Posts Tagged ‘motivation’


Living Every Month Like Shark W… er, NaNoWriMo

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

This week, I have a lot on my plate. I wanted to hit 50k by Sunday night (didn’t do it, as I was sick for most of last week), and I want to outline/write/edit/submit two short stories by November 30th, both of which still need everything done on them.

Naturally, I started freaking out. “But I wanted to finish the novel this month, not just hit the word count!” I lamented. “I’m failing, I just can’t do both…”

Which in turn spurred the wise words of my husband, Mr. Practical (and also Mr. Calm-Down-You’re-Overreacting-Again-Faith): “Faith, every month is NaNoWriMo for you, so it doesn’t matter if you finish the novel or not. You’re going to keep writing at this pace regardless, because that’s how you’ll develop your career… so just do what you can and don’t stress yourself out.”

Ah, easier said than done. But he did make a good point: Writing a lot means accomplishing a lot, and if I don’t stop writing every day, the novel will get finished one way or another, regardless. And, I can switch over and write the short stories this month without worrying (apparently).

So, every month is National Novel Writing Month. Okay, maybe not 50,000 words on the same story, but if I write 50,000 words every month just in general… that’ll still be a lot of work accomplished.

Have you ever totalled up all the writing you do in a month?

I’m talking: blogging, writing-related social networking, newsletters or writing-related emails, edits (words that are added), outlining, notes you take on the various books you read, AND your WIP.

Try it for a month. I challenge you to open a Word document for December and copy/paste every piece of writing you do that somehow relates to writing (social networking on writing blogs counts!). I think at the end of the month, you’ll be shocked at how much writing you actually do, not to mention have a visual of where the majority of your time was spent.

I’d be willing to be that you’re living every month like NaNoWriMo too… just maybe not focusing all your energies on one specific novel. You’re constantly doing NaNoWriMo, just not under that particular name… maybe, NaWriMo (National Writing Month), over and over again.

I’d say that’s pretty darn encouraging.

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It’s All in the Timing

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

A typical morning for me includes, in sequence:

  • Waking up (shocker, I know)
  • Coffee
  • Checking email, Facebook, LibraryThing, blog feed, Twitter, various forums I’m members of
  • Reviewing stories for Flash Me
  • Wandering about online
  • Opening various work pieces & staring at them for awhile
  • At 10am, the bird gets woken up & fed
  • Rinse & repeat with the checking email, etc sequence…

So when do I get around to actually writing fiction? Well, more often than not, I don’t. I usually only get fresh fiction writing done on days that I head to our local cafe and sit down determined to type. I have excellent focus there, and I always get lots done. But as I’ve been trying to reorient and reorganize myself this fall, I had to take a hard look at how my time was spent and admit that one or two afternoons a week just isn’t going to cut it. I have too many ideas, too many aspirations, to produce so little.

I thought about NaNoWriMo. Every November, I manage to punch out 50,000 words in a month — how is it that I can manage to produce so much in that one month, and then fall off drastically for the rest of the year? Unacceptable.

At the urging of my husband, and prodding of my own heart, today I started a new plan. I’m taking a page out of James Scott Bell’s book, and am going to try and get my writing done in the morning. According to his Twitter feeds, he always writes 500 words in the morning, no matter what. His daily quota is 1000 words, so if he can get 500 done at the very beginning of the day, then getting the second 500 is a much less daunting task when the entire remainder of the day stretches out before him.

I agree! And while I may be bleary eyed, cranky, fuzzy-headed, and rather immobile in the mornings, for whatever reason, that’s the time my Muse loves best. Maybe that’s because my Self isn’t fully conscious yet, so she’s able to communicate with me best before my left brain takes over for the rest of the day.

Today was day #1 of the plan. The goal is 1000 words in the morning, and then even if I get precious little accomplished during the rest of the day… at least I’ll have that 1000 words to be proud of, and which will accumulate over time. If for some reason my Muse sleeps in one of these mornings, that 1000-word quota can be transferred to my ebook writing or SEO article creation. It doesn’t matter what… I just need to produce, and do it at a time that I know works best for my own mind & body.

Some people work best at night, or in the evenings after dinner. Some work best on weekends. Everyone is different, so my question for today is, when does your Muse prefer to come out to play?

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Posting Flop

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

I definitely dropped the ball last week when it came to posting. And I  had this whole series of posts in mind on platforms & new media, and a nice pile of shiny information to go along with it. Of course, Wednesday rolled around, I reached down into my pile of conference papers and found… well, nothing. What the…?

It turns out I’ve misplaced my sheets from the New Media session at Write!Canada, which I was going to use to write some brilliant (haha) & informative posts on platforms. I could try to wing it from memory, but… you guys deserve better than that. I think the best idea right now is to put the platform series on hold until I can track down my notes (oh noes, does this mean I have to clean the *shudder* office?!?!).

Until then (or until I can think of a new topic), please enjoy this quote I found several weeks back:

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at typewriter and open a vein.”
- Red Smith

No kidding! But what about those times that you sit down to write, open the vein, and come up dry? Like your lifeblood has drained out? Yikes… it’s scary, but it happens. How do you find that inspiration again when you’re drained of ideas, motivation, inspiration, or even the will to keep writing?

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I am perpetually making plans.

  • I have a plan to write X number of words per week.
  • I have a plan to submit X number of articles/queries per month.
  • I have a plan to complete X number of Masters’ courses per year.
  • I have a plan to wake up at this time or that time every day.
  • I have a plan to make this or that a priority, “for real” this time.

Then I scrap all the plans and start again. Whoever said “those who fail to plan, plan to fail”, well… they obviously never met me!

Inevitably, my plans fail over and over again. It’s this bizarre cycle that I can’t seem to break. Every time I make a new set of plans, I feel like I’m getting a fresh start. Another chance to ‘get it right’, and how could it go wrong with such a perfect plan?

I’m still trying to figure that one out. Trying to figure out how to hit that sweet spot where motivation is accessible, and how to cover over that inevitable, often comfortable, pit of despair that we writers fall into.

What about you? Do you make plans & are you able to carry them off consistently? What keeps you on the right track?

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   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Huzzah! I’ve hit 75k and counting! …it’s really quite amazing what a few hours at a coffee shop can do for you. Problem is, the story is going to end before I hit 90k. Hrm. Well, that’s what rewrites are for, yes?

In other news, I’m still attempting to make use of the bulletin board from a few weeks back (refer to previous posts about motivation), but it’s not going so well. Apparently to make it work, you have to actually post new things and, oh… complete some of the ones you already have up there. So far, I have about 50 ‘to-do’ things and maybe 3 in the ‘Doing’ category. Now, I know Holly says to limit yourself to 5 things at a time – ie. only make cards about 5 tasks ahead of yourself – but it’s a very busy time and almost everything on the list is urgent… and ironically, few are about writing. Maybe it’s just the time of year, but it isn’t really working for me right now.

I’m not going to give up yet, though! At the very least, my long term goals are posted on the board, and it’s good to see them over and over… well, except for on certain days when all they do is depress me, but that’s another thing for another time.

Ah well.

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Motivation: Day 3

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

On Monday, I attempted to get through the ‘Day 3′ section of Holly Lisle’s ‘How to Find Your Writing Discipline‘… and I say attempted because I didn’t actually manage to do all the things she suggested, but I think I’m on the right track (for now, anyway).

I’d purchased a bulletin board, colored index cards, and push pins as per the instructions, and I mounted the board on my wall Monday morning, right next to my desk. I can reach it from where I’m sitting, which is a real bonus – that alone should be motivation to keep the board going, since it will require little extra effort to maintain.

So, as per instructed, I made 3 columns with 3 different colors of index cards, and placed them on the board. Then below the column headers (DO! – Doing… – DONE.) I placed cards according to their designated colors, each with one task or a step of a task. Most of these went in the ‘DO!’ column, and a few I was already ‘Doing…’.  Simple enough. However, I ran into a little hiccup, namely that my life is very busy, and I could continue making cards for the DO! column until end of the day, and probably still have more things to write down. Holly makes a good point, though – she suggests only getting 5 steps ahead of yourself, so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Fair enough. But I’m not starting from scratch with my writing – I have 2 major WIPs – so some of my cards are a bit broad, like “finish manuscript”. Okay, so maybe I’m not really using the bulletin board exactly how she suggested… but at least I can see a number of my goals all in one place, which is nice. It definitely gives me a better sense of what I’m working toward, if anything.

There’s another section in the ebook that I didn’t do, mostly because I know myself, and I know that it would just be another excuse to procrastinate. It involves breaking tasks down into 10-minute segments, using a timer, and estimating how much time it will take  you to complete each task (there are sheets to fill out for this… and I know how I get filling out sheets… “oh, just one more thing… and this other thing, I should write it down TOO… oh, and–!”). I won’t go into detail since you can read it in the ebook yourself, but it would be a good idea for someone who’s not used to breaking their time into small chunks like that. It really is quite remarkable how much you can get done – writing or otherwise – in 10 minutes. I actually already own a portable timer and often take it around with me to time breaks, or have personal word wars, or any number of other things, so I figured I’d just stick with what I’ve been doing.

Of couse, I can easily see myself slipping back into old habits and patterns, but for now, I think this ebook was motivation enough to get me back up and running again. I’ve written 1000 words a day for 4 days in a row (minus the weekend & Mondays, since they don’t count), and I am excited to write again. Can I keep the momentum going? I’m not sure… but at this point, the end of WIP #1 is so close I can taste it. I’m excited for the ending, I can’t wait for it to be over, both because it’ll mean my first full manuscript is complete, and because I have WIP #2 waiting in the wings for some love of its own.

Yes, I’d recommend Lisle’s motivation tool, but don’t feel compelled to follow it by rote. Use it and modify the final step in a way that will work for you… but make sure you stay on task for Day 1 & 2, and the 20-minute segment at the beginning. I can’t say for certain that I’ve ‘found my writing disciple’ at this point… but it’s definitely a good re-start. And when it comes to the writing life, I say we celebrate the small victories!

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Finding My Writing Discipline

   Posted by: Faith    in Creating Coldcuts

In my attempt to get back into the ‘swing of things’ and find my motivation for writing again, I came across an interesting little ebook on Holly Lisle’s website. I’ve been considering the 12-month version of her ‘Writer’s Class’ for about a week or so, but in lieu of that for the moment, I wondered if this little ebook could be of any use to me. It’s called How to Find Your Writing Discipline: A Three-Day Plus 20 Minute Do-It-Yourself Writing Bootcamp, and it’s geared toward writers who can’t find the time, initiative, or discipline to write (or get back into writing).

I purchased and downloaded it on Wednesday night, and completed the ’20 minute’ section almost immediately. It was good – not particularly thrilling, but good – and gave me a moment to reflect on my motivations and reasons for wanting to write. I came up with 15 short sentences for the ‘Find Your Triggers’ portion of the 20 minute exercise, and I think I’m going to post these somewhere that I can see them everyday: they state why I want to write and what writing will allow me to do. They’re big, somewhat elusive, long-term goals, per se.

After this was completed, I read through the section for ‘Day One’. The idea here is that I am supposed to spend a day finding out what’s taking up so much time in my life, so that (I assume) I can eliminate the problem areas or convert them into useful task times. Sound useful? I thought so… I was intrigued and decided to go ahead with it. Instead of giving you a long narrative on my experience, I’ll break it down into daily chunks, and we’ll go from there.

Thursday, April 30th: Day One

- Morning: Slept in by accident… of course. Woke up and wrote the time down on the notepad I’d placed next to my bed the night before (as recommended in the book). Carried the book around with me as I did random tasks, trying to maintain as normal a routine as possible. However, this is a bit difficult when you’re self-employed and don’t really have a ‘regular routine’ to begin with. I also discovered that I hadn’t reset any of the clocks in the kitchen after a brief power outage during last Saturday’s storm. Oops.

- Afternoon: Still doing well, staying on target with writing everything down… even the 6 minute break I took to eat some licorice and dance around in the living room…

- Evening: Well, it was date night, so as soon as I was out the door, I figured there was no point in writing everything down. Dinner, movie, coffee… and home again. In retrospect, I probably should have started back up again once I came back through the door, but my brain said “no, no, it’s still date night”, even as I cleaned out the cat’s litter box. Hmm.

Friday, May 1st: Day Two

Up and drinking my free McDonald’s coffee… *ahhh*… so, what’s my task for today? List everything I did yesterday and how much time I spent on each item… and then figure out which tasks are necessary vs. personally fulfilling vs. things I can delegate out vs. unnecessary. Okay, done.

I should mention here that I really appreciate how Holly doesn’t beat you over the head for wasting time on things… instead, she says “that’s free time you can use”. It’s a matter of changing the way you think and use your time, not to mention the fact that you can be thinking about writing (or “prewriting”, as she calls it) during some of those necessary tasks like laundry or dishes. Makes sense to me… but training yourself to do it is more difficult than saying you will. Changing my thinking to reflect this kind of pattern will definitely take time.

But what did I learn about my use of time?

  • I don’t work as much as I should (but I already knew that)
  • I don’t really have a routine… maybe just a few tasks that happen around the same time each day
  • My day changes drastically according to what needs to be done, because I’m self-employed
  • I am so incredibly privileged to be able to stay home and work, and yet I still haven’t figured out how to use my time to the best of my ability… it’s wasteful and very frustrating
  • My house is a mess

Not exactly things I didn’t know already… but it was interesting to see exactly where the time went. It’s also easy to coast past this step and ‘fake it’ a bit, because you know that you’re writing everything down through the day, so you try to be more productive… but that won’t really help in the long run, since the whole point of the exercise is to figure out where the time goes on a normal day.

A chunk of my time went to checking my email, Facebook, and LibraryThing. I think what I need to do (besides shrinking the time spent on it) is be wiser with when I use these websites – for example, I tend to be extremely unproductive between 1pm-4pm. I’m like the waking dead, I’m useless. This is when I should be online; spend time with the pets; do housework (if I have the energy); run errands outside the house; take a nap or reading break. Often, I feel bad because this time is right after lunch and I feel like I’ve wasted the entire afternoon, but all things considered, if I’m just going to stare blankly at my computer screen anyway, it would be better to spend that time doing things that will fulfill me or doing household tasks that are necessary.

Again, I need to change the way I think about time to be able to accomplish this. Seems like I have my work cut out for me. The funny thing is, Dave & I were talking about this just a few days ago, and now here’s Holly with her ebook, telling me the exact same thing. It’s nice to be reaffirmed… it’s not so nice to realize how far you still have to go.

There is a Day Three in the ebook, but I won’t get around to it until Monday. I have a busy weekend ahead with family plans, so I’ll have to set this aside for a few days – but not my thinking! I should start training my brain over the weekend, getting into the “prewriting” habit.

We’ll see how that goes…

Come back next Wednesday to see how things went on Day 3!

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   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Anyone remember that show? That was a great show… or at least, it was until it went really dark and weird and Bob turned semi-evil (or at least that’s how it looked to me at 10 years old).

But, that’s not the subject of my post for today. Last night I decided to try and get myself back into the writing swing of things by starting something new… ah, but don’t panic! It’s not what you think. I didn’t start a new novel, and I’m not running off to the “ooh, shiny!” new plot in my head or anything like that (as much as I may be tempted). I just figured that if all these published authors make a point of stressing that you write at least 1000 words a day – and they’re still published, and still making money off their books – they must be on to something.

So I grabbed my notepad and a pen, and began writing. Nothing special, no pre-planning, no anything. And, well… I handwrote 3 pages of something, and it wasn’t a complete waste of time. No, I think I can safely add this one to my files of ideas, and maybe come back to it in the future. I have absolutely no idea where the little story idea was going, but it doesn’t matter. A workable idea for the future is what matters, not to mention the psychological assurance that comes from knowing that your Muse hasn’t actually run off to Tahiti as you’d suspected.

Will it make a difference in motivating me to finish ‘A Work in Progress’? Who knows. Maybe I just need to stop thinking of it as ‘work’ and get back to the fun of it… the ‘pick up a pen and just write!’ fun of it. This, I suspect, is where I stall: when creative writing becomes ‘job-like’ in my mindset.

So, I should just change my mindset. Easier said than done. I’m hoping to head off to the coffee shop sometime today – laptop in hand – to try and do just that.

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Doubt & Motivation

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

For whatever reason, I have very little problem getting myself motivated to write during NaNoWriMo. Maybe it’s the excitement of the event. Maybe it’s the absolute deadline, or the community support. Maybe it’s the fact that there’s something new to work on, something fresh with endless possibilities. Sure, there are off days, but the whole month is a thrill in itself. I look forward to it throughout the year.

But what about now, when it isn’t November? It’s April. And last month was March. And next month is May. In fact, there are 11 months of the year that simply aren’t November, which means there are 11 months when I need to be completely self-motivated to sit down and get those words written on paper (or, uh, the computer screen).

Right now, I’m struggling. I have no drive, no sense of direction, and no burning desire to get any of my characters where they need to be. I don’t even think it’s writer’s block, to be honest, because I know what needs to happen in both manuscripts, and yet I don’t feel motivated to take them there.

In short, I feel like I’ve failed before I’ve begun. I wonder if I’ve chosen the wrong path, or if this dream I’ve had of being a writer – which has carried me since I was 8 years old, if I remember correctly – was all a mistake. Maybe I’m not cut out to write. Maybe I wasn’t meant to do this. Maybe I’ve been wrong this whole time.

But it’s all I know how to do.

This afternoon, my husband sat me down in front of his computer screen, and brought up last year’s statistics for The Ancient Standard. Until this week, I hadn’t written anything new for that site since… well, nearly a year ago. Or maybe longer. Anyway, he showed me the traffic stats for 2008.

There were almost 50,000 unique visitors to the site, and about 84,000 repeat visits. That means that 50,000 people read my writing. And an awful lot of them liked it enough to come back for another go.

While I don’t particularly see that as “success”, I suppose it means that I shouldn’t go beating myself over the head with the notion that I’m a complete failure. Somebody likes my writing style. Some people want to read it, and then come back for more. For me, The Ancient Standard is like pseudo-journalism – because really, I’m reporting on events, or discoveries, or historical details that other people have already written about, and simply compiling information from various sources to produce what I hope is a brief but comprehensive article about the topic.

It’s not my original work, so I still can’t be confident that anyone likes my fiction, which is where my heart lies. But at the very least, I can take comfort in the fact that people enjoy my writing style, and that I’m providing what others perceive to be quality information in an entertaining format. And with all honesty, I can say I’m grateful for each and every visitor who reads my work.

Is it measurable success by my own standards? Not particularly. But does it at least quell some of the despair that has crept into my soul as of late? Yes, it does. I can feel a tiny spark of hope again… and isn’t one spark all it takes to light a fire?

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