When things don’t go entirely as planned

Several things didn’t go as planned this week, as I had a few unforeseen schedule changes, a bit of bad luck with my running, and a pretty bad day at work near the end of the week. As a result, both my running and my writing suffered (I missed a writing day and my long run is going to be 6k instead of 10K).

So what do you do when things don’t go entirely as planned?

Get back on the horse — so you missed a day, or didn’t make your daily word count, so what? Projects that are worth doing don’t live and die on a day (looking at you NaNoWriMo), but on accumulated body of work done over several weeks, months and years. Do you know what is entirely unhelpful to achieving that work? Getting so caught up in you missing a day that you decide to give up entirely. Get back on the horse, get back to fulfilling your daily goal today instead of fixating on what happened yesterday. .

Don’t go into a spiral of trying to make up for the lost work — that’s a great way to set yourself up to fail. If you set 500 words or a 5K run for today, you probably aren’t going to be able to do that and make up for the 500 words and 6K that you missed yesterday. So then you beat yourself up again, feel crummy, and set yourself up to fail by dragging more and more work with you from day to day until you give up. If you missed a day, then you missed a day. Move on.

Focus on what did happen — in my case, my reading this week sky-rocketted, and I spent more time with my family. That doesn’t make up for everything else, but it is something positive that I’m glad happened.

Partial work is better than no work — I ran a 0.5k this week, which sucked, but was better than nothing. There were also days when I wrote only 20 or 30 words. That’s not great, but its better than nothing, and every little thing can keep the habit going.

Check what went wrong and when, and see if you can learn from it for the future — were you too ambitious? Do you need to rework your plan to account for something that you couldn’t foresee when you first built it? Don’t make excuses, but do be honest and make some changes if necessary.

Leave enough ‘breathing room’ in your schedule for these kind of off days — this was my biggest mistake, and the one is going to be hardest to fix, long term. My running schedule can (still) suffer a few delays, but I’m prepping for a race in the fall, and I can’t really afford to leave things like my long run for the evening of the last day in the week. Earlier is better, and making sure that your goals are achievable even if you aren’t at peak performance is important — especially for endurance sports like running and novel writing.

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Some beautiful dahlias to make up for the slightly depressing topic.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out for a run.

When things don’t go entirely as planned

The Mac I need

I use a MacBook Pro 15” (late 2013) as my personal computer, and for all of my writing. I was looking into upgrading this year, and found out that there’ nothing for me now in Apple’s lineup. 
The iMacs are nice, but they’re too expensive for me (our local reseller sells them at double their price in the US, which isn’t cheap to begin with), and there have been recurring reports of reliability problems with them.

The MacBook adorable is very thin, very light, but too weak and with too small a screen to be my one and only computer. This is the traveling businessman’s choice.

The MacBook Pro lineup is terrible. It’s too expensive, I don’t need or want a touchbar, and none of them have the ports that I need and use: an SD card and a USB 3.0 port. As it is I have to use a USB hub at home, which is terrible (and crashes my Mac’s Wi-Fi reception whenever it’s too close to the back of the laptop), clunky and inconvenient.

The MacBook Air would have been good enough, if Apple would have updated its ridiculous screen.


So after a bit of thought, it looks like I get to keep my money for another year or two, with the hopes that either Apple gets its act together when it comes to Macs, or I will be able to do all of my work on the iPad++ Pro 17” or something.

The Mac I need

Brain dump

A few great things to read:


What else?

  • Drafting the last chapter of my novel. Writing this chapter is pure indulgence. 
  • runDisney virtual 5k race medals have arrived. Going to earn my first medal today. 
  • My Nock co Lanier briefcase arrived and I’ve started using it. I may do a review after using it for a few days. For now it carries my iPad Pro 9.7”, a Moleskine large notebook, and some loose papers. 
  • Something dreadful is attacking my plants. Investigating…
Brain dump

Top 5 pens

In the recent Pen Addict Podcast, Brad and Myke discussed their top 5 pens, and that made me think about my top 5 pens. Do I even have a top 5? I never actually ranked my pens until now — I just use them.

After a bit of thought, I came up with this list of my favourite five pens. These are all perfect for long writing sessions, but they’re not necessarily the best for begninners, or for showing off your handwriting, so take that into consideration before you purchase any of these:

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Nakaya Cigar Piccolo Negoro Kise Hon Kataji black/red with elastic flexible medium rhodium nib — that’s quite a mouthful for a relatively small pen. This pen was made to order for me, and I had to wait quite a while and pay quite a bit for it, but it was totally worth it. The nib is a dream, and like no other nib that I own — it’s springy. It isn’t a wet noodle by any stretch, but shows a good amount of line variation, is very comfortable to write with, and is super easy to clean. The most beautiful pen that I own, in a very understated way, it’s the best all-rounder in this list.

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Parker 51 — I have quite a collection of these vintage classics, and I have yet to be disappointed with one. They somehow manage to make my handwriting really good looking, and they are fun to write with (though a bit of a pain to clean). Not the prettiest of pens, but I love their sleek looks, and they are workhorses.

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Franklin Cristoff Model 66 Stabilis Antique Glass with a 1.1 stub converted to an eyedropper pen — this pen is gorgeous, comfortable for long term writing, helps show off ink (both because you can see it sloshing around and since it lays down a significant line), and makes even the simplist handwriting look great without going overboard in terms of line thickness. It’s also super simple to clean out (though beware of staining inks), and the nib is a stunner, especially for a steel nib.

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Ti Arto with a Uni-ball UMR-85N refill— this has now become my daily journaling pen, and although it isn’t a fountain pen it is comfortable for long writing sessions, mainly because it has a relatively thick barrel and is relatively light for a machined pen. It writes well on all types of paper, including Moleskines, is relatively cheap, and accepts a dizzing array of refills. This is a pen that I don’t mind slipping into my pocket or tossing into my bag — it’s built to last and can take the punishment.

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Lamy 2000 Fine — this pen is not without faults, as the little metal prongs that hold the cap in place can get in the way of your grip, and my old 2000 is cracking in several places (ugly-fixed with superglue), but I still love it. The gold nib allows for just enough line variation to make it perfect for both writing and sketching, and the capacity is just fantastic. I’m also a big fan of its understated looks, but if you’re looking for something with more zing, this may not be the pen for you. I also bought another one, in extra-fine (after my old 2000 started cracking), and I have to say that its nib isn’t as good as my old 2K. So I’d recommend it, but only if you’re willing to tune it (either yourself, or take it to a nibsmith), if necessary.

These are my workhorses, and at any given time at least two or three of these are in use. Experimenting with pens in nice, but when you’re working on writing a novel or have a good chunk of writing to do, the snazzy wet noodles and music nibs give way to more dependable choices that are also always a joy to use.

Top 5 pens

Tracking your golden writing hours

As I’ve built myself a writing plan, I’ve also started tracking my best writing hours. These are the times of day when I find writing easier and more enjoyable. My goal is to make sure, as much as possible, that my best writing hours as spent doing exactly that — writing.

The problem is that tracking is a drag. Luckily, I don’t need to track my writing time down to the minute or even precisely to the hour. Just knowing that mornings are my best writing times, that I can get some writing done in the afternoon, and that I’m practically useless late in the evening, or after a run, or after a full day of meetings at work is enough. It made me get up earlier in the past few days and try to get as much writing as possible done before I go to work.

When you log your word count for the day, take a minute to also note when you wrote most of those words down, and after a week or to you should have a better idea when your golden writing hours are. Then it’s just a question of protecting them as much as you can.

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Tracking your golden writing hours

Streaks vs. Plans

I was in a bit of a writing slump over the past two months or so, and I tried to solve it by trying to get as long a streak as possible of writing every day.

I managed to go three days in a row, and then failed.

Now I’m using a writing plan that I drew up for myself, and I’ve gone 7 days in a row with more words written each day than I planned, and I’ve written more each day than I did during my short-lived streak. Why is that?

Streaks are something that we think helps us move forward, create habits, but I think they only give us the illusion of being helpful. Yes, if you’re on a streak, you really don’t want to break it — especially if it’s a long one. But streaks don’t motivate you to finish your daily goal early, or go beyond the goals. Streaks let you postpone things to the last minute — after all, you only miss your goal when the day has passed. They are inflexible — you set the same goal for each and every day, no matter what.

Plans allow you to do just that — plan your daily goal to accomodate your life. Busy day? Set a smaller goal. You have the day off? Set a more ambitious goal. They also don’t set you back to zero if you fail, and encourage you to try for at least a partial success, because not everything is lost if life happened and you didn’t meet your goal. There’s also less of a pressure with a well made plan to “keep extra words for tomorrow”. If you have something to write, write it. 

Just like athletes use training plans and not training streaks to prepare for a race, writers should use writing plans and not streaks to get their daily words in. 

Streaks vs. Plans