Changing Gear

Small decisions can have big consequences. Not just the consequences you expect, but lots of little and not-so-little ripple consequences spreading out in all directions. And the next thing you know, you’re making Major Lifestyle Changes.

Dabbling mallard - perched on a rock, and making waves - on an as-yet unfrozen pond. (30987425154)
The Duck of Unforeseen Consequences. Look at those beady little eyes.
I’d been reading books about goals and productivity, thinking over how I wanted my life to step up its game (writing life in particular), and I was also much struck by Rachel Aaron’s blog post on the triangle of writing metrics. How, I wondered, could I apply this to my own low-technology process?

I don’t like composing directly on to the computer. My fingers type faster than my brain produces, and then I end up drivelling because at least it gives my hands something to do.

On the other hand, writing by hand didn’t stop me drivelling on for 160,000 words of the first full draft of Restoration Day, so I guess this proves the point of the first side of the triangle: “Know What You’re Writing Before You Write It”.

So what’s an ink-loving old-technologist to do?

August Müller Tagebucheintrag
Compromise. A new process occurred to me: do a sketch outline by hand with fountain pen, then write scene directly into LyX file. But would it work? Only one way to find out…

I wrote a scene the new way, and inserted it into the text I’d written the old way. Then I tested it on my primary beta reader (alpha beta reader?) aka my dear husband the Caped Gooseberry. He couldn’t tell which scenes had been written which way. Success! But…

I sit here typing this on an old laptop, the same laptop I typed up Ye Olde Monster Draft of Restoration Day onto. I hunch. There are only so many hours per day you can spend working at a machine which can be at the right height for your hands or your eyes but not both.

Cat on laptop - Just Browsing
Laptops: ergonomically designed for cats. The truth is out at last.
Information is scarce as to just how many hours per day you can spend using one before you run into trouble, but the few references I found seemed to think that two or three hours are about enough.

Two or three is not enough for a novel. Well, it is, if you’re not racing along every hour of the day, but when you add in emails, running (and writing) a blog, keeping up with current events and looking at pictures of cats, you’ve got more than the recommended allowance.

Solution: go desktoppy, i.e. acquire second-hand desktop parts, and use those. This is still a work in progress (my unerring instincts led me to a reasonably local second-hand IT shop just as they closed for a big move to slightly less reasonably local), but it is in progress.
I tried being a new person in old clothes as per Thoreau’s recommendation, and it turns out new ‘clothes’ will be required after all. New to me, anyway.


That’s challenging, in a way, but I think it’s a good way. It’s a big fat sign that my work is a Real Thing and I need to be taking it seriously, every day.

For those of you who are word-count junkies: my word-count after six weeks of writing was sitting around 8,500. After two weeks of the new method (though I only wrote on six days) it was up over 17,500 – more than doubled. The last day I wrote (I’ve been sick) I hit 2,757 words. Not quite 10,000 words in a day, but a definite jump in productivity from 8.5k in six weeks.

Now all I need to do is keep up the good work, and try to be sensible about rolling out changes in other parts of my life. Because as much as slow-and-steady has to recommend it, a sudden dramatic overhaul of my life seems much more exciting, and therefore motivational (if not exactly sustainable).

What epiphanies have you had around productivity and organization? Care to share? Also, just out of sheer joie de vivre, here’s a painting of the gospel-writer Mark.

Evangelist-with-lion
I can’t decide which bit of this picture I like best: Mark looking down the barrel of his quill like “is this thing on?” or the smiley lion in back.

2 Replies to “Changing Gear”

  1. Well done for moving your word speed on. Does it now match your brain processing speed?
    As for the picture, I like the cosy red blanket that Mark has wrapped around his lower body – is this a suggestion that Mark wrote mostly in winter, or that the painter did not wish to show bare legs – or anachronistically trousered legs?!

    1. I hadn’t noticed that! Perhaps the painter wasn’t good at painting convincing legs.
      And while my brain is still generally faster than my hands (it doesn’t bother with all the inbetween words) I’ve just had another URTI which seems to have slowed my brain down most satisfactorily. :-S

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