Progress is Invisible Unless You Track It

Making progress is invisible unless you track it. Especially when you’re a slow writer or working on a long-term project, you need to track your progress. Evaluating your progress is essential to learning how to improve your processes. And making my monthly reports to you keeps me on task.

Image of a black and white target with a red dart perfectly centered on the red bull's eye but how do you know when you've hit a project's target? For long-term projects, progress is invisible unless you track it.

How To Track Progress

My way involves a calendar journal and spreadsheets. Breaking a task, like writing a novel, down into its smallest parts helps keep the creator from being overwhelmed. Focusing only on the small parts can make the creator feel as if they work and work without making progress. 

The way I combat the disillusionment of I’m-not-getting-anything-done, is to track my time, word counts, and project “steps.” You can use your calendar, a tally sheet, or a day planner. Anything that helps you keep track of what you’ve accomplished and what you need to do next will work. The Write Practice has a basic post about tracking progress for writers.

Intentions vs. Goals

I use intentions rather than goals. Intentions allow business to give way to life and life to give way to business. I also use three broad baskets to describe what I do: Making (anything creative), Managing (any non-writing and non-marketing duties), Marketing (from creating ads to attending marketing events), and Home (all activities not related to creating or selling books—from appointments to yard care).

Making

I’m delighted to report progress! More words, more chapters revised, and more time on the making and creating side of business. I have not finished If I Should Die. SIGH. I’m seeing a glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel. I doubt I’ll finish it next month but am hopeful I will finish this draft and send it to beta readers at the end of September or first of October.

Managing

No power outages this month, thank goodness. I’ve made progress in this area too. In the managing area particularly, making progress is invisible unless you track it. Thanks to my spreadsheet, I can see that I’ve caught up on several tasks. Not totally caught up, but I was nearly a year behind so there’s a lot of little things to get done.

One thing I’ve added back into my day is listening to podcasts about writing and marketing and history. Feels good to do that again.

Marketing

Fortunately, it takes very little effort to keep Amazon ads running. New ads on Amazon take a time and work. I’ve met my intentions in the Marketing area. And I’ve benefited from making a few tweaks I learned about in a podcast.

Home

Photograph of the living room of an old, abandoned house--a pedal driven sewing machine, a dining table, and upholstered chairs are thick with dust--progress is invisible unless you track it--in this place, I think it might be visible.

There’s even been progress on the home front. This has been the most neglected area during the past five months, so any progress is progress. My vertigo has lessened significantly. I am experiencing more and more time when I have no vertigo. Yay!

After a half-day of mini-drama, they delivered my new washing machine. Miracle of miracles, I can complete all my laundry in a single day. Guess I needed one more than I knew. *Smile*

I spent half-a-day with two different couples I hadn’t seen in—gosh, a long time. We are all vaccinated and quite isolated. Visiting in person with them was a real treat.

Not only did I get some more of my husband’s things sorted, I gave some items to appropriate persons/organizations. So the house is a bit neater. While no one would say my house is neat and clean, the health department won’t kick me out… yet. (I haven’t reached the level of dust in the house pictured above.)

Events

Felt good enough I attended my weekly write in group and critique group two or three times this month.I also attended a dozen online classes focused on the writing business. 

Last Month & Last Year

I came extremely close to doubling my word count over last month. Yet, I’m still woefully behind in words written compared to July 2020. 

Between all that’s happened the first six months of this year and the fact that I’m revising, I’m counting this month as a win. Higher word counts will come in time, and will soar when I draft book three.

What I Learned

I started reading Robert McKee’s Dialogue: the Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, and Screen. McKee has an interesting take on what functions as dialogue in a story. His view is that all parts of a story are dialogue. I have to agree in that all parts of a story are at least a dialogue with the reader. I’m eager to delve deeper into his insights.

At the beginning of the month I struggled with “the next chapter.” No matter what I wrote, it wasn’t as compelling as I want my stories to be. It took a few days, but I finally remembered to stop and go deeper into the viewpoint character’s mind and heart. Once I did that, the writing flowed.

Going Forward

Creative work comes first. That’s my focus. If I’m not putting story words on paper, I’m not myself. Off my game, I am morose and certain I’m spiraling in a negative direction. Tracking it, evaluating it monthly keeps me mindful of what I do. Reporting here keeps me honest about it. In many creative endeavors, making progress is invisible unless you track it. Do you track the progress of your creative endeavors?

The First Female Olympic Champion to Strike Gold

The first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens, Greece, April 6–15, 1896. Women athletes could not participate for ninety-four years. Hélène de Pourtalès of Switzerland became the first female athlete to compete at the Olympic Games and the first female Olympic Champion to strike gold.

About Hélène

Portrait of the Countessa Hélène de Pourtalès the first female Olympic Champion to strike gold.
contessa

Hélène de Pourtalès (pronounced El-én day Por-tá-lay) was born in New York, New York on April 28, 1868 to Henry Barbe and Mary Lorillard Barbey.They named her Helen Barbey. 

Her father was an affluent financier. Her mother came from a family whose wealth came from a tobacco empire. Helen inherited her passion for horses and love of sailing. Her uncle, Pierre Lorillard IV, lived in Newport, Rhode Island and helped make it a yachting center. He was also a Thoroughbred racehorse owner.

On April 25, 1891, Helen married Hermon Alexander, Count von Pourtalès, (1847–1904). He was a captain of the Cuirassiers of the Guard, a heavy cavalry regiment of the Royal Prussian Army. She became known as Hélène de Pourtalès.

Hélène had dual citizenship, Swiss and American. Her husband had dual Swiss-German nationality. They had three daughters.

In 1896 Europe’s most prominent families had personal flotillas. Among them were members of the Swiss Pourtalès family.

The Olympics

Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937), was a French educator and historian, the instigator of the modern Olympic Games, and founder of the International Olympic Committee. He said that female athletes would be “impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic, and incorrect.”

But in 1900 they allowed a few female athletes to compete as long as their legs were “aesthetically” covered by long skirts. They only allowed women to participate in five out of nineteen sports: tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrianism and golf. Out of 997 athletes, twenty-two were women.

One hundred-fifty yachts from six countries competed at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris. Each yacht followed rules from their own area since the International Yacht Racing Union did not yet exist. No rules existed to standardize the boats either. They ordered classes by tonnage.   

On May 22, Hélène was a crew member along with her husband’s nephew aboard the Swiss boat, Lérina. Her husband was helmsman. They won gold in the first of the two regattas for the 1-2 ton class boats. In the second race three days later, they won silver.

Sepia tone photograph of the Swiss boat Lérina, crewed by Hélène de Pourtalès the first female Olympic champion to strike gold.

Hélène was the first Swiss female athlete to go to the Olympics, the first female athlete to compete at the Games, and the first female  Olympic Gold Medalist. 

NOTE: England’s Charlotte Cooper was the first individual female Olympic champion, as winner of the women’s tennis singles tournament. She also won a gold medal in the mixed doubles.

From First to Current

Hélène de Pourtalès was the first female Olympic Champion to strike gold. But she wasn’t the last. From 1956 to 1964 the Russian gymnast, Larisa Latynina, won fourteen individual medals and four team medals and became the female with the most Olympic medals. This year in Tokyo, almost 49% of the 10,305 Olympic athletes are female. It’s taken 121 years to be close to gender equality in numbers. Someday, hopefully soon, there will be true equality. 

Build Your Motivation Toolbox

It’s Monday. You drag yourself out of bed and wish you didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything. And you beat yourself up for it You say, it’s only this part of my work that I hate. If I could afford to hire someone to do this part, I’d be golden. If it weren’t Monday, I’d be fine. I’m not motivated, so I must not have genuine talent. Well, if that were true, your problem isn’t Monday. Heck, it could be any day of the week. Where’s your motivation toolbox? Don’t have one? Start building your motivation toolbox today. Fill it with tools you can and will use may help you through so you can figure out what is holding you back.

Creatives like you don’t have an HR department or a supervisor to guide you. Sometimes you don’t even have a paycheck to motivate you. You need to know how to motivate yourself. To know how to motivate yourself, you need to understand the psychology of motivation.

Image of a steam train against a rustic wood wallpaper with your motivation from the words of Ralph Marston: What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.

Understanding the Types of Motivation

The problem with understanding the types of motivation is that there are hundreds of types identified by various gurus on the internet. So let’s boil it down to the two most basic definitions.

Extrinsic motivations are those rewards are benefits that are external to you. Things like paychecks, prizes, bonuses, and promotions are extrinsic. You’re thinking this doesn’t apply to you. Have you entered a contest or had your work judged? That prize is extrinsic.

Self-motivation is internal to you. Your values, your needs, your education, and your priorities all play a part in self-motivation. More simply put, self-motivation drives you to action.

Because self-motivation is internal to you, finding the motivational tools that will work for you requires education, self-assessment, and trial and error.

Self-assessment

Self-assessment ought to come first. You don’t always choose to do that first because it’s scary. When you’re feeling unmotivated to do your creative work, you are afraid that you aren’t enough. 

You are enough. Perhaps that’s what you’ve forgotten. Remember, you are a creative. You were brave enough to begin the walk down your creative path. You are brave. You can do this.

The first thing to assess is your life situation (yours and your immediate family). Are you safe? Do you have shelter, food, and clothes? If you don’t have the basics, you aren’t lacking motivation. You lack security. Get help. There are homeless hotlines and abuse hotlines in most cities. Call or text SAMHSA’s free, 24-hour national helpline  1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Now, take a minute remind yourself why you chose to express your creativity. How does it make you feel when you’re working? How does it make you feel when you figure out a new technique or solve a problem or finish a piece? Yeah, that feeling. Does it still have meaning for you?

Need more help with your self-assessment? Positive Psychology is one site that has useful self-assessment tools.

There are hundreds of thousands of self-assessment tools on the internet. Find tools that help you find answers. Use caution when seeking out the one(s) you prefer. Look for experts: well-known medical sites, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers are among some of the externally educated experts. Self-educated experts can also be helpful. But sometimes they are narrowly self-educated. Do yourself the favor of choosing multiple sources of information. 

Education

You’ve completed your self-assessment. Now you know where your weaknesses lie. What do you need to know in order to move forward? Do you need to educate yourself about the psychology of motivation? Educate yourself about creativity. Maybe there’s an area you know very little about or perhaps you need to dig deeper into the next skill level.

Collect Tools

Whatever self-assessment and education you do, collect the tools you need. Don’t expect that you will remember them because they excite you now. Write it down. Put it on post-it-notes, or tape a message to your work table, or make your own motivational tape.

Read 5 Tips for Staying Motivated. On this website, you can also find tips for creating your joy toolbox, your I-can-do-it toolbox, and your mental health first aid kit

Trial and Error

So you’ve educated yourself and found new ways to motivate yourself. Try it. Even if you’ve done your self-assessment and education, not everything will work. That’s okay. You’re prepared. Go to the next tool on your list. You will find two or three that will work really well for you. Don’t stop there. Have more than you need in your toolbox. 

image of repeated script "you can" in pastel colors--your motivation tools can be simple ones

Been There, Done That

In time, you’ll develop the habits you need to make you your best creative self. Even those strong habits will falter once in a while. But you’ve been there and done that. You’ll recognize it for what it is: the next step in your growth as a creative. You’ll reach for your motivation toolbox and find what you need.