Month: September 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Guilting Myself to Work with a Google Docs Script

Hi! I’m Jerri, and I’m motivated by guilt.

Sounds like the greeting at a guilt-mongers-anonymous meeting, doesn’t it?  The problem is, it’s true. I can reward myself until I’m gorged on my favorite chocolates and have 37 pairs of shoes and 28 handbags, but the truth is, it’s just not going to do it for me. I have no self-discipline when it comes to NOT indulging until I’ve reached a goal. But guilt? Well, let’s just say I was raised by a southern woman that had the article of subtle guilt down to a very fine science. 47 years later, that training is still hanging on.

So, when I found a script for Google Docs that would guilt me into working, you can imagine the happy dance that took place. The script, which was written by tech writer Jamie Todd Rubin, has been my dream guilting tool. Once you get the script set up, it tracks the number of words that you write in a specific folder each day, then at the end of the day, it sends you two emails. One is a writing summary (also called the Daily Almanac), the other is what you wrote during the day.

The script allows you to set a daily writing goal that is reflected in the writing summary that you receive each night. But as you can see from the image below, the writing summary is much more than just a daily word count. It also shows you how many days you’ve written since you installed the script, and it shows you a “streak count” for the number of days that you’ve hit that goal concurrently. For me, receiving that email every morning, especially when it says You wrote a total of 0 words in the subject line of the email…well, just say it lights a fire under my rear-end.

The Daily Writing Almanac shows you statistics for your previous day's writing.

Another nice feature of this script is that it allows you to quickly see what changes you’ve made to a specific file from day to day. In the second email that shows what you wrote during the day, you’ll either see plain text, which indicated new writing, or you’ll see text that’s highlighted in green or red, as the image below shows. Text in green is text that has NOT changed, and text in red is text that HAS changed. If you’re working on the same document consistently – like you might with a novel, short story, or longer article – then you can quickly track the changes that you made in your previous day’s writing.

The Daily Writing email details changes you made to any previous work you've edited.

My caveat to all of this is that I had to install the script twice to make it work. That’s through no fault of Jamie Todd Rubin. I’m just not a coding person, and didn’t follow the directions closely enough the first time.  Here’s my hint to you: The time zone will trip you up. If you choose to install this script, be sure to follow the instructions closely.

I needed another reason to focus my writing in Google Docs. I also needed something that would guilt me into being more consistent with my writing. Jamie’s script, which you can find in detail on his GitHub page, works on both counts. If you’re a Google Docs user (or if you want to be), I suggest you try it. It’s well worth the hour or two it will take to install it. (And a HUGE THANK YOU! to Jamie for putting it out there for other people to use!) You’ll find it does more than I’ve detailed here, and every aspect of it is useful.

Do you have any type of Google Script for Google Docs that you use to automate the functions of your writing? If you do, please share below, because I would love to add some more functionality to this amazing program!

When Writer’s Should Push Themselves, And When They Shouldn’t!

Give yourself permission to take a break from writing when you're not feeling well or when other obligations require your attention.I’ve been sick since Labor Day Weekend. Nothing major, really, just a kidney infection that I thought was going to kill me (yeah, I know – Drama Queen!).I was pretty much out of commission for almost two solid weeks. The first little while, I slept a lot. But then after I saw the doctor and got a prescription for antibiotics, I just didn’t recover as fast as I thought I should.

I was feeling “okay” but not great. I got tired very easy, and even when I wasn’t tired, I couldn’t seem to wrap my brain around anything productive. For nearly two weeks, I got almost nothing done. And I beat myself up over it pretty bad.

I started September out strong, writing 1500-2000 words a day, and really making progress on Biloxi Blue. After I got sick, though, I couldn’t bring myself to write anything that didn’t have a hard deadline (with a paycheck) attached to it. So, for the last 10 days or so, I’ve felt like a sloth. A lazy sloth, at that.

Then it dawned on me. I wasn’t being lazy. I was sick. Fever, aches, pains, tiredness, nausea, all of it.  Full-blown, down for the count sick. Why in the world was I beating myself up over not being able to write? If I had a full-time, report-to-a-boss type of job, I would have been out of work. I couldn’t sit up for long periods of time. I needed a nap just because I took a shower. So, how was it fair to berate myself for not writing like I should?

It’s a common problem I’ve discovered with writers that make a living with their craft. We have a very hard time separating ourselves from our work. On the creative side, maybe that’s a good thing. We have a vested interest in what we’re writing, so we spend a lot of time writing or thinking about writing. We hold ourselves to deadlines, and we spend hours obsessing over the book, story, or article we’re working on.

We should, however, realize when writing (just like any other work) can wait. Illnesses are just one example. Think about the times that you skipped out on something fun with the family because you had a deadline or were working on a story. Or the times you didn’t go out with friends. Or one of a thousand other moments that you missed because you had some false sense of requirement that you should not do something because you had a story to write.

Those are the times when we have to realize that no matter how much you love it, writing is a job. The difference is, you’re your own boss. You’ll need a certain amount of discipline, because, let’s face it, it’s a whole lot easier to sit on the couch and watch the new season of Elementary than it is to sit in front of a blank page and try to suss out the words that seem buried in your synapses. It’s more fun to go shopping or out to dinner with friends than it is to figure out what’s broken in this plot and how it can be fixed.

That’s when discipline comes in. Setting a deadline and staying with it. Putting up a goal and reaching for it. Discipline is not making yourself work through an illness or giving up on hours of sleep or activities with your family because you blew off a deadline when you had time and now you have no choice.  Those are undisciplined actions. But taking a few days away from the computer because there is a legitimate reason – a reason that even a boss in an outside job would excuse – that’s just taking care of yourself.

As writers, we do need self-discipline. We also need self-love. So, give yourself permission to heal if you’re not well. Remember that your family is your first priority. And stay on top of the deadlines and goals that you have so that when your day is over, you can walk away without feeling like you should be working.  Then, enjoy the other parts of your life, too, for someday, they may be fodder for whatever writing project you’re working on.

What are some of the ways that you beat yourself up about your writing?  Do you give yourself adequate time away from writing so that you can refuel and refresh? Or do you push yourself too hard? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear how you manage illnesses and obligations.

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