Successes and Struggles

Well, I’m still trying to get back onto my Writing Habit. (as in making it a habit instead of something I manage to do every other weekend.)

Last weekend I DID submit a thing for a magazine but I’ll be waiting to see what comes of it.

And today I managed to wake up and make with world-building words.

Often, my projects feel like icebergs. I go forth with all these ideas but only a fraction of what I’ve sat and thought about ends up in the final project.

(they also go careening aimlessly around crashing into things.)

All in all, still recovering from my ruts but we have forward momentum and that’s what matters. Leave a comment about how the rest of your weeks are going.

And Life Happens

 

Oh Boy.

Look at that super long gap in my posts. I went and did it again.

No time for blame and no time for hair pulling. This blogging thing is always going to be the first thing to go whenever it comes to planning out my time and making an effort.

CURRENT PROGRESS REPORTS!

-Wisteria Wolf, my WIP since the beginning of the year has been on hold due to some life changes that majorly interfered with my ability to work on the story.

I did some fanfiction work for a while then had some job changes that threw me off my schedules until this month.

BUT! That’s okay. Like a yo-yo on a rubber string, I’m back. Still here, still talking about writing and goals and the things I want to do in life.

Next year I start my 52 short story challenge and I’ve gotten as far as outlining all the attempts I’m going to make.

I’ve decided that while my goal will be to finish a short story a week, I’m still going to try and change the project week by week according the outline that I have in my notebook.

Lemme here from whoever is still listening. How do you get back on your horse? Do you ever have times where you fall on your butt? Tweet me at @writerholec or comment down below. I need the moral support.

Streaks and Breaks

Dear Readers, I’m thrilled to report that it’s been 70 days of straight writing as of this post.

I am very amazed at myself. One, because if you care to go back through the blog posts, you can see that I’ve had a very difficult time keeping any type of a regular schedule both times I’ve attempted to keep this space current and Two because the Start/Stop pattern has been so pervasive in my life.

Yet, as I celebrate this success, I am half-dreading an upcoming challenge.

And that challenge is taking a vacation.

I’ll sip my tea while you scratch your head, roll your eyes or just stare at the screen in puzzlement.

On the 20th, my sister and I will be boarding a cruise ship and sailing off for a 5-day vacation of sun, fun and bonding. At this time, I don’t have access to a mobile word processing machine. I mean, if I absolutely WANTED to I could charm my husband’s laptop out of him for those 5 days, but he’s a full time student and needs the mobile tech more than I do.

My sister has an iPad. I could borrow that during our cruise, but see…that’s the not the point of vacation. And when it comes time to leave, I’ll have been writing for 80 straight mornings. Eighty is a good number and plus, how will I ever learn to start AGAIN if I don’t have those breaks?

I used to believe (and sometimes I still do) that the only so-called ‘real writers’ were the ones that wrote everyday. But as I hang out with more writers, as I meet more people who have been doing this longer than a couple of years, as I examine what makes success and who becomes good and who doesn’t, I have realized that while the habit is important, it’s not what makes me a Writer.

If you write stuff down and tell yourself stories, you’re a writer. Period. If you write every day, you’re a writer. If you write every week, you’re a writer. If you write one or two stories during your school breaks, or when you get an idea, you’re a writer.

The more you write, the better you get but a writer without a strict schedule is still a writer. That has been an important realization.

Does that mean that after I get back from my cruise that I’m going to quit getting up every day? Hell no. I have 1 hour a day that I’ve dedicated to writing. One. Hour. And while I always have the option of writing more when I get home from work, I have accepted that in the evenings, I usually only have enough energy to do one or two things and usually it’s nothing that’s creatively minded.

Finally, just wanted to reveal my blog schedule to you all in case you were wondering:

This blog is updated every three days, except for the days that I’ll be out of contact.

While I know a M/W/F is probably a more accepted schedule, I’ve found that if I can get a post up every three days I always have something to say.

If you want to join in on the community that has been helping me keep consistent, hit me up on Twitter at @dracoangelica or go listen to Ally Bishop’s episode 100 of her podcast ‘Upgrade Your Story‘. She’s starting a community driven workshop called The Cerulean Project and it’s been very helpful for my habit structures.

 

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.

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.

Set Backs or Channeling the Turtle

Setbacks suck.

I have been having a great year so far. Having a four day weekend to start the year off with helped a lot in getting some headway on my writing goals. I’ve written over a thousand words every day since 2016 started. But that’s not what we’re going to talk about today.

Sometimes when we’re going forward, we trip. And it sucks because no matter how far we might have come, it’s difficult to remember our progress because we’re too busy spitting dirt out of our mouths.

For example, I over slept Saturday and Sunday before, missing my ‘up by 5:30am’ self-imposed ‘Up-Time’ on Days 31 and 32 of my ‘Write-Every-Day’ challenge.

I’ve always struggled with perfectionism. It paralyses me, this deep, inner belief that I have to not just, DO the thing I attempt, but also be the Best and most Perfect at that thing.

So on Saturday and Sunday when I overslept, I was feeling very grumpy about it.

I had some choices when I realized what I’d done.

I could have rolled over and gone back to bed, tossing this whole ‘Get Up Early’ thing in the trash and declare that it just Didn’t Work and I apparently had lost my ability to produce. All because I did one day ‘imperfectly’.

I didn’t do that, but I thought about it.
I got up and put 277 words on my board then took a nap and tackled more words later that day. On Sunday though, I overslept by an hour.

When I realized how far I’d fallen off my timeline, I felt terrible. Suddenly, this writing thing I’ve been doing didn’t feel like fun, it felt like an obligation. It wasn’t something I was choosing to do, but something I HAD to do and I have and resist ‘having’ to do anything.

In the past, this would have been the point of quitting.
I had not only done it imperfectly once, I’d done it imperfectly twice in a row. Imperfection was becoming the new streak.

I didn’t give up this weekend though. I chose to go back to sleep with the intense determination that I’d get up at 9 and catch up the words and that would be good enough. Because it doesn’t matter when I get up as long as those words are on the board, period.

There are times where the things I want to do just don’t work out the way I want and that is ok. I am still trying and I am still trying and still moving forward even if it didn’t go according to plan.

I was talking to Elizabeth (she’s been on the blog before) Saturday night about how hard it is to see the bigger picture of your achievements when you’re in the middle of trying to make them happen.

She’s published a book and is struggling her way through finishing her second one. She works two jobs and has a lot of Life things that have crept up on her like an angry badger over the last two months. She was lamenting at her lack of being able to carve her time out to write between all her obligations but completely seemed to forget the fact that she’d written over 144k worth of words last year despite challenges that I know I didn’t have.

My friend is the turtle and I am the hare.
As long as she can do her words at some point, it doesn’t matter how many there are at a time, because she knows that in the end she’ll wind up with enough to build the book.

I’m more impatient, needing that book NOW.

So many times in the last two years of pursuing writing, I have quit. I have stopped for days, weeks, and months out of frustration for not meeting that mental goal of perfection.

But it’s not about who is the fastest.
It’s not about who gets there soonest.
It’s not about being best.
It’s about doing what you want to do. Every day.

I have to do it a little at a time and sometimes that means I will be late.

If you’re reading this, it’s not because you want the perspective of an expert. It’s because you want to hear the commiseration of a fellow writer. A fellow trail partner on the road to making a living out of this little writing thing we all love to do.

I have over 70 pages on my current Novella and that’s something I didn’t have a month ago.
I didn’t skip writing Sunday even though I was late.
I didn’t skip yesterday.
And here I am today.

With each setback comes the opportunity to dust ourselves off and keep going. And that’s what we need to keep doing.
Channel the turtle in your writing and know that you can make it happen if you focus.

2016 and Goals

This year I had one writing goal for 2015 and I did not make it.

I wanted to have at least four short stories finished and sent out to publishers in hopes that my name would start getting out there.

Nope.

I’m not good at big lists. I’m not good at anything that’s too involved and too complicated. But I thought that four was a small enough number that I could do it and yet big enough that I would have to push a certain production schedule.

Then life got in the way.

That’s ok. Here is the new goal because I’ve had better luck sticking to it:

Write every day.
Finish what I am writing before moving on to the next thing.

I’m not going to push for any ‘send this out of x amount of markets’ until maybe next year. I AM going to try and get something ready to send to Writer’s of the Future because the prize for that is a workshop that I’d like very much to go to.

But over all? I’m sticking to habits instead of concrete goals this year.

As for the blog:

Tentatively? I want to have post out every three or four days regardless of the day. I feel like anything like a set schedule will be something I won’t keep as in the past I’ve not managed more than a few months at a time. Yes. Deadlines are important and part of training the New Writer-Author-Wannabe.

But if I think of it like, “Eh. Every few days” instead of “OK MONDAY WEDNESDAY FRIDAY OR YOU’RE DOGMEAT” then I feel like that’s more doable.

Plus, these blogs first thing in the morning before I get started with my creative projects have been good word makers and brain cleansers.

So there we are!

I will say, there will probably be a gap in February as I am going to Mexico, a gap in September as I have a work trip to Las Vegas as well.

Have a lovely Wednesday y’all.