Tracking to combat the “not-enough” feeling (part 2)

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Discouraged with that end-getting-farther-away feeling?

In the previous article, I wrote on tracking your creative projects similar to keeping a workout log. You can read that first to understand the basics of why and how to track.

Here are tips for your tracking.

Tip #1: Tracking doesn’t have to take long.  

It can be a quick and painless part of the routine.  Just 2 minutes at the end of your work time.  

Time is saved when you can see your progress at a glance, without having to figure out what you did so far.

Tip #2: Record everything.  

Even if it’s just… Opening a document or a journal.  Doing a bit of online research on setting.  Looking through old photos for inspiration.  Talking to a friend about a stuck spot.  Reading a book to study how an author does dialogue.  

All of these count as work you’ve done towards your project, and the little moments add up.

Tip #3: In the end, it’s not the numbers that matter, but how you feel about them.

When I look back at my workout log, what really catches my eye is the circles I put around the weight I lift for the first time.  What feels good is reading my comments, whether it’s when I reach a new milestone, or something gets easier, or seeing muscle definition.

Similarly, it’s gratifying to see whatever progress I’ve made in a project through the steps I’ve taken already.

Tip #4: There’s no judgement in tracking; it’s just data.  

Data doesn’t capture everything, and that’s okay.  

What I lift is ultimately just a number.  It doesn’t capture my true strength or capabilities.  It’s not who I am. 

Just like there’s no shame in regressing to bodyweight to retrain proper form or correct imbalances, there’s nothing wrong with having other priorities. Like not getting as much writing time in because you were spending time with family.  

How much you accomplish creatively is just data.  There’s no judgement in data.  

It’s simply seeing something as it really is.  

Tip #5: Understand the truth of what’s realistic and what’s possible.

Realistic is usually way less than you desire.  I tend to set myself up for failure by overestimating my abilities.  

“I can totally do it all,” I think at the beginning when I’m fired up and creatively sparking.  The next day might show a different story of overwhelm and unrealistic expectations.

On the flip side, perhaps you’re the type to not push yourself very hard.  This can prevent disappointments, but doesn’t let you see what’s truly possible.  You might be underestimating your capabilities. 

Whether you tend to discount your achievements or hold unrealistically high standards for yourself, tracking can help you understand the truth of what’s realistic and what’s possible.  

By seeing your natural creative cycles, you understand yourself better.  You can make adjustments to your goal as you go.

Tip #6: Train yourself to focus on the good.

You might have a “to-do” list a mile long: You need to add detail to the setting.  You have to edit the dialogue down.  You want to finish it in the next two months.  

But can you remember what you’ve actually DONE in as much detail?

Societally, we can be more focused on progress and outcomes than being present or introspecting.  

Tracking and looking back provides valuable insight.  

If you’re the type to regularly be hard on yourself, making a list of your “done”s can go a long way.  

Everything is hard work, but there’s surely fun in there too, if you look for it.

Everything is progress

Creative projects happen in phases, over time, with spaces between. 

The next time you open a document and have no idea what you’re looking at, I hope a project log can help you slide right back in with a feeling of accomplishment based on what you’ve already done.

You can take bring that satisfying feeling with you until completion.