Check out my first post here to read more about the process and make a copy of the input/output tracking sheet if you so desire.
The Business Boys™ is my collective name for all the productivity, health hacking, pop science men who love to tell you how to optimize your life while having very few responsibilities of their own. Their lineage includes famed management guru Peter Drucker, whose famous quote, “what gets measured, gets managed” is not even his.
But taking that general idea (the Business Boys™ love to steal from and paraphrase one another, and thus I will do the same to them), I personally morph the question into what works for me: "measure what you want to matter.” Note the italics.
Each month when I copy my tracking sheet over for a fresh start, I usually add an additional column just for that month to track something I’m curious about and want to potentially change. I’m simply gathering data.
Here are some of the things I’ve added a column for in the past year:
One three-month block when I needed to hit a series of deadline for a novel generator class, I added a column for month #1 called “Excuses.” There, I complained about why I didn’t get as much done as I wanted each day. The top excuse? “Tired.” The solution? Yup, I just needed to go to sleep earlier. I hit the deadlines in months 2 and 3.
I do have un petit issue with purchasing books, so one month, I tracked ALL the titles I bought. The following month, no longer able to lie to myself, I went on a book buying fast and read what I already had. That was what I wanted to do all along, and tracking the new books coming in showed me why I always felt so behind in my reading.
I was trying to get back into a hard-to-crack publication after several rejections that had made me furious, and so one month, I read the site every single day and made a note of what I learned from that day’s piece. Within a few months and with a focus on matching topic and tone, I was back in.
What do you want to matter in terms of your creative practice?
I like to include these little monthly experiments in my input/output sheet because a) I’m already in there each day, so it’s easy to add one more thing, and b) I do think it’s all related. When I’m reading more of what I’ve already selected and brought into my house for a specific reason, I feel more inspired than when I’m surrounded by unread books. When I get frustrated about rejections from a certain outlet, I can look and see that I haven’t been reading it consistently—how could I expect to emulate the voice and tone? When I see I have the same excuse for not writing as much as I’d like for 23 days out of 30, I had better get my ass into bed and stop complaining.
Give it a try for March if you’re so inclined. What’s an area you need to gather additional data on to help drive future actions?
In other words: what do you want to matter?
A few inputs for your weekend:
“What Exactly is a Story’s Climax?: A Look at It’s a Wonderful Life” by Chas Gillepsie
“How an Alleged Con Man Tore Apart One of the Nineties’ Biggest Bands.” My very first concert ever was seeing Everclear (lol) in an abandoned lot across from the recently opened Providence Place Mall, and my second was Live at the Providence Performing Arts Center. I left my alt rock phase soon after to worship the pop princesses of my youth, but this story fascinated me. I know everyone loves “Lightening Crashes,” but I’ve always preferred “All Over You” myself.
And because I’m always intrigued by this—what was your first concert? Leave it in the comments!
I’ve listed a BRAND NEW CLASS that I’ve been working on for a while over at Writing Co-Lab, a great new collaborative writing school. It’s called “Write Like an Athlete,” and it combines my experience as a former competitive distance swimmer with what I’ve learned about sports psychology, and how that can be translated into creative pursuits. Check out the class description here if you’re interested, $75, one-session class on Monday, April 3rd, 8-10pm.
If that’s not your vibe, check out other Writing Co-Lab one-off classes like “Writing Ghosts” with Amy Shearn (I took this in 2021 and loved it) and “Draft Done! Now What?” with Sara Lippmann.
ABOUT ME: My name is Caitlin Kunkel and I’m a comedy writer, long-time teacher, and creator of The Second City’s Online Satire Writing Program. I currently teach classes and consult on gift book proposals, modern adaptation, satire, and comedic literature. I co-founded The Belladonna Comedy and the Satire and Humor Festival, and I co-wrote the satirical gift book New Erotica for Feminists: Satirical Fantasies of Love, Lust, and Equal Pay, named one of the Top 10 Comedy Books of 201 by Vulture.
I am really appreciating your method of tracking input/output and have modified my own kind of stripped down version of your spreadsheet, so THANK YOU for that.
I also know that huge dirt lot across from the Providence Place Mall! That's where they held some of the X Games back in the day! I wasn't at either of those shows, but I did go to shows there...the free WBRU shows were the JAM. Are you from Rhode Island?
Such good advice and excellent examples. Thank you!