The Power of Breaking Streaks

The power of breaking streaks has been on my mind. I quit the day job to become a full-time writer at the end of February, 2018 (No Pants Day, as we celebrate it around here). I had previously been tracking my writing as an annual thing, but in March and April I realized that I had greatly increased my writing speed and output, so I created a new spreadsheet to track. Ended up with just over 75k words for the month.

Pulp Speed One is only 83,334 words per month. One millions words per year. Pulp Two is 100,000/month. Hell, I can do this.

In May of 2018, I pushed a little, aided by a writing marathon. Ended up at 120k, or Pulp Speed Three. In the four years since, I have never fallen below 100,000 words, though there have been several times where I had to crush in in the last week to make that number. Usually February (short month) and August/September (busy season.)

This August, I’ll be going to Minneapolis for a week of family vacation, then doing CONvergence after that. I told them I was open to doing a lot of panels when I signed up. At most cons, that means I’ll get 4-6 over a 3-4 day weekend. They took me serious. Way serious. I have, between panels, signing, reading, and appearing on a podcast, sixteen things I’m doing from Thursday to Sunday. Like, all day, every day, basically.

I can do it. Have done it in the past. However, to do something like that, I turn on a mode called “Carnival Barker” which I’m pretty good at. However, he’s a mask. Not me at all. A bright, energetic, hyperactive lunatic.

Last time I did it was Rose City Comic Con in 2018. Ugly weekend.

Basically, I stop writing, because all my energy goes into performance instead. Different kind of creative.

Minneapolis will be no different, considering how much of each day I will be “On.”

Travel day out, plus four days of con, means I can expect to lose 20-25,000 words from my normal pace, plus however long it takes me to recover afterwards. (Taking a train home over two days, just to see the sights and do something Anti-Stodgy.)

With that in mind, I was talking to Fabulous Publisher Babe™ last night. Came to realize that I COULD do catch up afterwards, but that would drain me even more.

There’s this thing called a Streak. I’ve been on it for more than four years now. It threatens to take control, because we’re all competitive that way. I’m competing against myself, and nobody else, but it is still a competition.

I realized that I needed to come to grips with the streak breaking. Then I decided that I should simply break the streak entirely. Gone. Over. Start a new one for a while.

So instead of a cap of 120,000 words per month (all she’ll allow me), my cap in August will be 80,000. Yeah, I realize, still a shit ton of words compared to some folks. I also know people that put that out in a week and a half.

Stopping at 80 (and I do mean stopping, whichever day I hit that number, whichever paragraph, too) means I will not cross Pulp Speed One for the month. I think that I will still sustain Pulp Three for the year, as that’s 1.4 million words, and I’m currently about 50,000 above that, which I will offset by losing 40k here, which I can make up down the stretch.

If I want to.

Breaking the streak means that I don’t have to. I am currently about a year ahead on my publishing schedule (writing things now that will come out next summer/fall), with another year or so worth of Book Ones in the can where I need to write the rest of the series before I start publishing them.

Losing 40k here is not the end of the world, mostly because I’ve been really jamming on novellas this spring and summer. Ballpark 20k for a complete story as part of a much longer series arc, in a manner similar to the first eight Science Officer books (all 24-33k).

And I’m having fun writing. Short, medium, long. I have the second Kincaide’s War book done. Vehicles of Epiphany came in at 157k. (The Eden Package was 163k).

So I’m going to take something of a reverse vacation in August. Do other things, though I’m not sure what. Not write as much or as focused, which likely means that I’ll be backbraining a lot of weirdness.

That and maybe working with English Paul on a Punk Rock Opera. There’s always that.

But I’ll control the breaking of the streak, so it won’t weigh on me with the guilt. I’m a little sad ahead of time, but I’ll be over it and moving on by then. That’s good.

What kinds of streaks do you have, and should you consider breaking them now, so they don’t take over your life?