A white sign with a black border against a wooden wall. The sign reads in black letters #DONOTDISTURB

11 weeks in and I am still very beyond on my word count as well as these updates. My word count and productivity levels look like a rollercoaster if they were charted out and I’ve been wondering why.

I guess the ‘why’ probably goes back to the pandemic, like most things do these days. After just about a year of quarantines, lockdowns, and general stay-in-place orders, I have found every single possible distraction present in my house. Some are relatively easy to put aside while others are nightmares that can derail a whole day of productivity.

I, like many creatives, used to be able to go and sit in libraries and coffee shops. A change of scenery or getting together with a writing group always helped me immensely. It took me away from the distractions of my daily life and allowed me to fully focus on my work.

With the global pandemic, not looking to be subsiding anytime soon I’ve had time to reflect on my biggest distractions and have learned to keep them from impacting my work as much as any one person possibly can.

Here are my top three worse distractions and how I deal with them, ordered least to greatest.

A stylized shot of a phone with all the social media apps together.

Social media. I think this goes for a lot of people but as a small business owner and an author, there’s a fine line between ‘mindlessly scrolling’ and networking. It’s hard to balance especially since mindlessly scrolling is perfect for my executive dysfunction to latch on to.

One of the best ways I’ve found to deal with over scrolling is using apps and chrome extensions like Forest that block off all unwanted websites for however long you want. I used another one for a little while that I can’t remember the name of anymore but I stopped after only six months of use. The reason I stopped was that there was no way to turn the timer off, no safeguards. Even if you uninstalled it and had thirty minutes left on the clock, it’d still block everything for thirty minutes. All great in theory but there had been a few times that I needed to stop the timer early and the inability to do so led to some bad situations.

With Forest, you can stop it whenever you want but there is a catch. How Forest works is that with every period of productivity you gain coins that can be used to buy more virtual plants or save up to buy real trees, meaning they partner with organizations to plant real trees in the world. So, with the timer, you can cancel it but if you do you’ll be ‘killing’ the virtual tree and won’t get the coins. This makes it so unless I have to, I do not want to kill that virtual tree and will keep it going. It’s been a useful tool. I even have it on my phone.

A man in a stripped shirt looking at a full wall of pinned papers with various graphs and notes on them. The man is in focus while the wall is slightly blurred.

Over researching or wiki rabbit holes. These are deadly in my opinion since at the end of it all you learn stuff and learning stuff is awesome but it’s been three hours and you’ve completed nothing. Earlier today I went down a rabbit hole starting with American football player Dave Duerson, then moved to WWE’s Chris Benoit which then gave way to Christopher Nowinski before landing somewhere in wiki pages on brain trauma. Wikipedia is the worst but I’ve done similar things with just google. This also goes for over planning. I can spend weeks planning something out only to just fizzle out afterwards.

How I’ve learned to fix this? I’ve been making a list of things I want to look up and why. If it has to do with a part that I’m writing then I put something there and move on. Usually, it’s a random word I would expect to ever be in whatever I’m writing. My last one used was ‘bumfuzzle’, to confuse or fluster. It’s not 100% fixed and never will be. My ADHD also means I have horrible impulse control so sometimes my brain just tells me to do the thing Right. Now. When it does work, I can then dedicate time to my lookup list and not have it impede on productivity time. The most important ones get researched first.

As with the whole using up my creative energies planning and having none left to actually write it out, I’m still learning a balance between the two. If I ever achieve it, I’ll report back.

Two cats cuddled together close in a white Monster Energy box. One cat is all black with a paw out and hugging the other cat, with their head on top of the other cat. The other cat is an orange tiger cat with their head tucked under the black cat's head.
They may look innocent here but it’s a lie. The ginger’s name is Vax’ildan or Vax for short and the void cat is Percival or Percy for short.

My cats. My extremely loud, extremely co-dependent, and extremely mischievous cats. I have two and they don’t even have a brain cell to share between them but the trouble they get up to is legendary. Some days they alternate between who bugs me. Sometimes, Percy, our void cat bugs me in the morning, and Vax, our ginger, bugs me throughout the afternoon. Both yowl, cry, and chirp constantly as well as having no reservations about getting into my face. Sometimes they bug me together which you’d think would be the better days. That way I get to tire them out at the same time then back to work I go. I wish. They hype each other up. If they are both hyper and want attention then it’s never-ending. Vax has a habit of literally climbing the walls if he wants attention and gets into everything. Percy just zooms around yelling and using me as a wall to parkour off of. If Vax gets into something, Percy is right behind him.

How do I deal with this? Well, not as well as I’d like, for starters. Some days when I have the spoons, I try to wear them down. Vax LOVES being chased but only if you say on repeat ‘gimme, gimme, gimme.’ I can say it without moving and he’ll start trotting. His whole walk changes but if you don’t follow through with the chase he will let you know his displeasure.

Percy loves toys, springs especially, and will drop them on my keyboard if he wants me to play with him which consists of tugging, throwing, and getting them out from under the couch.

They’re still young. Vax will be three in May and Percy is a little over 18 months old. There’s a chance that they might mellow out with age. I’m holding on to that hope but for now, wearing them out isn’t an option. Some days I’m able to ignore them until they figure out that I have to get work done. On those lucky days, they come into my office and nap in the boxes we have on the bookcase next to my desk until my husband comes home. Those days are rare.

What are your common distractions and why are they your animals?

Two cats wedged into a destroyed Monster Energy drink box. The black cat has both front paws around the orange tiger cat's neck and shoulders. They have their faces pressed together.

While editing this article and readying it to be published, this is how my cats are at this very moment. They are aggressively cleaning each other and fighting over this box. I have saved them from flipping that box three times in the past twenty minutes. Top distractions right there. If anyone is curious, there is another box three inches to their left, two on the bed behind me, and a full cat tree to my right.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Everyone has their own unique rituals when it comes to writing. Some start with a meticulous outline while others laugh in the face of a writer’s block while pantsing it all as they go. Some even lie somewhere in between.

My whole writing career and even when I was in school, I was a pantser. It was easy with the fact that I could sort of fracture my attention, write as I go while listening to lectures. Then when I was in the last few years of college I got an iPhone which I used to just record my lectures. Most of my professors were fine with this so I’d just spend the whole of the classes writing, going back later to listen and transcribe my lectures. I even made a good chunk of spending change by selling the transcribes for $5 a pop, $10 for that one professor that went on a lot of tangents. No one complained about that.

I didn’t need to plan anything out because, especially in my last three semesters where I was taking 7-9 classes a semester, I had hours of structured time to just write. I’d go back to figure out what I liked and rewrote what I didn’t. It was easy and exactly what I needed to do to get through classes. I have ADHD and sitting still just to listen to someone was out of the question most days. Especially since we had switched meds for me right before I went away to school. The new meds didn’t have as much of a punch as the others but also didn’t have the crash that made me grouchy and anti-social. The worst thing to be when going off to share a room for nine months with a stranger.

Then I graduated college and my structure was gone as well as my meds because I was an idiot. The meds I was on had to be built up in your bloodstream for a minimum of 14 days to work optimally and I had been horrible at taking them regularly yet I still succeeded. Got Dean’s List a few semesters in a row even. I hadn’t realized that the concrete structured schedules of my days were what allowed me to take 7-9 classes (course overload because I had 4 majors) and get As in all of them.

So, I graduated and started working. I worked changing shifts so my structure was gone. All except for NaNoWriMo, I barely wrote the rest of the year. It’s taken me years to figure out the factors that worked in my factors in college and the factors that have worked against me out of college. I realized that without structure, I needed to go back on meds. It took a while but I’ve not been back on ADHD meds for about 2 weeks and let me tell you. It’s helped a lot.

Now, for the structure, that I’m still working on. Slowly I’m building a support network but it’s not where I need it to be yet.

That all being said, even if in a very long-winded way, I can’t be a pantser anymore. I’m no longer forced to sit at a desk with no phone, no computer, no distraction, and just write and rewrite until the plot is what I want it to be. My writing rituals and methods need to evolve. It’s taken me up until this past month to realize that. I need to figure out how to plot. How to write up an outline in a way that works for me.

I tried, kind of, the snowflake method and I know I need to give it another shot but the first attempt failed. I got so hung up on fitting the exact structure of the snowflake method and burned myself out fast. It’s hard for me to write about a story without actually writing the story.

My writing rituals are constantly in flux as I’m trying to figure out the best method for myself. It’s frustrating, especially on days that I have the whole day to write and yet I don’t get anywhere near my word count goal. Or when I have no idea where I’ll be going next in my story. An outline would be amazing helpful at that point but instead, I start doing what I call ‘meandering writing’. Meandering writing is when you write in a way to get words on a page but nothing advances. No character development, no plotlines, nothing. It was a method I used in college to get through a block but again, I had the time to break through the block. Get to where I wanted and then rewrite the whole thing. Now, I have neither the time, the focus, nor the energy. Self-motivation is hard when one has executive dysfunction.

From here on out, I’ll be trying a slew of different techniques, programs, workshops, and whatever else I think could help to get me to where I need to be. Everything I try I’ll report back here. Some might find it helpful. Some might not because everyone is different but if there are even a few out there that are struggling like I am and have the same type of ADHD as I, maybe I can help them out as well.

So, next week, I’m planning on doing a deep dive into a program called Aeon which is supposed to help authors keep track of their timelines. Let’s see if it helps.

A quick update of my #onemillionwords projects. My total word count for the year is 140,529 words. I’m 111,551 words behind but my goal for April and Camp NaNoWriMo is to write 100k words this month so I can start trying to catch up. Wish me luck!

Getting large amounts of writing done for me has only ever happened under specific situations; a fast-approaching deadline with last-minute panic and monster energies the only thing fueling me or a random way of inspiration that disappears for months after.

Like many writers out there, I promised myself I would write more and dedicate more time overall to my various projects in 2021. My original goal was to try to get about 100,000 words to page, almost three times what I was able to get out in 2020. I wasn’t 100% upset with my word count last year. 2020 was the dumpster fire to end all dumpster fires. 2021, please don’t make me eat my words.*

It made sense my word count suffered. That made it even more important that I strive to do better this year. I thought 100,000 was a good high, but a reasonable number to aim for. Then I saw a tweet from a Twitter mutual; they were aiming for 1 million words in 2021. Well, to be clear, they started #onemillionwords with the goal to write as much as a person can with the pipedream goal of 1 million. I signed up to participate so fast that a minute after my tweet reply was sent I stopped and asked myself just how out of my mind I really was. I wrote maybe 40k all last year and that included NaNoWriMo which I did not do well in. To be fair to me, I had gotten married at the end of October and was burnt out from having to re-plan the whole event four times because of COVID cases rising in my home state. November was more of a ‘recharge’ month than a month of productivity.

Nevertheless, I was recharged when they tweeted about it, maybe not fully but as recharged as one could get in a pandemic. Why shouldn’t I attempt this? I had nothing to lose but sanity and that wasn’t a big concern of mine. Again, we were all stuck in a pandemic. I had nothing to lose and a whole lot of finished projects to gain.

So, I got a bullet journal and copied, line for line, the examples my mutual posted on Twitter. I have ADHD, diagnosed young and all that because it’s genetic in my family coming from my dad, and I have never gotten the hang of agendas much to the chagrin of all my teachers but bullet journals always looked so cool. They were always so well laid out and made perfect sense to me but I could never find one EXACTLY like what I’d needed. School agendas were useless to me and I often ended up ‘accidentally’ losing them within the first month of school. My parents were very well aware that I did this so thankfully never bought me a nice and fancy one. I got the cheap, basic ones that every public school kid got in my town. My brain was too scattered to come up with a layout that was both useful and aesthetically pleasing.

All that aside I now have the perfect example before me. Their journal pages were set up for the same thing I wanted it for. It was exactly what I needed.

I haven’t fully laid my bullet journal yet but I’ve been having a lot of fun with what I’ve done so far, going slow to make sure it’s just how I want it. I’ve been taking my time for two reasons; my handwriting is horrible scribble when I go at anything but a snail’s pace and I’m putting thought into the organization I want. I’m learning! Evening putting in the effort I have so far has been leagues better than I had ever been able to do in the past.

Long story short, before I go on another small tangent, this whole event of sorts has been wild. One million words broken down to 365 days is approximately 2740 words a day and 82.5k words a month. 2740 every single day. That means holidays, weekends, sick days, and days I just want to do nothing but play video games which sadly, I haven’t done a whole lot of lately. I miss you Hades

Hades aside, after starting #onemillionwords, I realized it’s unreal how many work in process projects I have in my files. All half-finished and all ones I still want to finish. If nothing else, I’ve always been great at producing ideas by the dozens. My ability to plan out and execute though is mighty shoddy.

For my one million words, I decided to break it down into six different projects because it seems, I’m still that overachieving, overeager child that goes hard and will probably burn out just as hard. But if I burn out at the end of February then I’ll have about 165k words written at the best and 20k at the worst. 20k words are better than nothing and still something I’ll be very proud of.

At the time of writing this post, I am at 22341 words. Not bad so far if I say so myself.
My projects range from blog posts to a werewolf romance novel with a heavy dose of the fake/pretend relationship trope and everything in between. I even have working titles for each one which is more than I usually do. I’m horrible at titles and usually tap a friend to do it for me.

My projects are as followed:

  • CHAINED HEAVENS – A high fantasy short story collection telling the story of a woman who has trained her whole life to rid the world of evil creatures with her two siblings. It all goes wrong when an ancient demon god starts setting their sights on her to help them lay waste to the mortal world
  • Blog posts for Vox et Liber. As you can see, I’ve already been doing fairly good with that one. They’ll be anything from game/book reviews to weekly updates on my progress this year. So stick around to check those out.
  • CLOAKED RITES – An urban fantasy with a mix of alternate history and steampunk set in the mid-1800s. The main character is the lead homicide agent at the London office of supernatural affairs. In her year of being lead, it’s been rather boring until a serial killing cult starts going through the supernatural population of London with terrifying speed and may soon be setting their sights on her. The main character in this one is very fun to write since she’s always so done with everyone around her 24/7
  • The Stormblood Saga Series – The first 3 novellas in an episodic urban fantasy series set in present-day Nowheresville, Massachusetts. This one has Fae and a half-blood who’d rather work at her little indie bookshop than deal with her Fae side of the family but where would the fun be in that?
  • The Dangerous Lies of a Perpetually Single Werewolf – The aforenoted fake/pretend relationship werewolf romance novel. Two best friends, one werewolf and one human, have to fake date to keep wolf boy out of getting set up with a mate against his will.
  • The Keeper Chronicle Series – The main character inherits a house after her great uncle is killed that is sort of alive and definitely magical. Within it’s walls, it keeps both the refugees and war criminals of a war between Heaven and Hell contained. She feeds the house and in turn the house keeps everyone safe, especially from murderous angels which means she can never leave.

These projects range in age from being started in 2014 to this past summer. My main goal this year is to start clearing out the projects that have been clogging up my mental queue for years. I’m confident that I can do just that with #onemillionwords. It might not be all six but it’ll be a good chunk regardless.

For any writers out there that want to join and are on Twitter use the hashtag #onemillionwords. Or follow the creator, @Cknightwrites. They were the one to start it and this lazy bum of a writer will be forever thankful that they put this event into motion. Let’s hope it becomes as annual as NaNoWriMo.

*It made me eat my words. Please note, this was mostly written before terrorists tried to take control of the Capitol building in D.C. I, like many people, have doomscrolled for hours the last few days. My writing goals are still the same with a little more attention to self-care and mental health. I hope for all participating, you’ll make sure to add in more of each when needed.