The last entry made it pretty clear that I was working towards productivity again, but I stipulated that I didn’t know how it would work out. This entry is an update, and a look at some of the arguably useful stuff that isn’t writing—that too often takes time away from writing, in fact.
I’ve been doing a couple of things recently which fairly directly relate to the notion of laying some new work out. The first being reading fairly voraciously. For most of the last couple months I’ve been consuming about a book a week (mostly) in genre, which amounts to reading at the very least 100,000 words a week, and probably fairly significantly more—though I don’t have exact word counts of course. (If you’re interested, I’ve been reading Sanderson, Leckie, and Weeks.)
The second is working up a new setting (The Scape) for the upcoming series. It’s coming along fairly well. If not incredibly quickly, it’s at least got a consistency I’m pleased with.
Today, however, I’ve been on a slightly different mission. I’ve been working on where and how I write.
For the past year and a quarter I’ve been shoving money towards Writer each month (because I was too cheap to pay up front for a lifetime package) and not really getting much out of it. I can afford the $5 a month, of course. My writing is allowed to incur expenses like that. But the goal of using Writer was to cocoon myself in a distraction-free environment while maintaining offline capability and online cloud saves, and the reality is that I don’t need to pay for that when I can use Google Docs.
So I dropped my Writer sub. I like it a touch better than Google Docs for purity of environment, but, as you can see from the image above, I’m typing this article on my desktop in full screen and the only thing visible are the words of the entry itself. (My second monitor is turned on but all that’s going there is Foobar, running through the Firefly OST.) The actual canvas I’m working on here is about as blank as it really needs to be for my purposes, so paying extra to get a tiny variation in how I see things isn’t worth it.
But, as I was working through getting my Google Docs template and view to be as minimalist as possible, I ran across something to help me work through another issue I’ve had difficulty with: productivity.
It is my (and perhaps many other writers’, for that matter) constant quest to figure out how best to track what I do, without being bothered by tracking what I do. Meaning both where do I spend my time (both fruitful and not so fruitful) and how much “intended-for-publication” work do I produce. How good have I been about sticking to goals? Have I hit a minimum amount of production (to be read as wordcount), and am I taking enough time in front of my ever-expanding canvas each day?
So the gem I ran across was this article, which essentially breaks down how to automatically track the time I spend trying to produce—as well as how much I produce—and stores a variety of useful metrics related to these things. You can see an example of the information this automation makes available on Jamie Todd Rubin’s site.
During this process I upgraded my Evernote (to “Plus” which ran me up front about what five months of Writer would) and signed up for a RescueTime account. I set my default Evernote notebook to Writing, which is where my automated reporting will be mailed, ready for me to look at it when I want to check my progress. I also generated an API key for RescueTime, which should allow me to track more accurately what my time in my writing sandbox to the words I produce actually is. (This is not nearly as difficult as it is made to sound by the author of the automation article, for the record. It’s literally naming the key and generating it on RescueTime’s site, and then copying it into the spreadsheet’s configuration.) As an added bonus, the pure use of RescueTime gives me an idea of roughly how productive/not productive I’ve been with my browsing, all in a very simple interface built right into a Chrome extension.
And I’m happy to report that if you’re at all technically savvy the entire process takes very little time. I had things installed (untested, but I’ve got a high degree of confidence that they’re installed correctly given how simple the process was) within a couple of hours. That’s even including time dealing with the kids and various other annoyingly human random intrusions like needing to use the bathroom or being thirsty.
So here I am, a couple days shy of 41, and I’ve got a shiny new cloud-based writing environment and (as yet untested) cool automation to track my production and time use. Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks?
I’ll update again soon on the automation, the writing environment, and (fingers crossed) the new setting.