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More About Tracking and Creativity

Last week I blogged about having a group of fellow writers (or other creatives) with whom you periodically “check-in” regarding the status of your work and creative life.

I currently have several outlets for this sort of communal interaction:

  1. My local writer friends, who I meet with monthly and converse with on-line, regularly.

  2. Non-local Twitter friends, including a weekly Tweet Chat group.

  3. Former Queens University MFA classmates who have formed a Facebook group, as well as my own Facebook artist/business page.

  4. Email and blog comment discussions.

Talking with others about what is inspiring you, how your work is progressing, and areas where you could use advice, guidance, or accountability is an important component of keeping your creative momentum. Writing is a solitary activity, but our work benefits greatly from interacting with a writing community.

Tracking your progress is important, too. (I’ve blogged about it before.) As various on-line friends and I were talking about last week’s posts about community, I noticed that fellow writer/blogger Shannon Howell is using a progress bar tracker on her blog to graphically represent her work product. She has set a goal and is updating her progress as she gets closer and closer to the goal.

About the same time I noticed Shannon’s progress bar, I read the Paris Review interview with Ernest Hemingway. In that interview it says that Hemingway:

…keeps track of his daily progress–“so as not to kid myself”–on a large chart made out of the side of a cardboard packing case and set up against the wall…the numbers on the chart showing daily output of words differ…the higher figures on days Hemingway puts in extra work so he won’t feel guilty spending the following day fishing…

It occurred to me that what Shannon is doing is the tech-oriented equivalent of Hemingway’s cardboard packing case. A little more modern, but the principle remains the same.

I’m not a fan of discussing the content of a work-in-progress, but I do believe in the motivating power of tracking our creative work, and even talking about the progress we are (or aren’t) making. Shannon’s progress bar allows her to track her work–to not, in Hemingway’s words, kid herself–and, since she’s made her progress bar visible and public, it allows other writer friends to call her on if she’s slipping behind, or congratulate her when she’s moving full-steam ahead. Additionally, tracking can give us the assurance, like Hemingway needed from time to time, that it’s okay to spend the day fishing, because we’ve been putting in the work required to keep moving forward.

As I prepared to post this, I checked Shannon’s progress. She’s more than 50% done with her month’s goal, and we are less than half-way through February. Right on track. Way to go, Shannon! Keep it up.

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