This Month in Writing: March

I had a good March, a very good March in fact. I got 20,560 more words onto the page, 322 more than I did in February. It’s a tiny improvement, but any improvement is significant. I’m still 40,000 words short of the 60,000 a month my friend who makes her living writing recommended, though I fear I will never get to that mark. I wonder if she said this seriously, or set it as an impossible goal to make me work toward as many words a month as possible. A professor at Emerson told me he was lucky to get 500 words a day, which gets to about 15,000 words a month, and to be teaching in an MFA program he’s making his living through his writing as well.

Other significant achievements from March 2015:

-I stepped down as editor-in-chief of Words Apart Magazine after we successfully launched our sixth issue. I feel good, proud of my term at the top, but am happy to have it done. I want the time I was spending on that to dedicate to my own writing and honestly believe that my successor, Sarah Cadorette will do a much better as editor-in-chief.

-Thanks to some of the intros I wrote for Words Apart and my weekly “A Call to Action (Figures)” at Action Figure Fury, I’ve published 10,339 words this year, only 6,000 shy of last year’s total. I also feel like my column is getting more adventurous in its scope,     and I’m pushing the boundaries in ways that will help me grow as a writer.

-I published my 50th publication earlier this month. Again, that’s thanks in large part because I publish at least an article a week at Action Figure Fury. It’s really only significant because it’s a round number. I’ll be much happier if/when I can afford to stop working two or three jobs at a time and get to just write for my living.

-I surpassed the halfway point to topping the 107,489 words I wrote last year. I’d like to get a whole lot better at writing, but that’ll come with time and practice if it’s going to come. All I can do is keep my head down and work.

-I got personal rejections from One Story and The Missouri Review this month. No complaints there. They’re both great magazines, and I’m flattered that they took the time out of their busy schedules to comment on my work.

The last thing that’s important to mention is that I’m debating whether or not to can the “This Month in Writing” feature. I already did away “This Week in Reading.” They both feel too much like I’m spinning my wheels, showing off, and not giving anything of value to my readers or myself. Let me know in the comments if you’d like more like this, and if not, what do you think I should be talking about on this blog.

This Month in Writing: February

Here on the third day of March, I’m reflecting on how productive I was this February. Despite it being the shortest month of the year, I got another 20,238 words into the computer. That’s 7,765 more than the 12,473 I wrote in January. I’m trending upwards, which is all I’m going to comment on. Nothing has drastic has changed since last month, and I believe my word total made this jump in large part to having no major holidays (my girlfriend and I do not take Valentine’s Day seriously. At her behest, we went to McDonalds and used a coupon to get two quarter-pounds, two medium fries, and a twenty-piece chicken nugget, and ate it all in one prolonged sitting) to distract me and leave me hungover for days after.

On top of my increased word count, I also managed to write everyday with the exception of the 1st, 10th, and 11th. I’m trying to take Saturday off, but the 1st was the only one I actually managed.

I do feel like my writing has been improving and there’s been some kind of breakthrough since I started working on my MFA. I’m not totally sold on the system, being unsure if the time I’m spending (and more importantly, the money) will actually pay off, or if I wouldn’t have improved this much through working hard on my own. Ask me again in five years, when I’ve been out of my program for a couple of years and can look at everything objectively.

I’m going to throw one last thing out there and call it quits on this month’s writing reflection. I’ve posted three humor pieces to this blog—“Thank You, U2,” “Figures of Boston,” and “50 Shades of May: An Extra-Erotic Guide for New Englanders”—after they’ve got rejected by McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and/or The Toast (if anyone knows any other high traffic or pro-payment humor outlets, please let me know in the comments) and I’ve gotten some decent views, and that is definitely forced my nose further onto the grindstone. I’ve long thought that blogging fiction or humor was unwise, because most outlets won’t publish something that’s been previously anywhere, even a blog, but the motivation I’ve gotten from the views is making me reconsider.

Anywho, I’ll be back next month, with hopefully even more words written.

This Month in Writing: January

In all of last winter, I wrote 10,032 words. This January, I wrote 12,743 words. To be fair, last winter was a statistically underwhelming season for my productivity, but I think this January was more than an anomaly. I’ve changed my writing habits in two major ways since the New Year started, and I think that they’ve led to the improvement.

The first is one I talked about in my “This Year in Writing” post from last month. I’m keeping a detailed spreadsheet of my productivity. I record the exact time I start and stop writing. I record the type of writing—research; writing, which is normally longhand drafting; revising, which is typing out the longhand stuff and minor edits; editing; and submitting. I also divide my writing into the genres of fiction, non-fiction, humor, poetry, response and work. My hope is that collecting this data will lead me to better understanding my habits and allow me to become a more productive writer through that understanding.

Here are the trends that I’ve noticed in the first month of data and how they’ve helped:

-The majority of my writing is clustered between 11am and 3pm. This around when I wake up everyday.

-There’s also a tendency to do more writing between 6pm and midnight on days when I’ve got nothing to do.

-The longest I’ve gone without a break so far this year is an hour and fifty minutes, although this post itself may end up taking longer. This is my third draft of it and I’m still having trouble pulling it all together.

-I missed writing on January 1, 2, 7, 9, 10, 11, 17, 18, 25, and 31. I’m trying to take every Saturday off, so the 10, 17, and 31st were planned. The 9-11th I was traveling, and the 1st and 2nd were a Holiday and the ensuing hangover. What amazes me is that last year, I was only monitoring how many days I wrote and would have been furious that I’d missed 10 days (That’s nearly a third of the month!) but instead I’m proud because of how my output stacks up against last winter.

-Knowing that I’ll be writing these posts once a month is a huge motivator. Even if no one reads this, my output is on a public forum. I’d better get my ass in gear. Fear of shame fuels me.

-I’ve noticed an enormous upswing in my self-esteem over the last month. It’s something hat I’ve been struggling with since July, and having a tangible list of what I’ve done makes me feel good about me, how I’ve been spending my time, and what I do. In writing, it’s difficult to explain what I do, especially when people (read: my inner-self) asks if I’m good. I don’t control whether I’m good or not, but I have objective proof that I’m working in this spreadsheet.

The other major way I changed my process was by changing where I wrote. I used to write in the living room on a loveseat. My roommates are out there all the time, and they’re two of my best friends. When I worked out there, I was constantly distracted, talking to them, telling jokes, hanging out more than working. Even if they weren’t there, the loveseat had no surface to write on, so I’d be awkwardly holding the notebook to my thigh, or worse, holding on top of a heavy book so it wouldn’t bend on top of my thigh. The desk in my room solves both the problem of distractions (though I’m still running out to the living room when something particularly funny strikes me), and of writing surface. The results are tangible. I’m writing a lot more.

I’m extremely pleased with how this year in writing has gone so far. I’m hoping to put up some monster numbers in February, and hopefully start getting stuff out there outside of Action Figure Fury, which I publish on weekly. I’ll be here again, trying not to embarrass myself next month.