A few months ago, I put a lot of effort into revamping my website, which took on a similar shape as a writing project.
All I could see were the “to-dos.” I knew it wasn’t about perfection, but goodness were there tons of things I wanted to accomplish.
Each day, I added more tasks than I completed. Was I ever going to finish?
I felt a sinking sensation every time I looked at the website. The end seemed to be moving farther and farther away.
After a 3 week break to recharge my creative batteries, I went back through my notes to see what I HAD accomplished.
I was surprised–I’d basically put the new version of the website together in 3 weeks. 3 weeks of fully-focused deep work.
No wonder I needed a 3 week break! After the perspective, I could see that I was closer to “done-enough” than I thought.
It’s common to feel like you have to start from square one every time you return to your writing project.
Life might have gotten in the way so there’s been a ton of time between the last time you opened the document.
Or you have trouble remembering what you worked on yesterday.
Or maybe you’re just disappointed by the amount of progress you made, wishing you had done more, believing that you could have.
The space between the “ideal” and “now” is the disappointment.
It’s like working out. Imagine focusing on your target outcome each time you enter the gym. Maybe it’s getting strong enough to lift your grandchild. Deadlifting your bodyweight. Seeing muscle definition in your shoulders. Losing or gaining those five pounds.
But Monday after work when you pick up the weight and look in the mirror, all you see is the 15 pound bar you’re holding instead of the coveted 45, because you’re working back from an injury. Or how soft your stomach is because of the emotional overeating you’ve been doing after your break-up.
How discouraging it is to be let down by your “current moment” compared to your “ideal vision” over and over again.
It can be difficult to see how much you’re actually doing. Especially when you’re focusing on what still needs to be done.
Progress >> Goal
With strength training, the goal is only part of the equation. On a day-to-day basis, what’s more important is maintaining strong form and consistently doing your workouts.
Not only imagining lifting 180 eventually, but being in the 80 of today. Knowing that one day the 80 will become more. And that forcing it to happen sooner than you’re ready would mean injury and setbacks.
Keeping a workout log is a necessity. Recording exercises, reps, sets, and weights. This lets you know where you’re at.
Plus, it allows you to focus on the little wins. Whenever I use a heavier weight for the first time, I circle the number, which is simple yet feels incredibly satisfying.
Post-workout logs are also more accurate in showing what you did, versus the plan. I might use different equipment if the machine is occupied. Avoid an exercise that I can’t perform with good form. Or notice I’m not resourced enough to complete the planned routine, and end early for a snack.
What does this have to do with writing?
Well, I’m a big proponent of tracking progress in a writing project similar to tracking progress at the gym.
How and what to track
What data is there in a writing project?
Below are examples of the data I’ve tracked. You can choose what would be most helpful to you. And customize with your own ideas based on your goals.
- Amount of Time Spent (hours or minutes—you can round to the nearest .25 when tracking by hour)
- Word Count Added
- # of Pages Written
- What You Did
- Key Insights
- What You’re Proud Of/Happy About
- Your Favorite Part of Your Work Session
When you’re struggling with that not-enough feeling, like running uphill on a treadmill going nowhere, you can use tracking to observe, celebrate, and appreciate the things you HAVE done.
I invite you to find perspective, and feel good about what you’re doing. For tips about tracking, see the next blog post.
Ready to try? Click this link for a free customizable writing project tracker.