My writing community has held me up

Happy Friday, reader.

It’s been a wonderful month on the writing front. I have managed to write 58 straight days of sitting down to write and all of January I have devoted my efforts to one project, which it probably a personal record. I have tried to do this many times before. This whole ‘make and keep a habit’ thing. The difference between those times and now have been Support.

In my previous attempts, I have always had a couple of excellent writing friends that have tried to keep my honest, tried to keep me on task, but ultimately, it wasn’t enough for me. I’d wind up not doing something I intended and then feel guilty about it.

This time, I began posting to Twitter about what ‘Day’ of writing I was on and it got a response from the #amwriting community. The key for me was that it was never just One person acting as my accountability, but new people every day on Twitter.

This has been exactly what’s kept me on task.

But I’m stepping it up for the month of February.

Monday, one of my twitter friends, Ally Bishop is going to be hosting a Blab about her new Cerulean project. She’s been working really hard to help writers like me, and probably writers like you as well. Ally is a freelance Editor who puts out daily Periscope chats and weekly podcasts on the art of writing and storytelling. I featured her in December in my ‘Favorite Podcasts of the Month’ blog. Well, this weekend I reached out to her and I’m going to be helping her with an exciting new resource to help other Neo-pros like myself keep that good ‘village’ of support around us while we get to the point of ‘Published’ and beyond.

There will be more details available on a Blab she is hosting Monday and it you want to know about how to join the Cerulean project too, go listen to THIS podcast. Information on the new community is at the end of the that recording.

In the meantime, look for some exciting changes coming both to this space and to my Twitter feed over the next few weeks. I’m not giving up this round and I’m so grateful to all those who have helped me get this far.

Current favorite Podcasts

Happy Monday fellow writers.

Part of the road to making it towards full-time writing means working full time at a non-writing job. I’m grateful for my office job, but much of the work I do is data entry and info-checking. Doing it in silence is mind numbing so, to keep my connection to my literature roots and my writing time is Podcasts.

Here are my current top three podcasts in no particular order.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I talked about podcasts but if you want to see what my favorites were for December please click here.

1. Ask A Clean Person

Not all of my podcasts are writing related. After all, to write, we need to be around lots of different stimuli so that we’re always keeping our creative earth fertilized. Jolie Kerr, blogger, advice columnist and author of the New York Time’s Best Selling Book, My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag…and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha is an expert on all things Messy and Gross and how to handle them.

I started reading Kerr when she was on Deadspin because she gave very good advice for cleaning roller derby gear and I’ve been hooked on her frank and honest style of advice ever since. Plus, the stories she gets sent in on the weekly all seem to have great character building behind them. After all, since cleaning is my favorite form of procrastination, doing it well makes the satisfaction from it extra wonderful.
2. Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics is a radio station that updates regularly, has interesting ‘huh, I didn’t know that’ feel to it. The program focuses on finding interesting connections between two things that I had no idea were related. That is always worth the time to me.

Plus, the variety of their coverage makes the day an interesting one and forces me to examine the way I feel and think about things. For example, in their latest episode as of the publishing of this blog, they examine Boycott’s and the true effectiveness of this method of pushing for social change. It reveals the amount of story-doctoring with public stories and seeded some great idea of a marketing character.
3. The Roundtable Podcast

Last but not least, Dave Robison’s Roundtable Podcast. If you love brainstorming, this is the podcast for you. The structure is entertaining but simple. Dave and his cohost invite a guest onto their podcast, the guest pitches them an idea, then they team takes it apart and puts it back together in hopes that the guest will be able to run off and finish a book with the suggestions and story advice they’ve given.

Y’all, I found this so helpful, because as a neo-pro writer, someone still working on breaking out with her own fiction, listening to others point out what sounds flat or undeveloped has really given me the ability to examine my own work without prejudice. The other great thing is that the Round Table is open to accepting new people on their show to workshop. So, again, excellent resource for those of us who are still trying to iron out that pesky outline (or if you’re like me, the mess of notes that pretends to be an outline) into a proper, well beat-driven story.

 

So those are it. These are the people who have helped me keep my motivation as I work through finishing my WiP. These are my own opinions, as always, and I’m not receiving any compensation for recommendations made on this blog.

If you like what I had to say, let people know. Come follow me over @dracoangelica on twitter. Tell your friends about this little writing blog and email me at aprilshowers1987@gmail.com if you have any questions, suggestions or comments on things you’d like to see me talk about OR if you have podcast suggestions that you think should be on next month’s top 3.

Happy Monday lovelies and good luck with your writing.

Timers and Free Play

A sentiment I hear from a lot of people who, like me, are trying to create (whether that comes out in the form of art, music, words or dance) is that they experience difficulty getting started.

I mean, I work a full time job, so I get it. Time is at a premium and when you care deeply about your success at a certain act or craft, not achieving your goal can feel like a reflection of who you are as a person.

It’s hard to break a streak, whether that streak be doing the thing or not doing the thing.  For me, this means writing and quitting.

I’m not a successful, published member of my field. That’s ok. Because even though I’m not <Insert Famous Author Here> , I’m still doing better than the me of six months ago who couldn’t start.

I want to share some tips from a person who has problems with quitting.

  1. Start SmallIf you want to make art, you don’t start out with the Mona Lisa. You can’t just pick up the brush and pain a masterpiece. You need to sketch. You need to know how to draw shapes, how lighting and shadow and perspective matter in your work. Writing is no different. I have been struggling for weeks with characters doing things I have outlined for them to do, but nothing was working in my grand plotting. Why?Because I went to write on the current project without hammering out background and motivation. I was trying to create the masterpiece and failing because I hadn’t set my foundation first. Once I spent some time getting into the heads of my main protagonists and examining WHY they were doing things instead of just expecting things to happen, I amazingly got the story cranking forward.

     

  2. TimersI recently read a fantastic book called “The Now Habit” as recommended by Mur Lafferty on her “I Should Be Writing” Podcast, which I highly recommend. In the book, the author talks about “guilt-free” play. About examining the why’s to our procrastination. Oftentimes, the trouble is perfection, about always wanting more time on the project we’re working on because we know, deep in our hearts, that if we just had more ‘time’ we’d get it right.Except with that in our head, the entire attempt becomes too big to tackle. Instead of beginning, we just think about how we can’t possibly do a good job on such a stressful thing. So we go do something else that feels good instead. And we never start.

    So when I start to feel like that, I take a timer, I set it and I just go.

    Doesn’t matter if it’s all free writing. Doesn’t matter if none of it is going into the final draft. Doesn’t matter if all you’re doing is sitting one of your character’s down on a shrink’s couch and forcing them to talk through motivations. That’s all things you can work with. It doesn’t matter if you only get out 58 words or 580. Go, set your timer, and do the thing.

    and finally, my most important and most used tip:

     

  3. Take Clearly Defined Breaks
    One of the best quotes from “The Now Habit” was “The Body is not a temple, it’s a machine.” And like any machine it needs fuel. It needs to be maintained. It needs to rest and, because our brains are organic, not mechanical, we need to play.
    That’s right. I said it.
    We need breaks. We need to check facebook. We need to watch netflix. We need to play video games and go walking and get air. We need to talk to other people and step away from the words for a while. We procrastinate on those things because they feel good and they’re fun. They make us happy. It’s only a problem if that’s the only thing we do. Well, writing all day without any defined stopping point to eat, or shower or drink food or hang out ever is just as bad.
    So I play video games. I cook. I do things other than the words.

And that’s how I’ve been managing.

What books do you recommend for time management? What methods have you found most helpful for dealing with getting started and maintaining a habit? I’d love to hear it in the comments.

Cleaning House

 

I love to clean. It’s my favorite method of procrastination. Partly because it’s a ‘valid’ and ‘necessary’ thing to do. People rarely accuse you of being unproductive if you’ve just vacuumed your floors or mopped. They praise you and it’s like, instant gratification. Plus, when you’re done, you get the joy of no longer staring at the clutter that’s been driving you nuts.

I clean when I feel out of control. As if by refolding my laundry in a new method I’ll be able to just as easily refold and organize my life.

I sweep and mop and dust and push myself because I know if I do those things then I’ll be ‘producing results’ on something, even if it’s not my story.

I know that if my Main protag is being a stick in the mud and only talking ABOUT the heroine instead of doing stuff with her, I can go and clean my fridge, post some before and after pictures and get that shot of joy that I’m looking forward.

But in the end, you run out of ways to rearrange, you’ve thrown away all the things you can and you still need to get those two fools into a relationship if the story is ever going to get finished.

But man, no one cleans and procrastinates like a writer avoiding dealing with an uncooperative story.

 

Frustrations and Inspirations

Man, dear reader, I meant to already be done with this blog post and on to my current work in progress, but computer issues saw that I spent 30 of my precious hour this morning trying to unfreeze and close stuck programs.

But, we’ve moved past that and here we are.

This morning I want to talk about the inspirations that keep me going. I’ve talked a lot of about eliminating negative self-talk and how important it is not to give up, but maybe you don’t think about how many other people who we consider successful had setbacks.

After all, it’s not a failure unless you stop.

Dr. Suess was rejected. Isaac Asimov had short stories he never sold. Ursula K. LeGuin was told that the Hand of Darkness was ‘endlessly complicated’. I know I’ve heard Laura K. Hamilton tell audiences at Dragon*Con that her Anita Blake series was rejected over 300 times.

I remember this when I can’t get started or when my stress is triggered. I look at J.K. Rowling, who is currently doing Quite Well For Herself and remember that her book was rejected as being too long for readers. I remember what Stephen King said in his book “On Writing” about the time he threw the manuscript for Carrie in the trash and his wife went, pulled it out, straightened it and put it back on his desk.

Its a short post today Lovelies, but after my 30 minute war with getting my writing machine to play nice, I wanted to lay this down for y’all to remember.

No matter how frustrating the day has been, we’re not alone. We’re walking roads that the greats have trod before us and we can make it happen.

Getting UnBlocked

So, I don’t want to say that I have ‘Writers Block’ right now, rather I think it’s more accurate to say that I have an annoyance for the way my current story is going and I need to haul it all in and go through what I’ve got to figure out where I’m going from here.

If you’re an outliner or planning type writer, this is probably not applicable, but if you’re like me and a pantser, you can probably relate.

When I am writing, I start out with an idea, in the case of my current story, “What would happen if a country girl is in love with a mysterious neighbor who always wears long sleeves? What is he hiding underneath there?”

Then after I get my mental image prompt, I go into a sort of stretching of the idea. I answer my own questions through scenes that bubble from that original idea. If you want to see another author struggle with this like I do, may I suggest Libba Bray (https://libbabray.wordpress.com/)?

Anyway.
So here I am, staring at day 40 of this choice I’ve made to DO The Thing and in this case, it’s to get up every morning and write and take what comes out and make it into a book of some type, length and style. And yet here I am with this idea that I’m still convinced is fucking kickass and I have ALL THESE PIECES and I’ve forgotten what it’s supposed to look like. Or, worse, I know what I’m pretty sure I want it to look like, but I’m not sure I’ve got the right materials to build it.

So I go back to try and make a list of things and figure out if I can build what I need but I’m stuck on splinters and fragments of ideas.

Today’s (and yesterday’s if I’m honest) challenge is going to be to get down everything that I have so far and pin down where this story is going and put it in some sort of order to follow through.

The Now Habit, a book I’ve been reading to fight my natural procrastination inclinations, states that every project is just a series of starts. That we can’t think of our work as just ‘finishing’ but instead must think of it as small starts.

Today I start tugging at an outline and going from there.

5 Tips for getting the F*ck out of bed

Happy Saturday dear Readers.

It’s day 38 of my ‘Wake Up Every Day and Write’ Streak and I’ve learned a few thing that I feel others who are also trying to create a habit will appreciate in walking this writing path.

  1. Keep your alarm clock across the room

I have a habit of slipping my finger over the snooze button about six or seven times when I am trying to wake up. Bonus pro-tip- make the song or alarm something truly obnoxious. If you have a partner that you’re sharing your room with, make sure that they despise or hate the sound in question so that they forcibly boot-kick you out of bed.

2. Programmable Caffeination Delivery systems.

Most people are coffee people, and luckily for you people, there are lovely and cheap coffee pots that come with a clock and a programmable function that lets your machine make that sweet elixir of life hot and fresh when you wake up. Set that mo-fo up before you go to sleep and you’ll scramble to your alarm turning off the wails of whatever heinous sound  you’ve set to torture yourself with KNOWING there is a warm and sweet drought of modern magical miracles waiting for you.

3. Keep your routine simple.

You’re getting up to write, not be on the cover of People. Step away from the mirror. No one needs to be afraid before they get to the words. Don’t worry about getting ready for the whole day. Just get your butt out of bed and into the chair. The chair has no eyes. It doesn’t care how weird you look after getting up. I try to keep my up-to-chair time within the 5 minute mark but I’m not always successful, especially if I check Twitter or Facebook first. Which leads me to tip number four.

4. Don’t check social media before you write

I break this rule all the time. Y’all can call me out, but it’s no use.

On the days that I can resist talking to people, it’s a really good day. I usually send out a ‘Hey guys I did it again!’ type tweet and then move along with the day. Don’t scroll through! If you’re using it to keep accountable, state your bit and move along.

5. Remember that every day you get the first word you already won

Writing is pretty easy when it comes down to sitting in a corner and telling myself stories. Its getting up and doing it every day that’s hard. It’s the days where you get done with a manuscript and feel that you just made no difference on that particular plot hole or your characters sounds like cardboard cut outs or you went back to find your place and found you accidentally wrote the same scene twice. It’s easy to say, “Screw this” and go back to sleep. It’s hard to push through and do the thing anyway. But if you’ve got a streak it makes it easier. If you even manage to do it twice in a row, that’s a streak! So keep on.

I tell myself this stuff as much as I’m telling the rest of y’all. But you know what? We got this. We can do this and it’s going to be ok.

Hit me up on Twitter, @dracoangelica if you’re looking for accountability buddies. DM me there or post a comment. I’m always interested in commiserating with fellow habit makers. Happy day 38!