As you are probably aware, I have been battling numerous life events that keep coming between me and writing. A seemingly endless number of viruses wiped out the whole household this winter. And there have been lots of visitors and houseguests. Travel, while inspiring and a nice change of pace, tends to destroy my writing routine more than either sickness or guests. There’s more travel coming, and, starting in a week or so, I’ll be filling in a couple of days a week at the newspaper where I used to work as a reporter and editor.
When the routine gets thrown off, it’s hard to remember what I was doing before. I feel totally disconnected from writing. It’s tough to feel any sense of accomplishment when you’re interrupted in your process so much. That’s not to say you’re not accomplishing anything – it just feels like you’re not.
Which is why a couple of months ago I starting keeping a journal about writing. I use a fat little turquoise-blue Moleskine datebook. Every day that I do something — anything — related to writing, I make a note of it in the datebook. Yesterday, for example, I noted that I added 767 words to the short story I’ve been working on. On April 12, I recorded that I had written 1,000 words on the same story. I write down when I’ve written blog posts, too, and what they were about.
Not all of my entries detail what I’ve written, however. Let’s face it: not every day turns out to be a productive writing day. On March 29 I scribbled that I had submitted a story to two lit mags, and that I researched some quotes from The Great Gatsby to use (maybe) in the novel I am (sometimes) writing. So I didn’t advance any of my WIPs, but I was still thinking about and working on administrative tasks related to writing.
I make notes on the unproductive days too. I want to remind myself that I am trying, that not every day is a perfect writing day. On April 1, for example: “Tinkered with C_____ story. Added a graph or so. Switched to working on novel. Wrote a new opening graph. Didn’t like it.”
The exercise of keeping track of what I am accomplishing (or not) related to writing is helping me tremendously. When I have unavoidable breaks in my routine, I am now better able to pick up where I left off, to remind myself that I am accomplishing something, even if it’s only a paragraph or two. I now keep my fat little datebook in my laptop backpack, so it travels with me and my computer to the neighborhood cafe where I do a lot of my writing. Part of the work of being a writer is managing your expectations and reminding yourself of what you’ve accomplished so far so that you have the courage to keep going. The journal helps.