200 Days

Posted by Derek Chamberlain on Sunday, August 11, 2013 Under: Update

I’ve mentioned the Magic Spreadsheet several times over the course of the last several months. If you want to know what I’m talking about, go and check out Homecoming, the first post where I explain it.

I’ve passed several milestones in my writing recently. This week I got my (metaphorical) coin for 200th consecutive day of writing more than 250 words a day. (My average is actually in the neighbourhood of 1800 words a day.) This week I also passed the 375,000 word mark which means that, in just seven months, I’ve written well over 100,000 words more than I did in the whole of last year. These might not sound like much to a full-time writer, but they’re solid first steps along the path of a career that I’ve wanted since I was in Primary School (Elementary or Grade School for those of you not from Australia). 

Now, contrary to expectations, I’m not going to tell you, “It’s all thanks to the Magic Spreadsheet,” because it’s not. I clocked around 250,000 words in seven months last year without the Magic Spreadsheet. I would have done the same this year. The Magic Spreadsheet is not compelling me to write. I’d be writing even if it didn’t exist because I can’t not write. Even when I was depressed, even when I was suicidal, I was writing. Writing is what got me through that depression. It helped me to deal with my ‘issues’, to confront them, exorcise them, and begin to heal. Even if you cut off my hands, I’d be pecking at the keyboard with a pencil clutched between my toes, or trying to get the damn speech-to-text thing working. 

So, no, I’m not going to hand responsibility for my successes over to anyone, or anything. Not God. And not the Magic Spreadsheet. My successes, as well as my failures, are all my own. (Sorry if this comes across as angry or frustrated. One of those ‘issues’ just cropped up again.) 

My denying attribution to external sources of success doesn’t mean that I deny the efficacy of the Magic Spreadsheet. The Magic Spreadsheet has been a great help in smoothing my path and it has helped dozens of other people attain their dreams of finished manuscripts. It can be amazingly useful to those with the mindset for it. 

So I haven’t missed a day’s writing in 200 days. I haven’t given myself a day off. I haven’t taken a ‘sick day’. I’ve sat down every day for the last 200 days and put down a minimum number of words ranging from 250 to 550. I’m 200 days in, and I’m thinking about what it is that has kept me there, kept me writing, kept me producing on a scale that I’ve never attained before for this length of time. There have been days when I felt like crap, for one reason or another, but I’ve kept my chain, kept my consistency, and kept my cool when other people were complaining about smaller minimum word-counts or missing formulas. Why do I do it? I’m not sure. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve written every day for over two hundred days — there was a time I was doing a journalling thing. I wrote every night for three or four years, laying nightmares and delusions onto the page instead of writing about how boring or screwed up my life actually was. So the magic in the spreadsheet isn’t about consistency. 

It’s not about keeping track of every word I write either. I developed a tracking system last year that gives me a much better break-down on my data. It was this system that was responsible both for my knowing how much I wrote last year, and, in no small part, for actually writing as much as I did, and I’m still using it. The tracking is useful, but it’s not where the magic lies, though I have to admit that the gamification aspect is a great motivator.

It’s not the peer pressure. I’m the sort of person who is very polite but, if I don’t agree with what someone is saying, I’ll just ignore everything they tell me I should be doing. I’m an ass. I respond to peer-pressure by stubbornly fighting against the flow or climbing out of that stream and going somewhere less crowded. I have a high intolerance for arseholes. So the magic doesn’t lie in the group pressures, because writing consistently is a pressure I put on myself, we all do.

I think we can see where this is going, don’t you? If it’s not the consistency, it’s not the tracking, it’s not the peer pressure, then what is it? Those are the three aspects of the Magic Spreadsheet — Tracking/Gamification, Consistency, Peer Group. If the magic can’t be identified in any one of these three, the only answer is that it lies in their combination. It’s keeping track of my daily count on a gamified spreadsheet that my friends are using too. The magic comes from a sum greater than its parts. It is about the community. And community is something that I, for one, have not always been able to find. 

I’m 200 days in and looking forward to another 200. Beyond that? Well, who can say. Best to take life one day at a time. That way you get hurt less and get to see more beauty.

In : Update 

Tags: "magic spreadsheet" productivity community writing 
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Meet the scribbler

I'm a writer, editor, indie publisher, and dedicated Magic Spreadsheet user. Originally from Adelaide, Australia, I've been living in Japan since 1995. I've had a life-long interest in writing and in speculative fiction. My first book was published in mid-2014.
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