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In this episode…
Are you one of those people who uses a fancy watch or phone to track your blood pressure, heart rate, daily step count, laps swum, miles run, calories consumed, and all that?
On the flip side, have you ever decided not to get on the scale after Thanksgiving, or after vacation? Or did you ever do so badly on an exam in college that you didn’t bother going to pick it up from the professor?
Measuring things is a double-edged sword. It can be fun to use technology to gain insights into every nook and cranny of our lives. But on the other hand, measurement often comes with judgement, blame, and shame.
Scorekeeping can be a powerful tool for building and maintaining a productive writing routine. The trick is creating a healthy approach that combines objectivity with respect for your emotional landscape.
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Trevor Thrall 0:01
Welcome to the Get your reading done Podcast. I’m Trevor Thrall, author of the 12 week year for writers. If you enjoy today’s episode, please think about submitting a review wherever you get your podcasts that really helps. And for weekly updates on the podcast and other writing resources, you can subscribe to my newsletter at get your writing done.com. Are you one of those people who uses a fancy watch or phone to track your blood pressure, heart rate, daily step count laps, swamp miles run, calories consumed and all that. Or on the flip side? Have you ever decided not to get on the scale after Thanksgiving? Or maybe after a vacation? Or did you ever do so badly on an exam in college that you didn’t bother going to pick it up from the professor? measuring things is a double edged sword. It can be fun to use technology to gain insights into every nook and cranny of our lives. But on the other hand, measurement often comes with judgment, blame and shame. scorekeeping can be a powerful tool for building and maintaining a productive writing routine. The trick is to create a healthy approach that combines objectivity, with respect for your emotional landscape.
We live in an era of the quantified self. You can read articles, books, magazines, full of people experimenting with all kinds of crazy ways to measure their health, their performance, their activity, their mental health, you name it, people are trying to measure it more than ever before, I think in history. And I’m excited about a lot of those things. I admit it as a tech lover, I have an Apple Watch, I have an iPhone, I like computers. So I’m I’m immersed in the digital world myself. And because it’s so easy to measure things I’ve tried over the years measuring all kinds of things. I’ll admit, though, most of those things, I measure for a while, and it’s interesting to look at the numbers. But eventually, the numbers get boring and don’t really seem to have done anything for me. So I, I stopped, I stopped looking. And and frankly, the Apple Watch is mostly used to tell time, once again. But you know, the quantified self is a really interesting topic. It’s an interesting movement. And, and it’s got me thinking a lot about the different ways that writers keep track of their writing. And because I think, you know, writers, like everyone else, live in a digital world, and have access now to all sorts of tools to keep track of what you’re doing help you do it and so on. But I think sometimes what gets lost in the G wiz discussions is the why the Why are you measuring things and, and so that’s what I want to talk about today is the importance of of scorekeeping of keeping track of your writing. But not just keeping track for keeping tracks sake, but keeping track for the central purpose of helping you get your writing done. And so, I’m going to talk a little bit first about about something sort of the opposite of the quantified self, which is, why do so many people find themselves not tracking their writing efforts. And then I’ll talk a little bit about why I think you should track your writing efforts. And then I’ll end with some discussion about how I think you can go ahead and do that in a healthy way. And I I emphasize the healthy part there, because I think one of the things that puts a lot of us off keeping score is that for many of us, you know, we encounter a lot of scorekeeping. You know, places in our life, that that don’t feel particularly healthy. And so I think we need to acknowledge that and find healthy ways to keep track of what it is we’re writing. So so why don’t we keep score? When we’re writing? Why don’t we always measure how many words we’re writing every day and keep track of whether we’re sitting down to the to the writing desk on a regular basis? And I think, you know, probably there are a million reasons that people might give, but I, I made a list of some that I think are pretty common, that I myself may have experienced more than a few times in life, but that I know others have as well. And, you know, I think probably one of the most central reasons is that
when we’re not getting our writing done, when we’re not following through on Google We have set projects we have laid out in front of ourselves, Oh, that feels bad. And we don’t like to feel bad. So to avoid feeling bad, of course, it’s easier not to confront yourself with that information and, and keeping score of your writing progress, when you’re not making progress would be a really good way to make it obvious. And that would make you feel bad, right. And so to avoid that kind of ego hit, we just avoid keeping score. And I think you know, any of us who have ever been on a diet or an exercise plan, when it starts to peter out, you stop getting on the scale, you stop, you know, it’s going in the wrong direction. And so you stopped getting on the scale, you don’t want to know the news, you know what the news is in the back of your head, but you don’t want to confront yourself with it, because you don’t want to do anything about it. So, you know, you’re, you avoid. So I think, you know, not wanting to feel bad about yourself, not wanting to admit that you’re failing on some goal that you might have set yourself, those things hurt. So I think that’s sort of the most obvious reason that we stop keeping score, if we were keeping score in the first place that is, and I think a related reason that we often don’t keep score is that we feel judged by metrics. You know, the school, you know, for all of us from a young age, has drummed into our DNA, practically, the feeling that we can be summed up by an external force, with a number or a letter. And, you know, when the number is good, yeah, sure you feel good about yourself. But the flip side of that coin, of course, is that when the number is low, or the letter is the wrong one, you can feel very bad about yourself. And, you know, many of us just aren’t good at certain topics. And so school was like a minefield, where you’re sort of, you know, getting blown up by these numbers on a regular basis, because he can’t seem to get the hang of Spanish or algebra for God’s sakes. And so, and the way others treat you, sometimes when you get low grades, you know, they treat you poorly, frankly, a lot of teachers treat it like a moral failing to get a bad grade in school. So I think a lot of us are kind of, you know, habituated, or socialized, in a sense to fear metrics, and to try to avoid them when we can, because they’ve given us such bad feelings in the past. And and it’s not just, it doesn’t end with school, of course, you know, we all have annual reviews at work or things like that, we have credit scores, we have all sorts of places in our life that seemed to be run by metrics, or algorithms. And, and feeling judged, of course, is the last thing any of us want to do. And so not not adding writing to that pile, I think, can be another reason that we don’t want to keep track. And I think, you know, sort of related to that is we want, we don’t many people don’t want in there, and sort of their private life. And if you’re writing as part of your private life, you may want to keep that space, you know, friendly and safe, and have writing be that safe space for you and escape from the rest of the world where you’re feeling judged. And certainly, you know, in that place, you don’t want to feel pushed, or rushed. Like you’re, you’re behind in some universal sense, because you haven’t hit some kind of goal on a piece of paper. And so that feeling of wanting not to be judged of wanting not to be rushed or pushed. I think those are other reasons, as well, why we wouldn’t want to put goals and, and word counts and stuff like that on a on a piece of paper and look at them on a regular basis. But I think another reason that’s, that’s very prominent for a lot of people, especially given the busy world that we live in, is that many of us have so much going on, not just with our writing, but in all phases of life. We’re just too drained, physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, to keep track of yet another project. I was reading for this, for this podcast, I was doing a little research and I came across a few different
blog posts and articles and, and one of them was interesting, the woman talked about how she she kind of liked keeping track and a very simple way of you know, putting an X on the calendar if, if she, you know, sat down to write that day, but eventually got bogged down and stopped when she realized it was one of six different projects that she was trying to keep track of whether she did them or not every day, she just got overwhelmed. And I think you know, that’s that’s exactly what I mean is that you know, we keep track of so much in our lives or need to keep track need to stay busy with and it was Whether you’re trying to keep score or not, you’re busy with the kids with school with your job with your church with, you know, your hobbies, your fitness, you know, whatever it is your health, your dog, your cat, your llama, that having one more thing that you need to focus on and stay accountable for, might be one too many writing might be that one too many for you. And in that case, it just might be, it might be too big and ask. And then a final reason that I think is a nefarious one, you know, in a sense, is that, and I guess this is also related to the to the last one, which is that I think there are phases, even for writers, where you don’t really want to write, where, you know, again, either you’re burned out, or you’re tired, or you’re maxed out, your your focus is for whatever reason on something else. And, you know, so maybe you’re doing some writing a little bit or something like that. But, but you, you don’t really want to do it. And so you’re avoiding keeping score, because that helps you avoid thinking about it, you know, and so I think during some of those fallow periods, it’s hard, it’s hard to want to keep score as well. So, you know, I think it’s what’s interesting to me when I think about all these reasons is that on the one hand, they’re all very understandable. And in some cases, even a good idea, you know, it’s not worth assaulting our own ego, assaulting our own personhood, just to keep writing. But of course, on the other hand, you know, when we think about writing, and most of us probably, you know, listening to this podcast, and the one even doing the podcast, is often in a position of, you know, being very excited about writing and wanting to find ways to write more consistently and more productively. And for when you’re in that bucket, I think it’s really important to keep score, these considerations not withstanding, and we’ll, we’ll come back to all these things later. Because they’re super important to keep in your mind of when you do create a system for keeping track of your writing and scoring. We have to keep these things in mind. But but if we do want to write consistently and productively, I think it’s going to turn out that we, we really need to keep track of our writing. And I think there are there sort of three really good reasons why you need to do that. And so the first one, of course, is not, of course, but the first one is that, and you know, the business guru, Peter Drucker, I usually throw this line out there, you know, if you’re not measuring it, you can’t improve it. And so, you know, for me, you know, I want to write better, I want to write a little bit more consistently. And so in order to do that, I need to figure out what is holding me back from doing that, I need to kind of keep track of things. So if you want to be able to improve a thing, you need to measure it and kind of be able to to diagnose problems, so that you can improve the process. And so that’s the big first reason why we want to keep score or keep track of our writing is that we need to see where the where the hitches are, so we can smooth them out and make life better. And, and, you know, I’ll talk more about what I mean specifically by improving things. So we can do better in a minute. But But
so, improving what you’re doing. And there are a lot of for me anyway, I know there are a lot of there are a lot of things over time that have cropped up as problems, everything from you know, my schedule, being crazy, to getting distracted by things to not having a good writing space, to actually working on the wrong kinds of stuff that I wasn’t very interested in now and again, and really. So the things that can crop up as problems are, are many and varied. And so, you know, keeping track of what you’re doing. Turns out I think pay off big, because each of those things can put a real dent in your productivity over time. So the first thing is, I think, you know, figuring out what’s going on, and then in turn, being able to fix it. That’s the first reason you need to keep score of things. The second is to keep yourself honest, I think, you know, as important as it is to treat yourself kindly. You know, as I was just talking about, we have all of us as sort of a rich history of being graded by others and being upset when others greatest harm. understandable and it’s important to keep yourself healthy and you know, safe. At the same time, let’s face it, we have to be responsible for our own work, we are at the end of the day, the writer in charge. And so that means that any, you know, you know, failure to complete a project that you really want to complete is on you. And in order to find out why you’re not getting finished, what you want to finish, why you’re not getting as much written as you want to write requires being honest with yourself. And so there’s no way around it. You need to know what you’re doing and what you’re not doing, or else you’re you’re never going to figure those things out. Right? If you’re not honest, you don’t look at the problem straight on and say, Okay, that’s mine. I own that. I need to overcome that. Now, how do I do it? If you can’t have that conversation with yourself? You’re never going to get there. So and the first part of you know, having that conversation is having the data, having the information about what’s going on. That’s where the scorekeeping comes in. Is that’s the data that helps you stay honest. Oh, I wrote a ton last week. Well, the data says otherwise. How about I write all the time? Well, the data says you missed, you know, 60% of your writing sessions last month. Oh, okay. Maybe I didn’t do as good a job as I thought. Right. That’s, that’s huge. Now, side side note here, I on keeping honest and the importance of data. You know, you’ve undoubtedly, you know, read heard had made discussions about the inequalities of men and women in terms of how much work they do around the house. Even in families where both couples work, women tend to do more, and I was reading an article recently, it was in I think, the Washington Post about, about how
this This couple was, was sort of reading about this. And the guy protested his wife’s assertion that she did more, even though they were both working full time. And so they kept the time diary for a week. And they each wrote down all the stuff they did for the family. And at the end of the week, they took a look. And you know, she did way more than he did. And he just had no idea he looked at, and he was like, Oh, my God, I, you’re so you’re right, I’m wrong. I, you know, you can’t deny it once you see it on paper. And so that data was a really important part of the discussion for them for their marriage and for their relationship. You know, and it started with being honest about who’s doing what, and, and it can be hard because we, you know, the easiest person to fool is yourself. That’s a Richard Feynman quote, he’s a Nobel Prize winning physicist. And I love that write, the first job is not to fool yourself. But the problem is, you’re the easiest person to fool. Because we want to believe good things about ourselves. So it’s very easy for us to glide over the tough parts, and to avoid thinking carefully about the fact that we didn’t show up as much as we want it to, to our writing sessions, and so on. So, so keeping track of the data is critical for being honest with yourself and having those honest, sometimes hard conversations about what’s going on. Alright, so problem identification, and process improvement, closer lead to the second reason, which is keeping yourself honest. And then the third reason, and this is, I think, the happiest reason of all, is stress relief. I think this is counterintuitive for people who don’t like scorekeeping and who think of it as anathema. But I think once you are in the rhythm of doing it, then you can feel very happy when you start to hit your targets for the day or for the week, or for the month, or for a 12 week plan, if that’s what you’re working on. And I think the great thing is that when you’re happy with the plan you’ve created, and you’re happy with the, the pace you’ve set yourself, then when you find every day that you’re managing to stay on that pace, you can relax because your writing is in good hands, it’s in your hands, your good hands are you know, keeping your writing on track the way you were hoping and every day that you you know, and we’ve all had the experience right you mow the yard you feel great, you wash the dishes, you’re like yes, that’s done, you pick up for the holidays and you’re like man that just looked which feels so nice to have the house clean. You know, I have terrible cleanliness. But even I feel good when I you know, clean my room or whatever. And, and so the same is true with with with a writing habit. When you see yourself building it and starting to follow through. You’re stressed about all of this will go down right when when you own the numbers. When you make the numbers friendly to yourself and you know, make sure that they’re aligned with what you want. When you start falling through. Your stress is going to just drop immensely. I’ve been working with a coaching client Recently, and she’s been hitting her her targets, she’s been revising chapters of a novel. And she’s been hitting her targets every week. In fact, she’s been hitting them pretty early and in the week, and she’s kind of on a roll. And I can just tell when we talk every week that she’s just in a fantastic mood. And it’s, it’s not because she’s necessarily doing anything different in her writing. But what she’s done is she set herself to goals, and she’s kept track. And when she’s hitting her numbers every week, she feels a great sense of accomplishment, and she feels relaxed about it, instead of worrying about isn’t going to get done. She’s She knows it’s gonna get done. So it’s feeling really good for her right now. And that’s, that’s a great thing to watch. Okay, so, you know, I think the sort of the, the big takeaway, or the summary reason to keep score, you know, identifying problems and improving the process, keeping yourself honest, relieving stress. And, you know, in at the end of the day, when you’re doing those things, you’re going to get the fourth reason to do it, which is that you are going to be able to write more consistently. And thus more productively, if you’re keeping track of how you’re doing.
And it’s not because of the magic, you just set a number at a higher number. And that makes you more productive. That’s not how that works. The magic is in helping you stay on track. It’s not, it’s not about how fast it makes you go. You’re either a fast writer, or you’re a sort of a slow writer. But at any rate, whatever your natural given setting is, you’re going to be more consistent and thus, over time more productive. If you can stick to your system, stick to your process, make your writing an automatic habit. And scorekeeping is one of the key ways to make sure you stay on track. That’s, that’s why it’s part of the weekly execution routine in the 12 week year for writers. So so you’re going to, you’re going to get all those things, if you can build a healthy scoring system. So let’s pivot to that and talk about what a healthy scoring system looks like, and how, you know, how should we do it. And I think there are really sort of three, three main steps to this. And the first is that you need to first identify what the key key indicators for you need to be, what should you measure, because measuring the wrong things is not going to help you very much measuring the right things, is really going to help. So, you know, there are a couple kinds of things that people can track. And then there’s something that I don’t want you to track as a part of your scoring. So the the way to think of the indicators that you want to track is that they are mostly on the, the effort side of the equation. And, and and also then on sort of like the, the finishing side, right, but but I’m going to distinguish the effort, and the finishing from what I think of as the outcomes. So let me just explain so so we have lead indicators, things that are the things that you’re you’re actually doing, right, so you’re writing, you’re sitting down to write, you’re doing research, or interviews or whatever it is you’re doing to get your work your written work done, like how many ideas did you generate? How many hours did you work? How many spreading sessions did you have? How many days of the week did you write? How many words did you write? Or if you care about such things? How many words per minute, or words per day? Did you manage to write? How many posts did you write how many chapters did you write I mean manuscripts Did you complete right? These are sort of things building from the sort of atomic level of words and sessions and building up to two things that are probably your 12 week goals like completed chapters or the number of completed blog posts or newsletters, or maybe even the submissions to an editor or a journal or whatever it might be that you’re that you’re doing. Those are kind of common indicators that might go into your, into your thinking about what to keep track of, but but those I think you need to distinguish from outcomes. And I think sometimes people accidentally want to put outcomes in there scorekeeping things like the number of manuscripts you have accepted for publication by someone else, or how many good reviews you have on Goodreads or Amazon or something like that, or how many people buy your book, or how many people read your ebook or whatever it might be, right so actions The other people are going to take after you’re done should not be part of the scorekeeping that I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about is measuring your own efforts, and your ability to hit the goals that you have set yourself. So my goal is to write this or to write that. Now your eventual goal, of course, might be to have people do all those wonderful things. But you don’t have any control over those directly. So so those are not things to put in your own plan, because that’ll just drive you nuts, to try to keep score of something that it’s actually someone else’s job to do. So. So the first thing that you want to do is figure out which of these sorts of metrics are the right ones for you to track. And I, there are a couple rules here. The first is, keep it simple.
The Quantified Self is an interesting sort of a game, because there are so many things we can track, even the tools we have. We have Pomodoro timers to keep track of every writing session, we have apps that will track how much time you spend in each program on your computer, which you could use to figure out, or even each file to figure out how long you’ve been working on things of various sorts, we have word counters of you know, baked into all sorts of programs and separate apps and so on, you can count how many sessions you had, you know, you can do all those sorts of things. But how do you know which one of those makes sense? Because with the quantified self, just in the quantified writer, there’s a couple things that need to stay in balance. And one of the biggest, most obvious ones is you’re trying to measure things in order to become more effective and more efficient. But the danger is, when you try to measure too much, you just get overwhelmed. And you have end up with a Rube Goldberg situation where your your measuring system is so complicated, and so time consuming, that it actually wrecks the efficiency you’re trying to gain or it just so cumbersome that you just don’t bother with it after a while. So we’re trying to keep this useful and easy to use so that you can make it a habit, right? Scoring yourself needs to be a habit just like anything else does. So it has to be quick and efficient. Number one, so we’re trying to keep it simple. That’s the first rule. And the second rule is it has to be focused on things that are the most likely to give you useful information about what’s going on. And so that what does that mean? Well, I think it varies by writer what the right things to track might be. So and there I think again, it’s time to be sort of honest about you know, your, your own issues. What are the things that tend to be hardest for you to do? The things that you tend to be the most inconsistent about, I have a habit I like to do with people when we’re starting to talk about 12 week planning. And I do this with my students at university as well, which is, before you launch in this big project, you do a little pre mortem. If this project doesn’t work out, if you fail to hit your goals, if you fail to reach, you know, get all these things done in the 12 week plan that you’re writing right now, why is that going to be? And let’s think through those for a minute. And we can all do that very easily, I think right? I think everyone you know, by the time you’re an adult, you know what your failure modes tend to be. Because we’ve all failed a number of times at so many things. And the reasons are usually related, I’m tend to be too busy, I put too much on my plate, I you know, get bored easily I get distracted, whatever it might be in your case, right? You probably know what these things are. And those things are going to show up in certain metrics, right? Is it going to show up. If you’re the kind of person who tends to get distracted while you’re sitting at the computer, because you can’t stay off social media, then I’m going to guess that would show up in your word count at each session. So that might be what to track. On the other hand, if your schedule tends to be nutty, and you start to feel the urgent pole of other things, and skip your writing sessions. Well, counting the writing sessions you’re hitting is probably the most important thing to track. Alright, so what exactly the right things to track are are going to be different for each writer. But the point is that we’re trying to build as as good a detector of your most common likely problems as we can without overwhelming you with too much to track. So, you know, I write it’s a pretty straightforward game. So there I don’t think too many things that you need to probably imagine. I think for most of us, these things are pretty straightforward. So, you know, for a lot of us counting words is useful, because we have you know, if we’re writing a novel or something in a particular genre, you You do need to sort of make sure it hits a certain size to be the kind of thing that people are looking for. And so you might want to keep track of words. The second thing is that,
you know, I think the other key issue for a lot of people is sort of finishing things is different from process things. So, finished chapters, finished posts, or newsletters or whatnot, might be a very good diagnostic for people. Because, you know, either those are goals in your plans, or they are really important intermediate steps towards your goals. So, you know, obviously, finishing chapters or finishing parts of chapters is good. And the reason I I bring up the finishing thing is that, again, thinking about different writers and different struggles we have, some of us can write, and write and write and write. But when it comes down to finishing something, to admitting it’s ready to be done to taking that final pass through and being willing to give it up, right, for a lot of people, that’s the hurdle, that’s the highest. So putting in a metric of, you know, chapters finished, or whatever manuscripts, finished posts, finished, whatever the thing is your writing, that might be the more important diagnostic. And that and again, that’s why I want to, you know, make that general principle really clear that the right diagnostics, the right things to track are the things that are going to be going to be the most useful to you, and keeping you on track. So if you’re a person who has trouble keeping up a consistent pace, in other words, not producing enough writing every week that as you’d like to, then you might want to track how many times you sit down, and how many words you produce. If on the other hand, writing words is never the problem. But finishing things is the problem, then you want to focus on getting, you know, how many things you’re finishing in a given period of time. I mean, there could be other things that might be important indicators for you, depending on what your different, you know, struggles or challenges might be, but but in general, right, we’re trying to track our effort level, just make sure it’s staying consistent am tracking our, you know, sort of finishing rate. Those are the two basic things that we’re trying to track. So picking those indicators, early on, figuring out the right way for you to measure them, is going to get you a long way towards having a useful sort of problem detection and score tracking system. And again, like I said, I think the other the great thing about this is that, especially when you’re tracking things that can be troublesome to you, when you see yourself hitting those, you’re going to get a great lowering of stress and a boost of confidence. Because you know, that, yes, the numbers are there, they sort of keep you honest. But at the same time, they’re for you to track your success as well. So that that’s what they’re going to be, they’re going to be a record of your success, and of your commitment to doing this. So that’s going to be really useful. Okay. The second thing we need to do then is to track that data religiously. So once you’ve set up which metrics you’re going to, you’re going to track, you absolutely need to make a habit of tracking those things. And, you know, obviously, the easiest way to do that is in the moment, so you know, if you have a daily, you know, something every day that’s scheduled to be done for your writing project. For probably it’s easiest, just to make a note every day of what you did, so that it’s easy, you don’t lose it, you don’t forget it, and so on, I tend to forget, you know, right away, if I don’t, if I don’t write something down, so it’s lost forever. If I worked for 37 minutes on something today, if I don’t write that down, I won’t remember tomorrow. So tracking anyways, I think the easiest, but if you’re a person who’s pretty, you know, you know, like clockwork, and you always sort of do tend to do the same amount and the same things and same place and you know, doing it weekly might be at your weekly review might be enough for you to kind of keep track but I think you know, the more timely information you have the better so if you crater midweek on something, you know why why do you want to wait four days to address the issue? I think part of part of the challenge of using the information is using it when you need it when it crops up not too late. You know, you want to be able to figure this stuff out and get back on track relatively quickly. Rather than let it drop for a few months. Ignore it. Bang Oh yeah, and I’m not writing enough. So addressing these things in the moment is, is key. And then the third thing to do is to use the data. And, you know,
here’s here’s the thing like, this is the jujitsu that we’re trying to do here, which is, yes, we have a lot of psychological reasons why it’s hard to track progress, where we’re worried about failing even ourselves. And we carry the baggage of, you know, failures past or judgments past whenever we see numbers. And we’re worried about our own performance. But the flip side of that is, at some point, you need to own your own work, and you need to own your own success. And so this data is not, you have to remind yourself this data is not someone else judging you. It’s not even you judging you. It’s just information. It’s just information. It doesn’t say, Oh, you only wrote 500 words last week, what a terrible person you are. Nope. All it saying is, you wrote 500 words last week. That’s all it’s saying. And if this week, you’d like to write 1000, or 2000, instead of 500. It’s now giving you some information about what’s going on, oh, I wrote 500. Because I only went, I only had one writing session. Last week, I had put down that I was going to do three, I only did one. And as a result I did 500. Well, the information you’ve just gotten is one session is probably going to get your 500. So if you want to do more, you can fix it by adding writing sessions. That’s what we’re going for. We’re not we’re taking the judgment out of this, where it’s just about diagnosis of what’s going on, so that you can make a plan to do something different in the future, if you want to, right. But you can’t do that if you don’t track the data in the first place every week. And you don’t sit down every week to look at that data. What’s it telling you? Am I on track? Am I hitting my goals is the effort I plan to do result resulting in the outputs I thought it was, right, because there’s all sorts of information in the book, there are all sorts of things that your data can tell you. And you’ll get good at figuring this out once you start to, and I will give this to the quantified self movement, right? When you know your body when you know your brain when you know your tendencies. When you know how fast you run a mile, for example, you can tell really quickly if something’s wrong, right? If you run, I used to run back when my legs would allow me and I had a very, very steady pace. It was always it wasn’t fast, but it was always the same. And so if there was a day where I was running a lot faster, or a lot slower, I could tell you something was different. And and that’s because I had kept track of how fast I ran closely for many years. And so the same thing can be true with your writing, when you really know yourself. The result is you can diagnose problems very quickly, and make solutions quickly as well. And then the last thing I just want to say about how to keep score, right and again, in the book, I sort of walk through all these steps that I’ve just gone through. But I think one other thing that I really want to emphasize is that no matter what kind of scoring system you come up with, the other thing we need to do is have our mindset, right, because none of this is going to work if you can’t adopt a healthy approach to scoring. Because again, scoring, I understand is absolutely a tricky thing to do for so many reasons. But I think you know, so I think there’s two parts. And this is echoing stuff I’ve been saying all through the podcast, there’s two parts of the mindset game. And I’m going to draw on the the writers mindset from the book here. And if we think about the first three principles, from the 12, week, year, accountability, commitment, and greatness in the moment, or grit, right, you’re certainly going to need to draw on all all three of those things, to, to embrace a scoring approach to your writing, you know, to score is to hold yourself accountable, to be able to keep pace with a plan, and, and to hit your numbers that you’re looking for. It takes commitment. It also takes greatness in the moment, because some days, you’re not gonna feel like sitting for a whole hour. Some days, you’re not gonna sit for two hours, and you’re not gonna want to write more. But if you have important goals, if they mean a lot to you, you need to recognize that it’s on you. So taking ownership is going to is going to mean embracing those first three goals.
On the other side, right, the side where you’re a human who has feelings that need to be considered. The other two principles are important. Resilience and growth. There are weeks where you’re not going to hit your goals. And instead of feeling sad, sorry for yourself like a failure. Or like you know, no one loves you. You got to draw on your resilience here. We all have those weeks, months, years periods, right. We get sick, we get unhappy. We have problems in our family. Whatever it might be things throw us off track. And you can’t beat yourself up for that, you need to get back up and say, That’s alright, I can do better next week, I can do more next week, I can get back on track, right? We’re all resilient people. And all you need to do is dust yourself off and say, Look, I’m not gonna let the craziness deter me from doing this thing that I really love doing, which is writing. So resilience is something you’re also going to need to bring to the table. And then the last piece is the growth mindset. You know, I think that I, I’ve learned by trial and error, all the things that I ever learned really about writing productively, I’ve done them wrong for years, until I figured out by hook and by crook, usually by, you know, failing at something that I need to do things different. But because I wanted to be better, I was open to the critique. And so when you’re getting scores that you don’t like, when you realize that the best you can do now is this pace, but you were sort of hoping for a different pace. You know, you have to respect where you are. But you don’t have to respect it so much that you have to imagine you can’t ever change, right? This is a growth opportunity for us all. The reason we keep checking the numbers is to see how things aren’t figured out how to make things better. And so you know, it doesn’t matter how old you are or where you are in your writing career, I think we can always learn things that can help us do something easier, or better or more happily, right. All those things are important, right? And I don’t just mean writing more, but like writing more happily, that can be a huge, a huge goal. A huge thing that you can learn from keeping track of things, figure out when you work most happily and work to then figure out what days are good to avoid writing. Avoid those, right? Those are all things you can learn in part from a scorekeeping system. And so becoming a better writer, I think is is something that you can really use scorekeeping for.
Okay, so we sort of covered a gamut. Today, we talked about sort of a bunch of the reasons why sometimes we don’t keep track of our writing, why it can be scary and difficult to do that. Then I talked about the reasons why I think it’s really important that we do it anyway, because it helps us become better and more consistent writers keeps us honest. And eventually will bring about, I think, a lot of stress relief for most people. And then I sort of laid out briefly the three sort of big things we need to do about keeping score, finding some key indicators that are simple, and tracking the right stuff, tracking those things religiously, using the data that we develop, and as we do so, to embrace the writers mindset in order to get our head straight about what we’re doing. That’s a lot for one episode, so I’ll leave it there. I’d be really interested to hear how you guys are faring with keeping track of your writing what the strategies that you find most successful are and until we speak again, happy writing!