Writing, tracking, goals and creativity: What’s it all about?

Write-Track App

Over at Write-Track towers we’ve launched head long into trying to tell the world about our start-up. Part of this involves engaging with the scary world of pitching for funding and whilst that doesn’t come too easily to introverted types like us it’s been useful in ordering our thoughts and telling our story. With this in mind, we thought we’d share a bit of background on where Write-Track’s come from – and where we’re heading.

Sticky technology

There’s been an explosion in so-called self-monitoring or ‘tracking’ technologies and apps – largely driven by the huge surge in smart phone use.

Tracking is all about gathering data to monitor aspects of our lives. It’s huge in healthcare, diet and exercise where it’s made large differences to people’s lives. If you’ve ever used apps like Nike+ or RunKeeper or ever logged your diet with MyFinessPal or the Weightwatchers app – then you’ll know what I mean.

I’ve written before that I’m a habitual tracker – it started in my childhood when my mum timed how long it took me to fetch something – injecting an element of competition with my siblings. I’m afraid I was a bit of a swot at school too so I was forever logging my exam revision and my teenage diary was full of scribbled numbers and targets achieved.

Getting a smart phone transformed my tracking with apps for walking, running, calories, mood and symptoms. But there wasn’t an app for my writing progress – it was the one area where I still relied on pen and paper. At the same time I was running a national writing centre and I saw that plenty of other novelists, screenwriters, poets and storywriters struggled to see the progress they had made on their writing – so I decided to do something about it.

Tracking, productivity and scheduling

When you’re writing, there’s nothing like looking at a calendar and seeing the number of days you’ve written in the past month. And if it’s fewer than you’d like, it helps you set realistic goals, and keep positive about what you can achieve.

So, I wondered whether tracking could help other writers improve their productivity. It would seem that lots already track their progress. After some research amongst writers, I found that 34% use trackers in other areas of their life so many are familiar with it.

I started Write-Track to see if tracking could help writers and the initial research showed that it does. Indeed, of our early-stage top users, 92% said that tracking helped them make progress towards their goals and 77% said it helped them write more.

Where are we now?

Write-Track’s still at an early stage (we’re in beta and we’d love you to join and test) but a lot of head stretching, long days and sleepless nights has gone into the design and functionality of the product.

We’ve used (geek warning!) established behaviour change models from boffins like BJ Fogg and we’ve even been referenced in some research into behaviour change and human/tech interaction. We’ve also been hugely influenced by the latest thinking around habit forming products and technologies made popular by Hooked author Nir Eyal.

So what does Write-Track enable the writer to do? At the moment, the product allows the writer to do three things:

  • Record and monitor their writing progress – so they can see when they’re most and least productive.
  • Set meaningful writing goals for themselves – like writing for a certain time or writing a certain number of words.
  • Join a supportive online community of writers for support and accountability.

The site is free to join and our plan is to build our brand and offer a range of paid-for in-app products which will grow the business. At the moment, Write-Track isn’t a business, it’s an expensive hobby!

Everyone has a book in them

The Office for National Statistics and the Arts Council estimates that 4% of the UK population engages in some form of creative writing – which is around three million people. However, a study in the US by the Jenkins Group estimates that 80 per cent of Americans believe they have a book in them if so, that’s around 250 people in the US alone.

In reality, it’s very hard to pin down exactly how many people want to write or improve their writing practice but we believe that there are some key indicators which show that the creative writing market is booming and that traditional publishing models are being disrupted by technology.

Today, the opportunities for people to self publish their work are greater than ever. There been an explosion of epublishing and – as a cohort, self published authors are now the largest seller of books on Amazon.

Also, new and exciting platforms like Wattpad and Movellas allow users – mainly young people – to post up short stories, fan fiction and poetry. Indeed, users of both sites together publish around 170,000 separate stories every day – that’s a lot of readers and a lot of writers and we think its amazing that technologies like this are engaging young people in creative writing. We also think that traditional publishers have recognized this swing to self-publishing and creative writing too – many have branched out into teaching writing in addition to publishing books. We strongly suspect that some are making more money from teaching writing that they do from publishing.

We think that Write-Track is ideally placed to be an essential tool in the writers’ toolbox – whatever it is they’re writing. So, if you’ve ever thought you had a book in you but never thought you had time to write – check out Write-Track and finish what you start!

Bec Evans About the author: Co-creator of Prolifiko, Bec has spent a lifetime reading, writing and working with writers. From her first job in a bookshop, to a career in publishing, and several years managing a writers’ centre, she’s obsessed with working out what helps writers write.