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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Fact-Track Your Writing: Tricks of Tracking #4

joe-friday-just-the-factsHow much do facts matter in your writing genre?

When I was very young, I decided I’d write fiction because surely fiction couldn’t need facts the way journalism and nonfiction do, so I could just make everything up. Then I realized that fiction needs facts to ground the reader in the imaginary world.

But when it comes to tracking your writing, all genres are equal: you must focus on facts.

Detective Joe Friday knew how to track: Focus on facts.

When you track your writing progress, keep your attention on two facts: “This is what I said I’d do. This is what I did.”

Judgment Obscures Facts

One of the benefits of tracking is highlighting changes in your patterns so you can decide what action to take to stay on track, or get back on track, and move in the direction you want to go.

Judgment denies you this benefit. You can’t discern patterns and trends if you leap to judging the data. Judgments, either positive or negative, make it impossible to see what’s really happening. (More about the distinction between discernment and judgment.)

Negative judgments include thoughts or comments like:

  • “I had a bad week (or a terrible week).”
  • “I’m disappointed (or frustrated, disgusted, etc.) with what I did this week.”
  • “I didn’t do well this week at all.”
  • “This was a tough week.”
  • “I was too busy and let other things get in the way.”
  • “I’m really bad at this.”
  • “I could have/should have done better.”

Positive judgments include:

  •  “I had a good week (or a great week).”
  • “I’m really happy (or satisfied, proud, etc.) with what I did this week.”
  • “I did really well this week.”
  • “This was a productive week.”
  • “It was easy to make time for my writing.”
  • “I’m really getting good at this.”

Positive judgements are fun to make and you can claim any of these LATER. But first, track your progress for the week. As you do that, make no evaluations. Make no excuses. Don’t go into long stories or explanations.

No Need for Excuses

writer-excuseWriters need discernment, not judgment. You need to identify the facts objectively.

If you notice that you’re judging or making excuses (and you probably will continue to do this as you retrain your thinking), acknowledge the mistake, “Oops, that’s a judgement. That’s not what I need.”

Don’t get caught in the loop of judging yourself for judging. Tell yourself “I appreciate my ability to recognize when I’m judgmental. And I am more than my judgment.”

Redirect your attention to the facts: what you said you would do and what you actually did. We’ll explore how to use this tracking information in an upcoming post, but first you need to collect it without judging it.

Once you’ve identified the facts, you can and should celebrate your accomplishments. Even if your judgment would be negative if you were letting yourself judge, even if you need to make adjustments, the fact that you’re tracking is reason to celebrate. Tracking makes it so much easier to get back on track and stay on track.

Give yourself credit for what you did, identify what action you want to take in the coming week to either correct the course or maintain your momentum, and keep going!

Upcoming post: Writers Who Don’t Track History Are Doomed

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2 Comments on “Fact-Track Your Writing: Tricks of Tracking #4”

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  1. Track Your Way Out of Writer’s Block: Tricks of Tracking #3 | Bane of Your Resistance - January 8, 2019

    […] Next post: Fact-Track Your Writing: Tricks of Tracking #4 […]


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