April/May Retrospective

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

As this is the first retrospective, allow me to explain what the heck that is.

In the software development world, a retrospective is what’s called a “ceremony.” The dev team looks back at the last “sprint” (typically about 2 weeks of work) and writes down what went well, what didn’t go well, and if there is anything they can do differently for the next sprint. This places great importance on improvement.

With that, I bring you my first monthly retrospective! This one combines April and May, since I started mid-month and didn’t launch anything until recently.

Monthly Totals

Totals for May
Why yes, that 52 IS representative of how many days I’d been quarantined by the 3rd of May…

April:

Total Words Written: 18,840
Total Writing Days (since April 12): 16
Days Missed: 3
Average WPD (words per day): ~1,178

May:

Total words written: 19,209
Days missed: 11
Average WPD (words per day): ~620

What Went Well:

  • I actually managed to launch a thing! I honestly never expected to grow a pair big enough to put anything online. 
  • Lots of work happened in April, and my consistency with writing overall has been pretty cool to see. Again, I didn’t have a lot of faith in myself, with work wearing me down and the ‘rona keeping me stressed.
  • At the beginning, I didn’t have a great sense of what needed to go into an outline. I’d have some that were four pages long and others that were four lines long. This obviously produced inconsistent results. With practice, however, I got better at crafting an outline to get an article of good length without too much effort when it came time to write.
  • Improving my editing skills is a similar story. I actually sucked at editing in general until I needed to do it with all the posts I’ve prepped. This is what people mean when they say that you should finish your stories, by the way. You can’t improve until you actually do the thing you need to improve upon. 
  • I’ve narrowed down what my voice should be for this blog. It took time, and lots of editing in the beginning, but it is consistent and natural now.
  • After doing some more reading about writing, I’ve figured out what my recently rejected story “The Errant Crow” needs to be better.

What Didn’t Go Well:

  • Physical/mental/emotional neglect. I didn’t take breaks as often as I should. I stalled my health by not exercising. I didn’t take any planned days off. This all accumulated until I burned out for a bit and pulled muscles, pinched nerves, and had panic attacks. This might be more related to anxiety over the ‘rona, but burning myself out definitely didn’t help. 
  • At the beginning I tried to write without outlines, and this lead to a lot of unusable crap on the page. Which isn’t bad when you’re still trying to figure things out in a story, but isn’t sustainable when you need to write a bunch of posts within a short amount of time.
  • I kept trying to write just whenever. A lot of mornings were spent shuffling about until I had to log on for work, costing me writing time. At lunch, I typically needed to, y’know, eat, and after work I wanted to hang out with my spouse – or rather, he was done with work and it was impossible to concentrate with him loose. So the morning was the only guaranteed time I had to get some work done.
  • I had originally started with the plan of alternating what I was going to write every day. Monday would be a post writing day, Tuesday a short story day, Wednesday I would work on my novel, repeat for Thursday through Saturday and then Sunday would be whatever I needed to work on most. What it turned into was me writing a lot of outlines, then some posts, then a tiny bit of a short story, then burning out and not writing anything for a few days, and then realizing I’m not on track to meet my self-imposed deadlines and panic-writing posts for awhile, then feeling guilty about not writing any fiction, then burning out again…whew! That’s exhausting just to type out, let alone live.
  • Having not sorted this last point out until very recently, means that I didn’t actually write anything toward any of my novels (as you can see in the picture above).

Goals or Action Items for Next Month

  • Take planned breaks.
  • Stick to a schedule that makes sense and is doable, while also allowing for flexibility.
  • Exercise regularly – at least stand up and stretch every so often.
  • Eat well and (gasp) don’t drink too much coffee.
  • Continue to revise and change “The Errant Crow” until ready for submission.
  • Start working on my novels again, alternating with the short stories, if at all possible.

The schedule that I’ve settled on (for now) is writing posts in “seasons.” Basically I’ll write a bunch of articles during a set time while taking a break on my fiction. After I’ve got enough to last for a few months (assuming new developments or feedback don’t require rewrites or extra articles), I can go back. This is excluding the retros, obviously. I can’t write those in advance.

This takes away the stress I feel not doing one or the other, since I’m not expecting to do both at the same time (which is madness, really). 

I’ve also written up a loosely-structured schedule for both weekdays and weekends and have posted it up on the cork board in my office. We’ll see how well I actually stick to it, as I’ve taken up some side projects. If I don’t, it gives me another method that doesn’t work, and I can try something new next month.


What about you folx: how has your month gone well, not gone well, and what can you do in June to improve?

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