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.

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Hard to believe it’s already March. It doesn’t look all that different from March last year for some of us.

For anyone curious as to what #onemillionwords is click here for the week 1 update which explains it all.

After spending a year stuck inside a 860 sq ft box of an apartment, I’ve come to some decisions. First, decision was made last May when I had decided to launch VeL to the best of my current ability. Not long after we published our first anthology, Graveyard Visits Vol 1, and for the first few weeks it was in Amazon’s top 1,000 titles for Horror Anthologies. Not bad for our first book. Next we’ve gotten a few dozen submissions which we’re still going through because we’re a small team here but it still blows me away anyone would look twice at us. Let alone, trust us with their manuscript.

It’s been a wild start but while this was all happening I was trying to find ways to better my work habits. We tried scheduling but that fell through after a week. Whiteboards, alarms, everything you could think of. It all came back to the fact that I am ADHD and I have executive disfunction and it had gotten worse during lockdown. Without concrete deadlines, I have been finding it harder and harder to get stuff out in a timely manner.

After talking it out with my husband, I called a mental health clinic and started seeing a therapist to get me back on some well needed Adderall. This time I won’t randomly decide I’m good without it, shooting myself in the foot for another ten years like I did right after college. Not everyone with ADHD needs to be medicate. I’ve learned over this past decade that I do. Think about what I’ve already accomplished without it and then double or even triple that. That’s how I am on Adderall. 

Why did I take myself off of it? It’s a long story but shortened version is I was 20, lost my pills for almost two weeks – they rolled off my desk and got lodged between my dorm room bedframe and mattress – and still did great in my classes. Figured, I didn’t need them anymore. Didn’t take into account just how structured college was, especially when you were taking 8-9 classes a semester because overachieving was the only thing to do in that dinky town.

That being said, I haven’t started on it yet and probably won’t until at least the end of April. For those who are not aware, Adderall is a very regulated med because of it’s ‘street value’. What this means is college students used to sell them all the time because for neurotypical brains, it’s like a massive energy drink straight to your heart. For people with ADHD, it’s the opposite. Because of this insurance might fight us for a few months just to fill it.

That all being said, my week of writing wasn’t as fruitful as I would have hoped. A good chunk of time and my brain power was focused on getting back into actually managing my ADHD again. Still, I wrote words. This is up on time. I’ve been able to accomplish some of my smaller goals, still wrote every day, and started outlining. That combined with still making sure I are three meals every day, showering and basic hygiene was still met, and I found time to cuddle both my cats separately. The week wasn’t 100% a success but it was more than enough for me right now.

Quick project update.

CHAINED HEAVENS – This project has been the easiest for me this whole week, which I am extremely thankful for. CH has the highest word count of all my project so being able to play a little catch up has been great. I am nowhere near where I should be in terms of word count but I’ve been slowly lessening that divide. As of today, I should be around 71k words but as of right now, I’m only at 43k. The goal is to make up the difference by end of April. By doing that I should have exactly what I need to start compiling the first volume of short stories which I will then have to find the time to edit and rewrite what needs to be before sending it off to the editor. Kind of an exciting thought to be that close to having something to show for all of this.

VeL – Like always, these are still hit or miss but I’m starting to see the curve of it getting easier. I had been lucky enough to get three posts completed with two of them going live this week and the third going live next week. If we have any downtime this weekend, I hope to get a few more pre-written and scheduled ahead of time. Trying to get better at that whole not leaving things until the last minute habit us with ADHD are known for. 

The word count, as of today, for where I’m supposed to be is just under 27k. I am at least well over halfway there with almost 16k words written. I’ll count that as a win. 

CLOAKED RITES – This project has been in a sort of stopping and starting pattern all week. It’ll probably stay like this until I can find the time to sit down and really plot it all out. I really am interested in trying the Snowflake Method but it seems like it’d take a full day to do from start to finish which needs to be scheduled for one of the days my husband is home since it’ll probably be best done with a sounding board at the ready. So, for this upcoming Monday, I have put it on my schedule to spend the day doing this instead of writing. No matter how caught up I am at that point. There’s been almost no progress to report.

The Stormbloods Saga – This is my only project that has exceeded the actual word count goal for the day. My aim for each installment when finished to be no less than 30k words and no more than 40k. I’m already at almost 18k words into the first installment and a thousand words over the daily goal. There’s at least 2k of filler in there that needs to be cut but I still feel really pleased about my progress. Also, thanks to this story I really want diner food again. It’s been too long.

DLPSW – Just over 12k in and I’ve finally gotten to the big trope in my first romance novel, the fake relationship. I’m a little behind where I should be but since I’ve passed all the setup and info dumps I have a feeling this story will start to write itself. The word count goal for today is just a touch over 17.5k which means if I really hustle in the next few weeks I could have two projects back on track or even ahead. I will say one of the hardest parts of the set up was finding a believable, more or less, way for the Werewolf pack to ‘by accident’ find out these two have been ‘dating’ and just didn’t tell anyone because of reasons. I had mapped out five possible reveals but ended up poking holes in all of them.

Finally, I just said screw it and started writing. If I write it odd or wrong, it can just be fixed with my editor at a later date. The most important thing was to just to keep the story flow going, to get words to page. Not sure who said it but a quote I try to remember often is ‘you can’t edit a blank page.’ Cliché but true.

I’ve also gotten into the habit of just glossing over scenes that I can’t get to work in the moment with a line in all caps telling me to work on this during revisions. I also try to put in a random word that I know probably won’t be written anywhere else in the project like for example, mopery. Mopery means a violation of an imaginary or trivial law. Nowhere in my manuscript will I ever actually use mopery so I put it there. That way later I can use ctrl-F and search for it.

If you think you’d like to use this method but don’t know what random obscure words to use, try wordnik.com. It’s very useful in that regard.

The Keepers Chronicles – This project is the furthest behind for many reasons. The first being, that even though I loved the characters from the first story I wrote, it was supposed to be a standalone horror short story. Now, I’m expanding and haven’t had to time to fully sit down with that idea. I’m aware now that this was short-sighted on my part when I set this all up. Next year I plan on structuring my projects very differently, having none but the major ones spanning the whole year. I’m over 10k short for this project and probably will be for a little bit until I can straighten out some of the larger word count projects.

To everyone else participating in #onemillionwords or just trying to do better this year, how’s it going? Let me know in the comments below

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