Keep track of your writing progress to grow your writing practice

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How often do you write?

  2. How long is your typical writing session?

  3. What counts as “writing”?

Had you asked me these questions earlier in my career, I probably would have responded: (1) Not often enough, (2) A few hours, (3) Work on a paper.

Keeping track of my writing progress

A few years ago, I decided to start keeping track of my writing progress to learn more about my writing habits. What I learned surprised me.

3 things I learned from keeping track

  1. I write more frequently when I am in the midst of a project. I procrastinate the most when I am working to develop new ideas.
  2. I need at least 15 minutes for a writing session. I need a break after 2 hours of writing.
  3. I have a wide variety of activities that count as writing. Some are harder for me than others.

Growing my writing practice

Keeping track of my writing progress helped me to grow my writing practice.

3 ways my writing practice has grown

  1. I have more JOY in writing. I look forward to writing sessions.
  2. I use my writing practice to learn and grow ideas. I know that ideas that sound good in conversation need to go through the “writing fire” to develop and grow. I use free writing to develop and nurture new ideas.
  3. I can anticipate and handle challenging portions of a writing project. And plan accordingly. I prioritize more challenging writing activities to help me to make the most of my writing sessions.

How I keep track of my writing

I use a google spreadsheet. The spreadsheet has six columns: Date; Activity; Time of Day; Hours; Progress; Next Steps.

  1. Date. I aim to write every week day. Some months I do better than others. If I have a heavy meeting day, I had better write in the morning or it won’t happen.
  2. Activity. Saying yes to that new conference paper or book chapter can take more time than I realize. If I have too many projects going on, I engage in less free writing, which is one of my favorite aspects of my writing practice.
  3. Time of Day. My most favorite time of day to write is the late afternoon/early evening. And I write at all times of the day.
  4. Hours. 15 minutes is really enough time for me to make progress on small tasks. Even though a six hour writing session seems like it might be a good idea, it is too much for me all at once.
  5. Progress. Recording my progress helps me to chunk writing projects into smaller, more manageable portions.
  6. Next Steps. Plans for my next writing session helps me continue to make progress with a writing project.

“I don’t have enough time to write. Let alone keep track of my writing.”

I don’t have enough time to NOT keep track of my writing.

How do you keep track?