Language Learning and Procrastination

I’ve mentioned in passing before that I write fiction in addition to the variety of other things I fill up all my time with.  In truth, though, there hasn’t been much fiction writing happening for the last few years for me, so when November came around, the month of NaNoWriMo, I decided that I ought to do something for it as a way to try and kick things back into gear.  At the same time, I didn’t want to set Spanish aside for a whole month, so I opted for a sort of half Nano goal to hopefully fit in around everything else I had going on.

To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much of myself with it.  I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo in the past twice before.  The first time was about five years ago, I failed, and I failed kinda miserably.  I had a reasonably strong first week, ending up maybe a day behind on the necessary word-count to be on schedule that I figured I could make up for over the course of the rest of the month with some slightly-better-than-the-target days.  Then the second week went south fast with a couple missed days, and by the third week I was so far behind I gave it up.  I think I ended up with perhaps 20,000 words for that month altogether, which isn’t a terrible thing to be left with, but when your goal was 50,000, it’s not exactly an “almost.”  Were it a high school test, I’d have gotten an F.

The second attempt was a few years later, and was approached from a more experienced perspective and with a different motive.  I knew what I had done wrong, I readjusted my expectations, and opted for a more modest goal than the actual NaNoWriMo challenge suggests.  I would go for 25,000 words instead.  I had a different ulterior motive in mind than I had during the first attempt; I hadn’t done much writing in a few months and was feeling down in the dumps, so I wanted to kickstart my writing again.  I figured in asking myself for an average of a little over 800 words a day would get me going again and I’d be able to enter into December with a minor sense of accomplishment.

Aaaaaand I failed that one, too.  I’m fuzzier on how close I got that time, but I think it was around 15,000 altogether.  While it did work in jumpstarting my writing, I didn’t have the sense of accomplishment, and as is common for me, my sustained period of writing piddled out after a while.  This last year has been very barren on the fiction writing front.  Going into November, I hadn’t written anything since the October of the year before.

If you were to judge me based only on these blogs, and I were to say that I have problems with procrastination, you would probably call me a lunatic.  Here I am six months deep on this blog project with week after week of consistent progress in working on learning Spanish.  I’ve had really good days and really bad days, but I’ve yet to have a completely missed day.  This is not the work of a procrastinator, it’s the work of a very consistent, borderline workaholic, devoting hours a day on what is ultimately a hobby.  Me calling myself a procrastinator must be the claim of someone who doesn’t understand what procrastination actually is, and thinks that spending an hour watching TV after getting home from work before doing the dishes is “procrastination,” right?  A misguided and ignorant framing of a real problem as something less than it is, by someone who just doesn’t understand.  Well, that really isn’t the case for me.

I have had years of my life swallowed up by procrastination.  The deep, scary, helpless kind of procrastination that doubles up with depression and sinks someone into a mire of self-loathing that lasts for months on end.  Days when I told myself that all I needed to do was one thing, try to get started on one, simple, solitary thing and I could count it as a victory, and I couldn’t even get myself to do that much.

This is maybe sounding a bit like a confessional, but I’m just trying to set the appropriate stage here.  I have struggled with procrastination since I was a young teenager, and I have struggled hard, with brief windows of intense action followed by long periods of fallow, and all I’ve ever really wanted to be able to do was construct a way to have consistency day to day in what I do and how I work.

In the past year, shortly after I last wrote fiction and had drifted back into procrastination, I started teaching myself Spanish.  And, in the early going, I was wildly inconsistent at it.  I’d have good days, days of nothing, weeks of nothing, a couple of good days, more nothing, and so on, with me struggling through my old habits.  It got easier over time, especially as I got to the point where I could fight my way through books.  One of the main reasons I started this blog was to have some form of authority to be beholden to and account for my progress, and at the point I had started it I was at a pretty consistent flow with things and was afraid I was about to tumble off the procrastination wagon, so I really wanted that accountability.

Since then, well, the blogs are pretty clear on how that’s worked out.  I’ve increased my overall focus over time on the day to day and have been going strong and consistently with this project.  This blog probably helped with that, but I’d say more realistically that I’ve just gotten used to it.  Doing this daily is part of being a person for me now, like brushing my teeth when I wake up.  My old habits are still there and I end up wasting time here and there that could be spent working, but it’s more like the fake-procrastinator idea than what it used to be like.  Overall, I’ve been very pleased with this development, and how I feel about my life.  The one thing that was really missing was the fiction writing.

So, in comes November, and it’s NaNoWriMo time, and I want to do something for it without sacrificing my Spanish learning.  My days feel super packed as it is and I’m worried that I’d be trying to squeeze blood from a turnip to try and add on another thing, but on the other hand I know I’m wasting a reasonably hefty amount of time on garbage, and if I set my sights low enough, I can maybe come through the other end with a modest success and some words to show for it, and some analyzable data of what I can manage around the Spanish to try and make fiction writing a sustainable addition to my life.  I decided to take the first two or three days of the month and see what I could manage to write and play it by ear in figuring out a goal.

The first few days went well, and I settled on a very modest goal of 15,000 words for the month with a daily target word count of 750 (giving me a buffer for lapses) while counting these blogs as part of that word count.  Then the weekend passed, and after having written the blog for that week and the fiction target, I amended that goal to not count the blogs.  Then the month was half over, and I was on pace to break the 750-words-per-day-on-average total of 22,500 words, with only one missed day thanks to other commitments that was immediately followed by a double-length writing day making up for it.

I think that maybe six months of daily, consistent, heavily structured language studying killed my procrastination?

I’m still sort of flabbergasted by it, almost two thirds of the way through the month with no real bumps or bruises.  I’ve had a few days where I’ve started and ended later than I meant to, but no real signs of my old problems rearing up and driving me away from the Word doc.  I still waste time and get annoyed with myself over it, but at the end of the day, I’m recording successes in my pursuits.  I can say with confidence that going this hard isn’t sustainable forever, and after November’s over I’ll be cutting back a little, but I think I can keep up this daily writing going forward without problems.

A lot of people refer to learning a second language as self-improvement, which I think is a good way to look at it.  I just wasn’t really expecting this sort of self-improvement from it.  As fringe benefits go, it’s colossal.

Well, let’s look at the numbers for the week.  The Spanish-learning numbers, not the writing ones.

Tuesday 11/13

  • Anki: 60 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 2 chapters of American Gods, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of My Little Pony, 1 episode of Disenchantment, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 11/14

  • Anki: 60 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 1 chapter of American Gods, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Castlevania, 1 episode of Disenchantment, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 11/15

  • Anki: 60 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 2 chapters of American Gods, ~80 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 3 episodes of Castlevania, ~75 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 11/16

  • Anki: 70 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 1 chapter of American Gods, ~80 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Disenchantment, 3 episodes of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 11/17

  • Anki: 70 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 1 chapter of American Gods, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Disenchantment, 1 episode of Magic School Bus, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 11/18

  • Anki: 70 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 1 chapter of American Gods, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of She-Ra, 2 episodes of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 11/19

  • Anki: 70 cards reviewed, ~10 minutes
  • Duolingo: 200 XP earned, ~30 minutes
  • Reading: 1 chapter of American Gods, ~80 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of She-Ra, 1 episode of Disenchantment, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Anki: 460 cards reviewed, 70 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 1400 XP, 210 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 13 tv episodes and 9 YouTube episodes watched, 435 minutes
  • Total reading: 9 chapters read, 570 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 21 hours 25 minutes

Overall a solid week.  I slowed down a smidge on my expectations with reading this week, because the chapter lengths for American Gods are sort of irregular and I was getting a little frayed with it always feeling like an hour and a half of reading was the minimum amount I was allowing myself, so I backed off a touch and have felt a little better for it.  I’m little over two thirds of the way through it as of Monday, so I should be finishing it up in the next week.  Meanwhile I have Fahrenheit 451 and El Alquimista coming in the mail in the next few days to follow it up.

I finished up the Netflix Castlevania show this week and was somewhat underwhelmed, but generally liked it.  I also stumbled over a bit of the Netflix She-Ra show and was intrigued despite having no love for the source material.  I’ve watched a couple episodes in Spanish and I have a feeling it will be present on these blogs for a while.  I’ve been trying to keep things lively and varied in the daily watching, which has been enjoyable, so I’m probably going to keep up with that.

Well, that’ll do for this one.  Until next week.  TTFN.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s