The Writer’s Log – Track Your Progress To Your Goals

by Randy Murray on January 26, 2010

This week I’ll be publishing five short posts on the craft of writing.

Today: The Writer’s Log

My writer's log

Discipline is the key to becoming a successful writer. And I find one of most effective ways to keep that discipline is to set goals and track my daily progress in a log. You might be driven enough to not need to do this, but I’m betting that you’ll find it useful.

I use a section of my writer’s notebook. Yes, you can do this on your computer or smart phone, but I like to make it a part of that notebook to help me focus my efforts and attention on writing. It’s physical evidence that I’m moving towards my goals. I often dedicate a complete notebook to special or large projects. I currently have three going: one for my business work and current project, another for a play I’ve been considering – mostly just research for now, and a third I just opened for my next novel (no, I haven’t finished the current one yet, but I’ve had the kernel of that idea for the next and need to start capturing ideas).

Here’s how my log works: I have a goal for my personal creative writing projects. I typically set it at 2,000 words a day, with a total project goal, say 80,000 words. That will give me a projected completion date. Every day I’ll make an entry. I note the date, the total words for the day, the running total for the project, a page count, and any minor notes, usually excuses of why I didn’t meet my goal, comments about milestones achieved “200 pages!”, or turning points “breakthrough? New title and structure idea.”

It might look like this:

12/14/2009 2,041 words, 65,047 total, 256 pages – Need 10k more words this week.

That’s it. It’s very effective for me to review my progress, see where I’m falling down, look at my excuses and see them in hindsight as what they were – mostly just that – excuses. Over time I’ve found that this discipline has helped me to find that rhythm and focus I need so that I am meeting and exceeding my goals every day. And the act of saying, “I’m finished right now, let me review my progress to my goal” is very effective. It’s an important part of my writing rituals.

This approach can work for business writing and blogging, too. I think that a lot of us like to imagine ourselves caught up in the fever of a great idea where we just pour out the words. That may happen, but most days we just need to produce. Using a log to track your progress on big projects is very helpful. And it becomes essential when you’re working on several large projects. My typical day consists of writing on my personal creative projects, work for multiple clients, and writing for this blog. There’s no way I could keep that straight and on schedule if I didn’t track what I was doing.

I urge you to try it for yourself.

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