“I can STILL hear you saying you would NEVER break the chain”

As I said last time, I’ve had my head up a project, so this is a day late.  I think I’ve made up for being sick a couple of weeks ago.  Just gotta keep the chain going, right?  Or at least try to, what with the beginning of the semester at the dayjob.

I’ve promised that I’d actually go into what it takes for me to put an X through a day.  Well, here it is…

Everyone knows how much I love A Working Writer’s Daily Planner, so much so that I’ve resolved to buy one a year for as long as Small Beer Press continues to sell them.

But I have a confession to make. After a strong start last year, I didn’t even open up my 2010 planner after October, when life just got too damn busy.  My writing suffered.  Oh, not just I stopped using the planner.  Other things just got in the way, despite my best efforts to keep on track.

This year is going to be different.  Not because I made a New Year’s resolution, but because I’d given a lot of thought to revamping my writing workflow in general.

The one thing I probably love more than my writing planner is Getting Things Done.  I owe whatever minuscule amount of success I have to that system.  But I was sort of defeating myself.  I like to compartmentalize, you see.  There are ultimately two areas of my life: “writing” and “everything else.”  But my planning and execution of my tasks didn’t reflect that.  I kept my “writing” list of next actions together with my lists of “everything else” in a planner that I try not to consult when I’m writing. 

I love my “everything else”
planner, though.

My solution: I saw that even when I consulted my 2010 Working Writer’s Daily Planner daily (mostly to check out prompts and note upcoming deadlines), I wasted a lot of the calendar’s space. This was, after all, why I switched from medium-sized planners to something pocket-sized (i.e. a weekly pocket-sized Moleskine, around which I’ve wrapped a leather 3×5 index card case).

It finally hit me that I have all this space in my writing planner and not a lot of date- and time-specific things (‘cos I don’t log every submission deadline of every market under the sun), so why not use that planner, in large part, to keep a running next-actions list?

You know, for as long as I’ve been writing, I’ve struggled with a metric to track my progress.  Word count works, but only when you’re drafting.  What word count do you track when you’re editing?  Time?  I can waste an hour doing nothing, as a famous writer (Hemingway?) suggested, but stare at the blank wall until you start typing–which doesn’t always work for me.

Enter minimal GTD.  I define the two or three goals per week, and the two or three steps I can take every day to move any or all of my given writing projects forward–and then do them–then I can focus on, as Seinfeld suggests, not breaking the chain

Every writing session now, it sits open to the current week.  There are pages at the beginning of each month with enough space to list some projects I might want to consider for the month in question, as well as ticklers for things coming up in the next month.  And I can tell myself that “all I need to do are these two or three things.” Actually doing them, however, is a different issue.  For now though, it’s enough for me to know by my chain of Xes that I am.