Since I’ve made it through 1/3rd of this challenge we call Milwordy, I thought I’d give you guys some insight on what tools have been helping me through the process. I’m not saying that you couldn’t write a million words without these things; I’m saying that I couldn’t.
Well, at least these are the things that have made it easier. I’m sure that with enough determination I could do this challenge with nothing more than a pen and a lot of paper, but…yikes! Would I want to?
Anyway, I’ve made a list of my favorite tools for you to peruse and see if any of them would work for you.
- Microsoft Excel
It may seem like a weird tool when we’re talking about a writing challenge, but the monthly spreadsheets I made before the challenge started have been a surprisingly motivating factor for me. The conditional formatting that changes my daily word counts from gray to whatever that months theme color is (January is blue) dings a little area in my brain that makes me want to see the color change. That is just a little extra incentive for me to hit those daily word counts.
Also, it’s obviously important to have a way to track all these words I’ve been writing and the truly nice thing about Excel is that it will do the math for me. Such a treat! Plus, it makes it easy for me to look back and see which projects I worked on during the challenge, which is something that usually gets a bit messy for me. I’m also tracking the amount of time I spend writing each day, as well as the time of day so that I can get a better idea of if I’m more productive in the mornings, afternoons, or evenings.
- My Bullet Journal
It didn’t have to be a bullet journal exactly, but I definitely needed something to keep me organized. I have my calendar spread which lets me make notes and plan for days when I might not be able to write. I also keep track of my blog posts there. And I do have a spread each month to keep track of my words—though not in the same detail as the spreadsheet. This may seem a little redundant, but I really enjoy being able to keep track of my progress in a physical rather than digital form. Plus, it gives me a chance to be a little artistic, which can be a nice break from all the writing.
Basically, how it works is I draw a different themed spread every month and I leave parts of it uncolored, so that I can color them in for every 2,740 words (that’s my daily Milwordy goal). There’s not so much math involved and it’s fun to see the picture get colored in as the month wears on.
- Write or Die
If you don’t know about Write or Die, you can check it out at their website here. Basically, it’s a program that allows you to do timed writing sprints and reminds you (gently or forcefully, you choose) to keep writing. I have the program downloaded to my computer and it’s pretty great. I don’t like to use it for all my writing, but on days when I know I don’t have a lot of time to write, it helps keep me focused and pushes me to write faster so that I can get all those words in. Plus, it has helped me figure out what my typical writing speed is so that I can better plan for how long writing a particular number of words will take me.
- Dragon Dictation
This one is pretty new to me, but let me tell you it has been a life-saver.
Again, I don’t like to use this for everything. It’s relatively accurate, but definitely not perfect. Plus, I feel really weird speaking my writing out loud. Still, I can write much faster through dictation than I can through typing. To give you an idea, if I were to write for an hour in Write or Die, at my absolute top speed, I can get about 3,000 words in. And if I’m being honest, that doesn’t happen that often. That’s me pushing myself to my absolute limit, and usually I would have to break for a long time afterward. More reliably, I could get about 2,000 words in an hour.
An hour’s worth of dictation, on the other hand, will reliably net me between 4,000-5,000 words. And my absolute top speed got me to 5,500 words in an hour! An I don’t feel so completely exhausted after. Plus, I can get up and walk around if I like, which is a big plus for me. I think that I might even be able to get this count higher if I tried it with an extensively detailed outline, though I’m not absolutely certain about that.
If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you’ll remember that in December I had a 23,000-word day to catch up after I had fallen behind. There’s no way I could have done that with typing alone. Dragon absolutely saved the day.
- Music Apps (Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music)
I already made a blog post about how important music is to my writing, so I’m not going to wax poetical about it here. I just thought that the music apps I’ve been using deserved a little nod.
The nice thing about these music apps is that I can listen to music without having to own it. Sure, they come with commercials (if you don’t pay for premium, which I do not), but that’s a small price to pay for getting to listen to nearly limitless music without having to own any of it.
Not that I don’t enjoy listening to the music I actually own, but sometimes I need something specific that I don’t have. For instance, during the month of October I was working on a Halloween short story. Being able to tune into a Halloween station that I didn’t have to curate myself was a HUGE help. Plus, it really got me in the mood for the holiday.
- Wrist Rests
I had some serious problems with my wrists at the beginning of this challenge. Like, so much so that I thought I might have to quit. Dictating some of my words helps, but I still generally prefer typing, so that’s what I do most of the time. So, I invested in wrist rests. One goes in front of my keyboard and the other in front of my mouse. They have helped tremendously, as well as trying to be more aware of my posture while sitting at my desk. I still get a little pain on big writing days, but it’s nothing like it was in the beginning
- This Blog
It didn’t have to be a blog, but what I mean by this is that having accountability to someone other than myself has pushed me ever forward. If I had decided to embark on this challenge without ever telling a soul, I would have quit already. I’m not even sure I would have made it through the first month, and I know I wouldn’t have made it through December. Knowing that there are people out there following this blog reminds me every day that I need to keep going and for that I thank anyone who is reading this, but especially those of you who have taken precious time out of your day to like, comment, and follow. You keep me on track.
I’d also be remiss not to mention my husband here, who asks me how I’m doing with this challenge every day, and is always ready with encouraging words. If you take one thing away from my experience, let it be this: Having support and accountability is the best way to see yourself through this kind of challenge. Even though you are ultimately the one doing all the work, you aren’t actually alone. That makes all the difference in the world.
What are your favorite tools for writing? Do you have any that you feel you just can’t write without? Let me know down in the comments!
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