalism thriller about a reporter trying to break a big national security story in Chicago on the eve of the 2008 elections and the Great Recession while trying to help keep his paper alive. Go ahead and come to the My Works page on the blog for more information about the book and links to buy paperback and e-book editions.

Here’s a link to the expo. Hope to see you there.