Field Notes / Q1 retro: 93% perspiration, 5% inspiration, and 2% butterscotch ripple

Q1 retro: 93% perspiration, 5% inspiration, and 2% butterscotch ripple

Last quarter I finished writing a novel, hit 80% of my consulting target, and completely missed my TikTok goals. You win some, you lose some.

Grab your snozzberries, this update has a lot of unhinged Willy Wonka vibes.

I was away on vacation the first two weeks of April, and now I’m back in the chocolate factory trying to pick up where projects left off and make sure the Oompa Loompas haven’t gone off the rails.

“So much time and so little to do! Strike that. Reverse it.” Aka current mood.

“So much time and so little to do! Strike that. Reverse it.” Aka current mood.

In my last update, I said I had the following goals for Q1:

– Complete a novel and adapt it for film
– Scale my TikTok channel with 100 pieces of content
– Keep making consistent $$ from consulting

How’d it go? Mixed bag. Like Willy Wonka, there were some twists and turns. Not everyone got what they wanted, but no one died, so…success?

Here’s the tracker I made for a quick visual.

My un-fancy goal tracker. Here’s the template if you want to steal it.

Good news: I finished my book and made decent money consulting.

Bad news: TikTok tanked. After spending the previous quarter building a 60k-person following, I didn’t post a single piece of content in Q1.

Overall, I’m happy. The goals were aggressive, and I believe I achieved the ones that mattered most. I.e., Make $$ and finish a book.

But why did I shit the bed on TikTok after bragging about it last update?

Basically, I forgot how hard it is to write a book.

The last time I wrote a novel was in 2016. I’m rusty. Because it took longer than expected, TikTok suffered like a vegan at a Brazilian steakhouse. That’s not a bad thing. The point of doing TikTok (for me) is to build an audience and promote my books, so the book had to take priority. Will I get back to TT? Yes. When? Hopefully before it’s banned.

Here’s something you might find valuable. To stay motivated while writing, I created the following habit tracker.

My un-fancy habit tracker. Surprisingly effective at tricking dopamine receptors.

Every day that I wrote, I colored in a green square on the left. On the right, I tracked completed word count. Along the bottom are cheesy quotes to stay motivated. (My favorite: “I keep inspired to write because if I don’t then the mortgage company will be inspired to foreclose on my house.”)

Insights from doing this for 90 days:

The habit tracker worked. There were only two days all quarter that I skipped writing. One of those days I was outlining the second half of the book (valid excuse), and the other day I was sick (shit excuse). Coloring in squares felt good, and the thought of breaking a streak was sacrilege. It’s a dumb brain hack, but it works.

I don’t multitask well. I already knew this, but now there’s data to prove it. A reasonable person would balance their goals. I can’t do that. I need to focus on one thing before moving to the next.

Writing is a muscle. It takes time to be able to bench press 300 lbs. (Is that impressive? I don’t know bench-pressing stats.) Same goes for writing. Trying to write 3,000 words of fiction a day when you aren’t used to it melts your brain. It took me weeks to get into a good rhythm.

You don’t need expensive tools. The trackers above were made in Google Sheets in an hour. Anything fancier and you’re procrastinating.

Get physical. I printed these sheets out and hung them on my wall. Having them there physically made it realer than if they were digital.

What's next?

Here’s my updated goal tracker for Q2 2023.

It’s already May and I’m feeling shaky about TikTok again, but hopefully the novel will be fully completed and I can get back to marketing. Wish me luck.

As Wonka said, “Don’t forget what happened to the man who did everything he said he was going to do on his blog. He lived happily ever after.”


Pictures from the field this quarter

Things I was obsessed with this quarter

>> AI. For the first time, I used ChatGPT to replace freelancers and saved ~80% on expenses. Simultaneously, I developed mild anxiety over what it will do to creative jobs in the next 5-10 years.

>> Lenox Hill. Great Netflix series following neurosurgeons, ER docs, and L&D nurses at a hospital in New York City. Langer is my new hero.

>> Writer routine challenges. There’s a corner of YouTube where writers try famous authors’ writing routines. Christy Anne Jones does a lot of good ones, like this one and this one. I’d love to try it out one day when my kids actually sleep through the night.

>> Finding the best book light. After much research, the correct answer is this one. Don’t even do your own digging. Trust me.

>> House siding. We’re residing our house, and, naturally, it led to having to learn everything about wood vs. vinyl, veneers, additions, etc.

>> Boomers. This deserves its own post, but essentially I was obsessed with finding pictures of the old Boomers Video store in Swift Current. After weeks of dogging it like a NYT reporter, I finally did. Pulitzer pending.

That’s it, that’s all. Catch you in another three months ✌️


Devon Hennig

Devon Hennig is a writer, marketer, and ex-game-show host. He quit his job as a software executive to make a go of it on his own. Follow along as he tries not to go broke.

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