habits

A New Kind of 2016 Planner for Productivity with Gratitude

Happy new year, everyone! I’m trying an experiment and I’d love to have you join me in it.

I’ve designed a different kind of page-a-day planner that helps you overview your schedule and tasks while also cultivating gratitude, good habits, and human connection. I really built it for myself, but I think a lot of you would find it useful as well, and I’m interested in hearing how it works and how I can make the next one even better.

Here’s a link: The Wise Frog 2016 Planner

If you’re anything like me, you care a lot about productivity and setting good habits, but you also don’t want to be a task-oriented productivity drone. There’s a form of “success” that totally misses the point of life.

For me last year was very productive (published a few books, started Clickworks Press, published a couple other peoples’ books, etc.) but a lot of that came at the expense of time and attention I could have given my two-year-old girl, my wife, my close friends, and some non-book-related roles and responsibilities I have.

I basically spent a year completely obsessed with many layers of writing and publishing and selling stories, and while I think it was worth it as a short-term price for a long-term investment in my writing career, it’s not the pattern I really want my life to take.

Here’s where the experiment comes in.

I designed The Wise Frog 2016 Planner as a way to balance my day-to-day tasks and goals with what’s really important to me at a deeper level. I’m a systems guy, and it’s easy for me to make very streamlined to-do lists and productivity systems that keep me rushing toward the next release, next improvement, next success.

In fact, I can get so good at making a checked-off to-do feel like the win that I routinely put off playing with my lovely daughter or looking into my wife’s gorgeous eyes because I’m doing some dumb bit of coding or finalizing a table of contents or something. That is not the win.

So the Wise Frog is here to help. It’s a page-a-day planner with that is friendly and imperfect and has spots for my schedule, my big goals for the day, and also for gratitude, storytelling, tracking my human connections, working on habits, and jotting down ideas.

Even after one day of use I’m loving it. It’s built to not only plan ahead but also to note down a few key points of what my day was like so that over time I can look back and see patterns in my mood and activities and what I cared about. The spaces are small and focused and, as an obsessive, fiddly, over-achieving sort, it’s oddly refreshing to be able to fill them out in seconds (really to have to fill them out in seconds; there’s no room for an essay), and I’m already surprised at what a rich picture of my life they paint in just a few quick words.

It’s also crazy how much it has already changed my day. Today, unlike yesterday, I exercised and meditated and took time to reflect on how much I loved baking pretend pies with my daughter, all thanks to this little white day planner with a silly off-center frog on the cover.

So anyway, take a look, or share it with the people you know who might get value from something like this, and if you get one let me know how you used it and what kind of difference it made for you. (And, of course, how you’d make it better.) I look forward to hearing your stories.

Here’s the link again, where you can get a more detailed look: The Wise Frog 2016 Planner

Here’s to a brilliant new year! Thanks for all your love and support and interest. You guys are the best!

Cheers,

—Ben

Advertisements

What’s More Important: Progress or Discipline?

What do you do when your passion for one worthwhile goal edges out your progress on another worthwhile goal?

My goals for March include writing a whole lot of Frobisher and a tiny sample of Hubris Towers.

But Hubris Towers has proven incredibly fun to write, with the result that so far this month I’ve written a whole lot of Hubris Towers and a modest amount of Frobisher. More precisely, I’ve hit a third of my minimum goal for Frobisher, and maybe ten times my stretch goal for Hubris Towers.

That raises an interesting question: Is it more valuable to make fast progress or to stick with the plan?

My guess is most people would vote for fast progress, assuming it’s good-quality progress on a worthwhile task. And there’s a good argument to be made for that. If each of several tasks (say, work on 3 different drafts) will be contributing to your overall goals (say, publishing lots of books), then it stands to reason that the more quantity you can achieve, the sooner you’ll reach your overall goals. If you can write 100 pages of one book instead of 20 of the other, why not go for the easy win, right?

But if you’re dealing with a well-designed long-term strategy I’m going to argue for sticking with the plan. That’s right. Given my March plans, I’d ultimately rather hit 12,000+ words on Frobisher and 500 words on Hubris Towers than 4,000 words on Frobisher and 12,000+ on Hubris Towers, even though it’s adding less to my total word count, and even though it seriously could mean not reaching some of my publishing and financial goals as quickly.

Because in the long term, patterns matter.

Right now any time I choose to write the quick, easy, fun story over the tricky, deep (but fun) story, I’m training myself to do the work that appeals to me in the moment, not the work that is strategically valuable. And I’m training myself to act like the goals and deadlines I set for myself don’t matter.

Every writing project—really any important project you love—is going to hit a point where it gets tricky, where the ideas aren’t flowing as smoothly or the next steps aren’t as much fun as they used to be. A new project or a new system or a quick win can feel like a delightful escape, like you’re finally making real progress again and your work is fun and meaningful.

But every new project will, at some point, start feeling tricky and unglamorous too, and the real key to success lies in that decision point: push through and finish, or start developing the next fun, interesting idea?

In the end I’d rather know that I can keep the promises that I set and that no matter how tricky or complicated or unglamorous a goal feels in the moment, I can reliably push through and deliver anyway.

In the end, I’d rather keep finishing important projects than keep reaching the unglamorous halfway point of fun new ideas.

100+ Copies Sold, 100,000 Words, and Other Big Round Numbers

The last few weeks have been tons of fun and tons of work. I’ve been putting in so much time and effort on writing and laying infrastructure that it’s almost starting to feel like I have two full-time jobs. But I’m starting to hit early milestones, and it’s exciting verging on addictive.

A couple highlights:

  • I wrote over 4,500 words over the weekend. Almost a full week’s production in one day! (For the non-writers, that’s around 15 papberback pages.)
  • I hit 100,000 words on The Unaccountable Death of Derelict Frobisher. Woo! Big round number!
  • I’ve sold over 100 copies of The Stone and the Song and counting!

A few more, converted into various bases1 to help them look like milestones:

  • Hubris Towers has reached over 25,0006 words! (Not only that, but we’ve got the first 1,0002 episodes sketched out. Wow.)
  • I’ve posted over 100,0009 words of The Dream World Collective, and you can read them free here! (For you base 14 types, that’s over D014 pages!)
  • To put a more dramatic spin on it, I’ve sold over 10,0003 copies of The Stone and the Song and counting! Don’t get left out – get your copy now!

Cheers!

—Ben


1Note: In case you are not a math geek like me, these numbers are not as big as they look. For example, 1,0002 equals 8 in regular (base 10) numbers. Don’t be fooled by my cunning mathematical treacheries.

February in Review + March Goals

Some pretty cool writers I follow are writing month-end reviews and goals. It’s a great idea. I might make a practice of it, too. Certainly last month was great and this month is exciting, so I’m going to try it out today.

February Accomplishments

  1. I released my first story,The Stone and the Song, on Amazon. Lots of work, but a smashing success!
  2. Released 2 more sections of The Dream World Collective.
  3. Launched my mailing list and got 2-3x industry average open and click rates. Because my people are awesome. Sign up here for friendly notes and mysterious missions.
  4. Wrote more of The Unaccountable Death of Derelict Frobisher. Uncharacteristically, I’m not sure how much.
  5. Recorded about half of the audiobook version of The Stone and the Song.
  6. Established rough concept for Hubris Towers, an upcoming serial fiction collaboration, with Bill.
  7. Wrote a blog post every week day.

March Goals

  1. The Unaccountable Death of Derelict Frobisher – Current word count: 96,642
    • Minimum: Write 12,000 words (avg. 3,000/wk)
    • Target: Write 22,000 words (avg. 5,000/wk)
    • Stretch: Round it up and hit 120,000 words total. (That’s my projected total word count! Could finish the rough draft this month! That’s crazy!)
  2. The Dream World Collective
    • Minimum: Release 2 sections on Patreon
    • Target: Release 3 sections and overview remaining rewrites needed before launch
    • Stretch: Release 4 sections and overview
  3. The Stone and the Song
    • Minimum: Keep encouraging readers to leave reviews
    • Target: Release paperback
    • Stretch: Release paperback and audiobook
  4. Hubris Towers
    • Minimum: Sketch characters, setting, and rough arc for Season 1
    • Target: Above plus sketch concept for each episode in Season 1
    • Stretch: Above plus write partial episode to test process and develop speed projections
  5. Write a blog post every week day.

Oh, man. This is such an exciting time! Let me know in comments or at byfaroe at gmail dot com if you’re interested in beta reading, collaborating, or chatting about the art and business of writing. I love this stuff and I love finding other writers who are serious about making it a career and/or lifestyle.

Cheers!

—Ben

Back to Job One: Write More Words

My first book launch is (mostly) over. It was highly successful and highly educational, a crazy whirlwind of 18-hour days and emotional highs and strategy and enthusiasm and screenshots. Now it’s time to get back to the real work and joy of being a writer: writing.

Launch Highlights

The Stone and the Song: A Fairy TaleThe launch of The Stone and the Song was a test run in preparation for upcoming full-length novel launches. For a first release and a short work, I was surprised and pleased with how well it did:

  • Nearly 100 pre-orders
  • 4 days on the Top 20 Amazon Best Seller list in Fairy Tales
  • Broke the top 10k in Amazon paid rankings
  • Really lovely response in early customer reviews

Above all, I’m incredibly grateful for the massive enthusiasm shown by my friends, acquantances, long-lost friends, friends-of-friends, and new readers throughout this launch. I was blown away by all of your kind words, word-of-mouth, and eager purchases. Thank you to everyone who was involved!

Back to Work

Pre-order and launch was a really intense couple of weeks. I put in many hours beyond the day job working on final formatting, marketing copy, promotion, and infrastructure. I indulged in the urge to obsessively refresh my stats—hey, you only get one debut book launch, right?—and record and celebrate and angst and adjust things. I allowed myself to get fully sucked into the experience, and I learned a ton.

And then, like waking up, I realized all of it had been a week or two out of my life, and the Big Climactic Launch Day is actually the beginning of my book’s life in the world, not the end. I’ve stopped obsessively refreshing—it’s going to be a little while before Amazon recommendations and new organic sales start kicking in, even if that happens. And I’m ready to move on.

This was fun, but it’s all in the service of a bigger goal: a life spent writing. Now that the bulk of the work on Stone & Song is done, I’m finding it’s oddly pleasing to let it go and get back to business on the next big thing. Today’s goal is 1,000 words on Frobisher and, if I can swing it, uploading the next chunk of The Dream World Collective for free reading on Patreon. I really enjoy the strategy and the friends and the energy of a launch, but I love the writing.
Cheers!
Ben

Inspiration

Here’s the kind of inspirational quote I can get behind.

“You could say this advice is priceless,” she said. “Are you listening?”

“Yes,” said Tiffany.

“Good. Now…if you trust in yourself…”

“Yes?”

“…and believe in your dreams…”

“Yes?”

“…and follow your star…” Miss Tick went on.

“Yes?”

“…you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy. Good-bye.”

— The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett