Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Well the good news is 2021 is a week old and hasn’t (yet) given us a reason to think it would be worse than 2020 (the opening sentence to this entry was written last Monday, two days before it stopped being true). The bad news is just because 2020 is over doesn’t mean it stops existing, which means I’m still doing my writing and reading retrospectives to start off the year, and will hopefully avoid retraumatizing myself in the process.
In today’s post I want to celebrate my writing successes of the past year, because despite the pandemic and the continuing crushing succession of rejection letters that have spilled into the occasional mopey blog post, there’s still plenty for me to feel good about.
First off, let’s take a look at the graph of my daily productivity comparing most of the years from 2005 and 2020:
2020 continued the positive trend I established in 2017 and became my fourth consecutive most productive year, completely crushing 2019’s output. It hadn’t started off that way, trailing behind 2019 for the first few months, and suffering from a period of prolonged inactivity at the start of the pandemic. But then it took advantage of last year’s vacation lag in May and once it overtook 2019 had pretty much steamrolled ahead and even the complete one-month break during my paternity didn’t change the outcome. I’ve already talked about how I exited the pandemic doldrums into the most productive writing period of my life, so there’s no need to rehash that here, but it is nice to see a visualization of the outcome at the end of the year. It’s also worth mentioning that in the same entry last year I had expressed hope that I would be able to hit 120,000 words this year, and met that goal and more with a final tally of over 155,000.
The next visualization I use is my bullet journal entry that is a colour map of daily writing productivity by the amount of words written each day.
As you can see, the legend shows which colours correspond to how many daily words, and the little black numbers next to those show how many times each colour is represented on the graph.
It was another year where red had come out on top, but with forty-three less unproductive days in 2020 than in 2019 I’ve also met the goal that I set last January to write for more than half the days of the year. You can see particularly long stretches of red around March and April, the previously mentioned pandemic slump, but also the paternity leave in October and the slow ramp up back to a normal functioning human being through November and December. I’m not sure I’m quite there yet, as the baby still has those days where he wants to party well into the night, but everything will return to normal in due course.
The streaks that are more interesting to me is that concentration of blue from June to August, and the fact that I hadn’t missed a single day of writing in August. This was the productivity boost I’ve talked about, represented so neatly by this bullet journal entry. The primary goal this year is to keep trying to find that groove and if I succeed, 2021 promises to be crazy.
That said, let’s have some other lofty but at the same time realistic goals for 2021. Firstly, I’d like to see if I can replicate the jump from 2019 to 2020 and break 200,000 words this year. Maybe stretching the definition of “realistic” here a bit, though it’s not like I would beat myself up if I don’t meet it.
Secondly, I want to continue this trend of reducing the amount of red in this chart. Though the most productive year, it wasn’t my most consistent year, as 2018 had two fewer unproductive days at 147. My goal is to make 2021 my most consistent year, by a comfortable margin, so I’m going to shoot for at most 110 days with no words written. I don’t even care how many orange squares I end up with – it’s red I don’t want to see.
I’ve also met some of my other goals I had set for myself last year, like restarting my web novel, The Bloodlet Sun, which has been consistently posted for four months now, and I’ve got a buffer to last another three. I’ve made 29 regular blog posts this year, which doesn’t include The Bloodlet Sun installments and is therefore 8 more entries than I did last year. Hoping to improve on that number this year to an eventual average of 1 post per week, though I don’t expect to meet that in 2021.
And there’s the usual optimism about how far I make it into my other projects. Didn’t get to turn over two drafts of my novel this year, but I did do one, and planning to do one more this year, possibly bringing it to a completed version. And I promise myself to renew my publication efforts after somewhat of a discouraging year.
All in all, there’s reason to feel good, and I’m going to use that throughout this fresh unwritten year.
Michael is a husband, father of three, lawyer, writer, and looking for that first big leap into publishing. All opinions are author's own.