I know it’s become a bit of a cliché to say this, but I’m a goal-driven person. The simple truth is that I struggle to get much of anything done if I don’t have a defined goal and a clear plan of how to get there.
I set goals in every area of my life, and my writing habit is no exception. Typically, I aim for a specific quantity of writing (for example, 2000 words a day), or a certain frequency (such as writing 5 days a week). Either way, my goals tend to be based around how much I write.
Less often, I’ve also set goals related to the quality of my writing. In the past, these goals have included cutting down on redundancies and broadening the subjects that I write about.
This month, I’ve set a very different type of goal for myself. It’s not related to the quantity or quality of my writing, but rather to my relationship with writing. The goal is straightforward: To stop checking my stats.
I have a bad habit of checking the views, reads, and sales of my writing far too often. I really sometimes take this to the extreme. I write on a few different platforms, and sometimes I’ll catch myself going in a loop from one platform to the next, checking my stats again and again. It’s no exaggeration to say that some days I’ve spent more time looking at my stats than actually writing.
I’ve tried to cut down on this habit before, with some success, but it never occured to me until recently to just stop checking them entirely.
I got the idea from Ryan Fan, who wrote in a recent article that he had gone an entire month without looking at his stats. I was actually blown away by this. It was hard for me to imagine not ever looking at stats. After all, aren’t they an important part of improving as a writer?
Ryan thinks that the opposite is true. He wrote that ignoring his stats “is making [him] focus more on the actual process of writing itself.” When I look at his recent writing, I can confirm that, in my view, it’s some of his best ever.
So, I started wondering if cutting out my stat-checking habit could improve my writing as well. And, even if it didn’t, could it help me enjoy writing more? I already love writing, but worrying about my stats undeniably adds a level of stress to the process. Would giving up my stats make writing more fun?
However, there’s one important difference between me and Ryan: As I understand it, he works a full-time job and writing is purely a hobby for him. For me, writing has been an important part of my income for the past 4 years. Since getting laid off from my main job near the end of last year, writing has been my only source of income.
Despite this, I still don’t think checking my stats is a necessary part of the process. Yes, earning money through writing is important to me, but I don’t think that checking how much I’m making actually helps me to make more. In my experience, I’ve always made the most when I’ve simply focused on writing the best that I can.
So, with that final objection out of the way, I really had no excuses left to keep looking at my stats. I decided to jump on the bandwagon and leave stat-checking behind.
A Difficult Goal
Starting on May 1, I’ve done my best to stop looking at my stats entirely, on every platform that I use to write. Despite its apparent simplicity, I’m beginning to suspect that this is the hardest writing goal I’ve ever set. To be frank, it feels downright impossible.
Today is day five, and I have to admit that I have failed my goal at least once every single day so far.
I’m certainly checking my stats far less often than normal, but I keep catching myself doing it without even meaning to. It’s actually become habitual for me — practically a tic — to pull up my various stats pages as soon as I open my web browser.
Despite that, I’m sticking with this goal because I really believe that it’s going to help me grow as a writer. It’s important to me to get more views and make more money, but obsessing over these numbers doesn’t actually help me achieve those goals.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, I truly expect that the less time I spend thinking about my stats, the better they’ll be. The reason is that it gives me more time and energy to focus on the writing itself.
Perhaps an even more important reason for leaving behind my stats is simply to reduce my stress. Over the past half year, my writing has done better than ever, but the downside of this is that I’ve ended up tying a lot of my feelings of self-worth to that success. As a result, when I have poorly performing days or weeks, I feel incredibly down on myself.
I hate that I’ve developed this mindset in which I’m letting the natural ebb and flow of my writing success have a negative impact on my mood. By ignoring my stats, I’m hoping that these day-to-day mood swings will disappear.
As I look forward, I’m almost sure that I’ll fail this goal yet again, but I’m ready to keep trying until I get it right. My writing stats have long ago stopped serving as a tool for growth, and instead become a frustrating distraction.
By breaking my stats-checking habit, I hope to not only improve my mood, but also become a better writer than ever.