Motivation, Momentum & More: My Results with the Magic Spreadsheet & Why You Should Try It
Posted August 11, 2014on:
I admit it—I’m crushing hard. Two months ago, I wrote about a free motivational tool called ‘The Magic Spreadsheet’ developed by Tony Pisculli. This is one of the most helpful writing ideas I’ve come across in a long time and I can’t speak highly enough of it.
Here is a link to my first post that goes into detail about the Magic Spreadsheet, its origins and how to find the links to join.
Since I’ve become such a fan, I thought I’d report back about why I think the ‘MS’ is so great and what it’s has been like to use it.
Recap: The ‘MS’ is a fun way to get past the twin challenges of motivation and momentum regarding writing. The commitment is to write 250 words every day (you can always do more) and to enter your word count into a public Google spreadsheet. The program keeps track of your daily word count (like magic). And, you get awarded points and levels along the way for consistency and higher word counts. The points and levels add a cool element of ‘gamification’ to the Magic Spreadsheet. And, if you write 250 words a day, in a year you’ll have a draft of a book.
Motivation: It can be very hard to stay motivated to write, especially when working on long projects. Think about the chapter, report, or essay you are trying to finish right now. It’s hard to get up the motivation to tackle something so big. But, writing 250 words a day feels very easy to sustain. Most of us can muster up the motivation to write 1-2 paragraphs that will take about 15-20 minutes. If you do more, that’s great. But if you don’t, at least you’ve got your 250 words done for the day and you’ve moved some project along.
Momentum: Momentum is such an important component in a writer’s life. It makes the difference between finished projects and unfinished ones. How does one develop momentum? It’s much easier if you are consistent, which means writing frequently.
Walter Mosley in his essay, ‘For Authors, Fragile Ideas Need Loving Every Day’* makes this point with care: “Nothing we create is art at first. It’s simply a collection of notions that may never be understood. Returning every day thickens the atmosphere. Images appear. Connections are made. But even these clearer notions will fade if you stay away more than a day.”
The MS helps to strengthen your momentum.
When you get too far away from a project (days, weeks or even years), it’s harder and harder to muster the motivation to pick up where you left off. Once you fall out of a writing rhythm, it becomes harder and harder to recapture the momentum that you once had. I also find that steady momentum helps keep those pesky inner critics at bay. They see you doing the work and shut up (or at least pester you about other things).
More: I love the ritual that I have gotten into in using the MS. When I’m done with my words, I go and log them in to the MS. This act now completes my writing ritual. I also enjoy looking at other people who are on my page (each page or tab has hundreds of people). Although I don’t know them, by occasionally scrolling down through their entries, it reinforces a feeling that we are all in this crazy writing business together. Everyone has challenges getting motivated and sustaining momentum. I feel less lonely looking at all the other people attempting their 250 words a day like me. And, I’ve even looked up some the writers to find out more about them.
I decided to use the Magic Spreadsheet to track my creative work only. Some people are using it to track their dissertations, academic articles, etc., and the MS works well for that, too. I also knew I wanted to work on multiple projects. Many people use the spreadsheet just for new writing or moving forward on a first draft of a novel, memoir, etc.
My 7-days a week, 250+ words practice has generated:
-One essay submission
-One poem that I had in draft form for two years
-A new short prose poem. I wrote this the same day I revised the other poem.
-Three columns for the Chapel Hill News
-Revisions on 4 short stories
-A conclusion to a story that I was having trouble with for several months
-Several blog posts (including this one)
-Two 3 page synopses of possible novels that I’m auditioning for in preparation for NaNoWriMo
-6 character sketches for one of the above possible novels
-Drafting and outlining for my old unfinished novel
-30,000 words in 65 days
Some of these pieces might have written because of standing deadlines, but most would not have been written without the nudge of the Magic Spreadsheet. And, much of the work has felt effortless.
I’m a believer. I’m a convert. I’m in love with the MS. Try it. It just might change your writing life.
*You can find Mosely’s essay in Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times (2001).