When working on a long project, I often get lost in the details and have no idea if I’m making any progress at all. It’s a proverbial case of not seeing the forest for the trees. But I have developed a solution to this quandary: logging.
Think about a sea captain (or a starship captain, if you’re a Trekkie like me). On a long voyage, the captain would keep a log of the coordinates and the ship’s progress. Hundreds of years ago, the transatlantic trip would take months, much akin to writing a novel.
I devised a box system (because I love checking things off) to track my progress on a long work. Each box represents a single page of written work. I will sometimes make notes if I ended up spending several days on revising. But after a few weeks, my progress is easy to see. Not only with my official page count, but also with a diary of notes related to the work.
I also took the process a step farther when revising a novel. I knew the layout of the chapters and the plot, but it was a zombie attack and I needed more people to perish. So I tracked each character through the chapters and saw innovative places where I could do away with more people. This gave me a bird’s eye view of the entire novel.
I know some folks do this sort of thing on a spreadsheet, but I’m an analog guy and prefer to map it out in pencil and pen. It feels more real to me. Plus I don’t mind if it get’s messy with fixups and changes.
So if you feel bogged down, and only inching along on a project, start keeping a log. You’ll be surprised how much progress you are actually making. But keep it simple. You want to keep your focus on the creation of art, not the recording of your attempts.