Creator’s Guilt and Geeky Resolutions

This year, I got geeky with my New Year’s Resolution.

I decided to set a hard, fast goal for the number of words I wanted to get written in 2017, but more importantly, I decided to create a spreadsheet to track my progress.

Oh, yes. A spreadsheet. Complete with a graph to track my monthly productivity, cells with pre-programmed formulas to calculate my average words per day, and even percentage trackers to see how my monthly and overall progress is going.

To be honest, there are days when I’m more proud of this spreadsheet than I am of some of the scenes in my latest book.

The good news is this spreadsheet has produced the desired effect – for the whole eight days that we’ve had of 2017, I’ve written every single day but one, and I skipped that one because I’d already written an extra day’s worth of words. So thanks to a handful of hours spent Googling things like “how to make a graph in Excel” and “what is an absolute cell reference” and “education level required to understand Excel,” I’m writing more words and more often than I have in a long time.

But that’s not the only benefit.

I’m also relaxing more.

Before, my afternoon routine would be to get home from work, take care of whatever needed to be done around the house, and – hopefully – spend some time with my wife. Whatever extra moments I had were spent in front of the computer, either writing or telling myself I should be writing. It was hard to step away to read a book, or watch TV, or play a video game, because any free time I had was time I could be writing. It didn’t matter if I’d written 100 words or 1,000. An empty moment was a moment when I could add to the total.

Creator’s guilt is a real thing. I’ve talked to other artists who feel that same crush: I should be writing. I should be practicing. I should be doing something to make myself a better, more accomplished artist.

But, at least for now, my geeky little spreadsheet is helping with that.

My goal for the year is to write 175,000 words. That’s enough to finish a draft of the horror-drama I’m writing, plus one more small project and a handful of blogs.

But this little spreadsheet is reminding me I don’t have to write 175,000 words in an afternoon. I can knock out 500 in a night and be ahead of schedule. I can knock out 550 a few days in a row and be so ahead that I can spend a whole evening hanging out with my wife. I don’t have to feel guilty, because I know if I just keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll end 2017 exactly where I want to end it, and possibly ahead.

I don’t know what kind of guilt you’re dealing with today. Creator’s guilt, study guilt, exercise guilt…fill in the blank with whatever it is you don’t think you’re doing enough of. Maybe your solution is to show yourself just how small your daily steps need to be.

Maybe your solution is a spreadsheet.

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