Progress re: focus (or: diminishing returns)

With regard to my recent push to try to jump-start my writing and get these books written quickly (and well), as detailed in my blog post the other day, I wanted to give you an update. This chart spells it out pretty well, but I’ll go into a little more detail below:

As you can see, I got a lot of writing done on Tuesday. Before I started, I had been on a pretty-fully-reversed sleep schedule, going to bed around 8AM and sleeping 8 hours. I wrote that long blog post between 2AM and 4AM, basically “mid-afternoon” for me, and then got started writing. I took my last two modafinil that day, to stay awake until 8/9PM, with the intention of then sleeping all night and continuing the week on a proper daytime schedule. The first day went well, as you can see. My average words/hour rate was consistently above 800 words/hour (which is what I’ve been averaging across my last several books) and frequently at 1k words/hour. In part, I’m confident this is because in addition to being a drug for narcolepsy (let me stay awake), modafinil is a sort of “smart pill” which can enhance one’s mental focus. I ended up writing 4 of the 20 chapters I needed to finish the vampire duology.

When the 2nd pill wore off and I got tired right on schedule, I tried going to bed, but I couldn’t get to sleep. After about an hour of that, I tried some mild exercise for about an hour, then tried again to go to sleep. I ended up getting a little over 3 hours of sleep, and was wide awake but feeling odd/off before 2AM. I put myself back to work, but my writing speed was maxing out at 800 words/hour, and I kept distracting myself with other tasks, sometimes for hours at a time. Then at around 8:3oAM, I was overcome with sleepiness. I went to bed. Slept 4-5 hours. My pace (and distractibility) were the same after sleeping, though I tried to keep myself working most of the afternoon and evening. By the end of the day I’d only finished writing 2 more chapters.

By Wednesday night it was clear to me that rather than shifting myself back to a diurnal schedule, I’d merely broken my sleep cycle in two – I slept another 4-5 hours at night, and woke in the early morning. As distractible as I’d been with all the other things I could do on my home computer, I decided to try heading to Starbucks where I (sometimes? often?) have better luck keeping focused. My writing pace, even with the good caffeine & sugar & eye candy and without much to distract me from the task at hand, was under 500 words/hour. I nearly failed to finish a single chapter before giving up and going home – where I almost immediately went to bed. And slept 4-5 more hours, waking up without enough time to get any writing done before I had to make dinner and go with Mandy to a Phoenix Comicon meeting. When we got home, I logged in to Star Trek Online for their 2-year anniversary event (free new ship for everyone!), and didn’t get any more writing done before heading to bed around 1AM. I only got 1 chapter written, yesterday.

So, that’s where I’m at. I slept from 1AM to 5AM and expect to sleep from 10AM or 11AM to 3PM or 4PM – at which time I’ll need to go get started making dinner, followed by having a Friday night with my wife. Worst case for this (barring no writing) is that I go write for the next 3 hours, it goes as slow or slower than yesterday, and my word count for the day goes down by half yet again. On this trajectory I’m facing Zeno’s paradox and will never reach the end of these books.

What I really need is 3 more of those 10k+word days. Quick, someone get me more smart pills! At the very least, this sleep thing is screwing up my ability to write for any sustained period, and is eating some of the best writing hours from the middle of the day.

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Author, artist, romantic, insomniac, exorcist, creative visionary, lover, and all-around-crazy-person.

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