Fuggetaboudit

Joe’s Post #162

Happy New Year everyone! It's time to clear the deck and start again.

Happy New Year everyone! It’s time to clear the deck and start again.

Shhh. I’ll let you in on a secret.

One of the great things about a new year is that you can put away all the things that you didn’t do last year and just fuggetaboudit. That’s right.

Fuggetaboudit.

Didn’t write enough? Didn’t lose weight? Didn’t succeed at any of your last year’s resolutions? Fuggetaboudit.

I got a fistful of rejections for my novella. Fuggetaboudit. I lost faith and didn’t get it out, again. Fuggetabuoudit.

Hey, it’s a new year. Make resolutions or not. Make plans, or not. Make goals, or not. It’s all ok. You have a fresh start. All of 2015 is in the past. 2016 awaits! The road is open and stretches out before you. Make the most of it.

For me, I think I should have written more, though I wrote more blog posts last year than any other. I should have gotten that novel done, though I did pound out a novella in a month. But that’s all in 2015, remember?

Fuggetaboudit.

It’s a new year.

Can you feel the power of it?

Do you feel freed by the arrival of Jan 1st 2016?

Can you smell what the Rock is cooking here?

It’s a way of letting go of that negativity that sometimes drags me (and maybe others) down. That anchor of regret over things not done, or of goals failed.

So I’m looking at 2016 as a fresh start. And I know just how to begin.

Silk wrote a great post about going listless. I could no more do such a thing than I could birth a book out of my nose. I need lists.

Everyone needs a book of grudges!

Everyone needs a book of grudges!

They are my attempt to stay sane in a disorganized and cruelly chaotic universe. So this year, like last year, I will attempt to remain in marginal control of my life with detailed and often cross-referenced lists.

The only difference this year will be that when the year is done, I won’t beat myself up over what I didn’t accomplish. Lists are simply too important, too vital, to be used for evil. They should help build you up, not tear you down.

So while a useful tool for me being all organized and stuff, once 2016 is past, it’ll be time to once again, fuggetaboudit.

So what will you fuggetaboud from last year?

(And if I didn’t make it clear enough, here’s Johnny Depp explaining the many other meanings of forget about it.)

Listless and without a resolution

2016-beach

Silk’s Post #150 — Okay, I admit it. I’m a list addict. And I’ve also been known to make (and later break) many lists of New Year’s resolutions over the years.

This year will be different. I’m boldly going listless and resolution-free into 2016.

Okay, granted. We do need lists, calendars and the like to manage necessary, everyday chores with some semblance of efficiency. Grocery lists. Appointments. Or even slightly more aspirational, semi-optional tasks like cleaning out that closet. But do wishful items like “be nicer” or “get back to your weight when you were 18” or “write 1,000 words per day, everyday” really belong on a list?

Forget it! My theory is that if a task is, by its nature, fantastical or never-ending then it doesn’t belong on a to-do list. Items on lists are there to be crossed out, not to haunt you forever.

It’s not that I don’t have goals. And my memory (or occasional lack thereof) does demand that I rely on the crutch of a list now and then. But what I’m giving up for 2016 is the type of list that’s really a litany of promises to yourself that you feel guilty about breaking in the past, and are now pledging once again to keep. Oh, sure, you’re determined. This time you’ll succeed.

Or not.

It’s an inexplicably popular way to start the New Year – this annual confession of past sins, and the penance of try-trying-again. It swells the gym population in January, and spikes the sale of diet books and un-yummy health foods like kale and quinoa.

For writers it leads to word count goals, writing space reorganization, and plans for daily work regimens.

Unfortunately, for most of us, most of these good intentions have escaped from the barn, jumped the fence and are long gone by February or March, leaving a galloping guilt hangover. And the problem with guilt – especially for people who expect a lot of themselves and don’t react very well to failure – is that “getting right back on the horse” is often not what happens next. Instead, guilt triggers the self-defeating reaction of avoiding the horse altogether.

Horse? What horse?

And what then? Momentum is lost. The excuses and justifications begin. And the whole issue becomes a sore subject. For a writer, this means hoping that no well-meaning person will ask you how your book is coming along.

There’s got to be a better way. So here’s my plan for 2016: stop setting myself up for failure.

Despite all the conventional wisdom, I think lists and pledges and resolutions are basically sticks masquerading as carrots. Do lists of ambitious promises and rules really inspire people and make them succeed? I have my doubts.

I think what energizes people – what drives them toward a goal – is passion. Pure and simple. And you don’t manufacture passion by writing it down. It has to be felt, in the moment. Passion is a burning fire, not a commandment carved in stone, or some kind of a contract that must be fulfilled.

Neither can creativity be brought to life through a written-down prescription. Writers block does not dissolve in the acid of anxiety caused by your failure to be productive or live up to a pledge. If anything, fear of failure paralyzes rather than empowers.

Lists and resolutions come from the left brain. Creativity and inspiration come from the right brain. And the juice of passion gushes from the limbic brain. See my point? When it comes to getting your writing mojo on in the coming year, a list of New Year’s resolutions may be focusing on exactly the wrong part of your brain.

So how to stimulate and bring forth the impassioned writer inside you, coax out the muse who’s reluctant to show her face?

Here’s something ridiculously simple that I’m going to try: I’ll wake up every morning and – instead of immediately consulting my mental checklist of “things I have to do today” – I will take a few minutes to think about my story first. What happens next in the plot? What problems need to be worked out? What characters need some attention? Where can I take it today?

That’s it.

I will try to keep hooking myself on my story, keep firing up my creativity. Every morning. And then I’ll try to make the time to act on it. As much time as I can devote to it that day. Let my right brain rule. Feed my passion.

And let my left brain, and all its task-oriented priorities, wait their turn for a change.

I think I’ve finally learned, after several years of calling myself a writer, the reason my good intentions have not led to good writing “discipline”. Ironically, I thought that part would be easy, since I built a lot of discipline muscle in my 35-year career as the owner and creative director of a design and ad agency. But since I shifted gears to try my hand as a novelist, I’ve forgotten the obvious. Management discipline runs on logic and strategy. Creative discipline runs on emotion and exploration. Different brain cells. Different rules. And the twain don’t always meet.

If I want to take writing seriously – and I do – it can’t just be chore on my to-do list, though I have committed to finishing my book. It can’t just be a job, though I do accept the hard work required. It can’t be just about getting published, though it is important to me to share my words.

For me, writing has to be a true passion. It has to reward me in the moment of creation, the same way that doing a painting transports an artist, and making music feeds the soul of a musician. It has to be the thing I just can’t wait to do, the thing that makes me feel joyful, the thing that connects my heart to my mind.

When you have a passion, you can feed it – or you can starve it. If you don’t always keep it close to your heart, it withers.

I’ve come to recognize that the discipline, energy and focus it requires for me to write can only be generated by passion, fuelled by my love of storytelling. Simple truth: if I’m not feeling the love, I’m not getting it done. Making more pledges to be more disciplined isn’t going to work for me. What I need to do is renew and cultivate my passion for writing.

That’s why I’m going to take it day by day. Try to start off each morning, in those first moments of waking, thinking about my book. Letting myself be inspired, getting back into the story before all the other demands of the day flood in and replace my passion with … a list of chores.

I admit this is almost the polar opposite of the bootcamp approach, and maybe it sounds a little airy-fairy. Will this regime call my muse out, awaken my creativity and fire up my discipline?

We shall see. Stay tuned.

Happy New Year to all!

What happened to pen and paper?

Karalee’s Post #130

Jot it downLast week I had one of those aha moments, the kind that’s hard to admit because it is so obvious. The kind that the young these days call a brain fart.

It happened while I was driving around doing my daily work, fitness, errands and chores. A typical day until I actually noted and listened to that little voice in my head that kept whispering like a mantra of sorts.

“I can’t write right now. My computer is at home.”

It became painfully obvious that I’ve been using this as my excuse to NOT get my writing done. Throughout every day, and I mean every day, I have a few minutes here and there that I could be jotting ideas down. Heck, many of my “great” ideas come while I’m driving and my subconscious is diverted. It’s the equivalent to other people singing in the shower and the idea bulb suddenly lighting up in the mind like a movie set.

The thought can be so strong that it makes you rush naked and dripping out of the shower to write it down before it slips away down the drain along with your soaped up water.

Wait!

Did I say you rush to write it down? On what?

Do you risk dripping water on your computer? Maybe you grab a pen and write that brilliant thought down on good old-fashioned PAPER?

Aha! I  could do that in my vehicle.

I could stop at the curb, pull out pen and paper and jot my ideas down. Easy peasy and as obvious as a pimple on one’s nose.

Joe’s post this week If Writers Had Drill Sergeants was meant to be if you believe in Karma. Imagine what I can accomplish in a 45 minute burst with my ideas already written down and saved on paper, real paper, and not buried back in my subconscious. My pages could be pounded out so fast and furious that I’d burn my fingertips from the keyboard friction. I’d feel so euphoric that I would be Battling the Monster; writers and mental health like in Paula’s last post and I’d be cured of depression and self-doubts, and, and, and….

Can all this be because of pen and paper and simply saving my ideas? Intuitively I feel like a weight has been lifted and unhealthy ties severed between myself and having to have my computer handy in order to write at all. I don’t need to isolate myself in my office.

Also, I don’t need to take my computer everywhere with me, and find an outlet, and WiFi.

I could even go away for a weekend without it! My computer doesn’t rule all.

When I outline a novel idea I do it on a big roll of children’s drawing paper from Ikea. I use pencil. I draw circles and lines and write on the sides. I put in my timelines and dates and use different colors. I drink coffee and pace the floor. I walk outside to clear my head. I have FUN and it’s always with good old paper and pen ( or pencils).

It’s after this initial burst of creativity that I start to rely on the computer. I organize my chapters and research and character development using Scrivener. It’s a great tool and I love using it. I could also make Scrivener work for me when I’m not home and the ideas rolling around in my head start to surface. It’s easy to print out the last chapter I’m on, or a scene I’m fiddling with, or even the character development folder. I could take paper with me. I could jot stuff down on it. I could let my imagination go wild.

Then when I take those ideas and enter them into the computer it’s almost like the second draft. At this point Joe’s Drill Sergeant can take over.

Do other writers out there feel completely reliant on their computers to get any and all of their writing done? I think this is a mindset that many of us have fallen into.

I’m going to let go of my computer umbilical cord for a few minutes here and there every day and get back to keeping a notebook with me. And a pen. I know my creativity flows all day. I will jot it all down.

I will write on paper.

___________________________________________________________________

Productivity: I’m at the midpoint of my third short story. I will print it out and take my pen and some more paper with me from the house. I will let you know next week how it works for me.

Motivation:  I’m following The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. The book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is on my bedside table along with Dalai Lama’s book The Art of Happiness.

Happy Moments:

  • walking on the powdery snow-like beaches around Tampa Bay, Florida last week with my hubby and friends.
  • the heat in the sun in Florida
  • visiting the Chihuly Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida
  • my daughter dropping by with a list of recipes for us to bake for Christmas goodies. She has great taste.

____________________________________________________________________

Perspective Photos:

 

chihuly glass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

chihuly boat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy writing!

 

 

The art of course correcting

compass

Silk’s Post #146 — The course to your writing goal is rarely a straight line (a reality writing shares with most other life goals). When you start writing a novel – especially if you’ve done all the work of outlining, or at least envisioning the story arc from start to finish, you think you know where you’re going.

But when you encounter an unexpected impasse, what do you do? Press on ahead, no matter what? Or reassess and correct course?

In other words, can you – and should you – be flexible enough to deviate from your carefully-planned roadmap? Without feeling like you’ve given up, or failed? Or should you go backwards and try to “fix” whatever narrative deficits have brought you to this troubling nexus?

For some writers, the answer is “forward-ho!” Forge on to the predetermined end, and fix whatever problems are causing a sense of discomfort or dislocation in the second draft. Nothing wrong with that strategy, especially if it keeps you on-track with your writing discipline. Mind you, you may be spending a lot more time with your second draft working out stubborn plot or character problems than you had imagined. But it’s a way forward.

And forward is where we must go.

Other writers may pull up the reins, look around at their storyworld surroundings, and realize they’re just plain lost. How did I get here? Everything’s wrong! Feeling trapped in the bog of the mushy middle is no fun, and I wonder how many books simply die right there … slowly sinking into the quicksand of confusion and lost momentum.

To be brutally honest, some unfinished and unworkable stories do need to be given a decent burial rather than continue to suck energy out of their authors, to no good end. But many others are salvageable – maybe even brilliant, eventually – if the writer is willing to let go of the original prescribed plan and let the story bloom in its own natural time and manner.

What happens when an author gets to the narrative’s mid-point, for instance, and realizes – with horror and probably a wrenching ache in his or her gut – that the protagonist should  actually be someone other than the chosen lead character? Or that, even worse, the protagonist is terminally boring, or unlikeable? Or that close third person isn’t working at all, and the story should be told in first person? Or that the whole “voice” of the book is wrong? Or that the story is actually a mystery, not a romance, and needs major structural revisions?

Ah, but these are the lucky authors. The ones who can actually see what’s wrong in the course of the first draft. Why they’re struggling, why they’re swimming against the tide. For many of us, these insights may not come until much later – although “later” is still not “too late” when it comes to a novel. Many resurrections take place in the second or third draft.

However, making a decision to correct course in the middle of a writing journey can be more than daunting. It can be debilitating. Demotivating. Discombobulating. And, seriously – do we need yet more hurdles and self-doubt in our sometimes stuttering writing practices? After all, we’re not out on the high seas in a Clipper ship, our very lives dependent on finding the right course to make a safe landfall. We can just tuck that off-track manuscript in the bottom drawer and go do something more rewarding.

Persistance can be hard, but it can have a big pay off.

Correcting course requires some potentially painful choices. And they can be humbling.

It may mean literally throwing away a lot of stuff you worked hard on, and struggling to convince yourself that it wasn’t just a waste of time. It may mean psyching yourself up to counteract the demotivating experience of having to go backward before you can go forward. It may mean admission that you over-reached, or didn’t work hard enough, or didn’t work smart enough, or picked a genre that isn’t your forté, or any number of other writing sins.

And sometimes the worst sin of all is simply neglecting your writing practice. Maybe you’ve left your manuscript untouched for so long that it has become a kind of skeleton in your closet, Exhibit #1 in the damning case against your sin of omission, a personal rebuke. Maybe you got stuck somewhere along the way, the going got tough, and you put it aside for later. Now it’s later, much later. Are you going to keep avoiding it? Or summon your courage and seek a fresh direction?

To recognize you need a course correction, you have to admit you’re on the wrong track. And who likes to be wrong?

But this is where the art of it comes in – the art of nourishing your writer’s soul. Writers all work essentially alone. Yes, you may be lucky (as I am) to have a writers/critique group, or an editor, or a mentor, or any number of wonderful, supportive people in your writing life. And that really matters. But when the words go on paper, it’s just you and the blank white page. You are an enterprise with a staff of one: yourself.

You have to look after yourself and your assets – your mind, your imagination, your health, your skills, your commitment, your creative spirit, and maybe most of all your enthusiasm.

So don’t look back. Don’t beat yourself up. Give yourself huge points for making the decision to get back on track, take a breath, then get to work with renewed hope and energy. Because although writing is hard work, it should be joyful work.

In my own experience, writing feels incredibly good when it flows, when I know my scene, or my character, or my storyworld, or my narrative arc is working well. It only feels bad when I’m grinding my gears because something’s broken down.

Course corrections are positive. They mean you’ve learned something essential. They mean you’re becoming a better writer. And, hopefully, they lead you away from the struggle of wrestling with something that isn’t working right, and back to that euphoric place all writers seek: The Zone.

And The Zone is where I hope I’m bound this week. Because I have to admit that, of late, I’ve been guilty of the sin of neglecting my writing practice. Yes, right in the middle of the 5writers5novels5months challenge. While the hardy NaNoWriMo participants gushed hundreds of thousands of words during November, my writing output barely filled a teacup.

I was stuck with a few pretty major holes in my current story. Who, exactly, is my villain? How does the story end? And what motivates one of my key characters to take the action that unlocks the whole flow of the plot arc?

Yeah. Big questions. Until I answered them, I was paralyzed. I questioned whether the whole book premise even made any sense. I wondered whether I was capable of writing it, given that it’s a story far outside my own personal experience. I felt like a fraud, taking on a complex, dark, “big idea” story as a novice writer living my idyllic life on my nice, safe little Pacific Northwest island.

So I stalled out. I found other things to do. And my underfed manuscript sat abandoned on my drive. And meanwhile, the 5/5/5 challenge clock ticked towards our deadline.

But, almost unbeknownst to me, my mind kept at the story. Wouldn’t let it go. I wasn’t even aware I was processing it until last week, when the answers to my plot and character questions suddenly popped into my consciousness while I was driving to the grocery store. All in one big epiphany!

So I’m back to the keyboard, and it feels good. Not quite Zone-like yet, but I have renewed confidence I’ll get there.

But now a new course correction is needed.

Because I know I’m not going to have this first draft finished by our 5writers deadline – artificial as it may be – of February 5th. It’s just not going to happen. So I polled the other 5writers, and it seems I’m not the only one whose productivity has fallen a bit short of where we all should be in our stories by now – if we want to be typing “The End” in exactly 60 days.

Rather than avoid the problem, deny the reality, guilt ourselves into a demotivated state of inertia, painfully wedge enough scraps of writing time into the holiday season to make up for lost time, or just give up … we are discussing a course correction, including a reset of our challenge deadline to April 5th. This would also give us more time for mutual support, including some in-progress critiquing and feedback, and virtual group meetings.

Paths to any goal in life, after all, are just plot lines. They do take twists and turns, with something to learn around every corner. And if you’re afraid to make course corrections, you may never get there.

Don’t wait to write

Karalee’s Post #128

rock on beach

Our 5/5/5 group have all in our own way expressed how we try to organize ourselves to write, how procrastination is a non-starter, and how life pulls us from our offices and computers where our characters are developing and waiting to be born.

And we all know how we hate waiting.

We don’t want to wait at the doctor’s office, or the dentist, the ferry lineup, in traffic, or in the grocery line. We complain miserably about all of this waiting, yet we do it because it is part of our everyday lives or put into our lives on some sort of schedule.

Imagine then, how our characters must feel. We leave them half-formed physically, mentally and emotionally. They literally can be abandoned mid-sentence just about to be shot or die in a car or airplane, or while falling skiing with their leg in the middle of snapping as they hit a tree.

Then we return and change their names, alter their physical, mental and emotional attributes and dump them in a different situation, and then once again LEAVE them hanging.

Waiting.

How can we as writers go to bed at night knowing that we’ve abandoned someone that really needs our help to move out of the situation that we’ve put them in? Guilt should keep us awake at night every night until we have the decency to grab up our computers and do SOMETHING. Even if the situation worsens, at least it is changing and our characters aren’t suffering the same instant over and over.

Be empathetic. Imagine it’s you sitting in an airplane about to crash. You’re strapped in with the oxygen mask over your face and the plane is in a nose dive. You know you are about to die, yet it goes on and on and on. Days. Weeks. Months. Sometimes years. It goes way beyond the laws of gravity.

So I sincerely ask all the writers out there, especially my dear 5/5/5’ers, be empathetic and PLEASE keep writing so you can let your characters do what has to be done. Don’t leave them waiting any longer than necessary!

_________________________________________________________________

Short Stories Written:  Two. I committed to finishing them and that was the inspiration for this blog and the reason I didn’t get a blog written last week. I chose to keep writing. I didn’t want to leave my characters hanging in limbo while I went to bed . I wrote. I created. I finished.

Short Stories sent to Competitions:  Two. Great incentive to be kind to my characters and reach The End. Thanks Joe, for lighting the fire under me to get my work off. Now it’s a different kind of waiting game to see if my stories pass the judging stage.

Exercise:  I must be one of the three people Joe knows that runs. In the past couple of decades I’ve completed one marathon, a dozen or so half-marathons, and many 10 km races. My race days are over due to sciatica (accumulation of wear and tear on my back over the years and exacerbated from dragon boat racing). I still run 3x/week but slower and shorter. Joe is right, what the exercise is doesn’t matter, rather it’s getting out there and doing something to get the circulation and muscles working.

____________________________________________________________________

Perspective Photos:

Tammy close up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Umbrella B&W

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy writing!

 

On the road again, again

writing-on-the-road

Silk’s Post #142

October 14, 2015 … Sometimes I wonder whether we should be doing a writers’ blog or a travellers’ blog. 5travellers5journeys5months? We 5writers do seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on the road. Just take the last three or four months, for instance …

Paula hopped all over visiting family this summer … Cincinnati one day, Florida the next. On her last check-in she was back home in Gibsons, BC, writing as she gazed over the harbour from her beachy retreat. But that was a few days ago, after she got back from La Quinta, CA. Or was it San Diego? Anyway, now I think she’s in (surprise!) Surprise, AZ for a tennis tournament.

Joe is recently back from his proposal adventure in Whistler, BC, where he won the hand of the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world on top of a mountain (then helicoptered back down and took a nap, apparently – hey the air’s pretty thin up there). After his flurry of camping trips and other family travel adventures, I think he’s back home in Langley, BC, writing between kids’ hockey practices.

Karalee had her eagerly-awaited mother-of-the-bride trip to Mexico this summer, then immediately took off for a kayak adventure in Haida Gwaii. What a juxtaposition! It sounds like she’s home now from her business conference in someplace very sunny (Las Vegas?) and her family getaway to the California coast. Writing I hope!

Helga is now back in her elegant and ever-fascinating birth city, Vienna, Austria, spending time with her indomitable mother. I am positive she’s soaking up material for a book to come. But soon after she returns to Vancouver, BC, she’ll be off again to her new winter home in Palm Springs, CA.

As for me, half my summer was spent on the water, sailing the San Juan Islands, WA, then up the BC coast to Desolation Sound and back. And now I’m on the move again, on a camping road trip down the coast to California catching up with family and friends.

As Carole King sang: You’re so far away. Doesn’t anyone stay in one place anymore?

Well, the answer seems to be “no”.

What is this urge to be in constant motion all about? Are the 5writers going all jet-setty on you?

The reality is that much of this to-ing and fro-ing is about keeping in touch, and sharing activities, with family and friends. The reality is that personal mobility is the new normal. Families living for many generations in the same place used to be typical. Today, it’s much more likely that you have relatives and friends scattered across the country, or the world.

This is just one reason more people travel, more often, and to more places than ever before.

But, with some reluctance, I have to ask this question: When you’re constantly packing, or unpacking, or doing laundry while planning for the next departure, is there really time – and focus – left for writing?

Oh, we’re getting lots of stimulation all right. We’re collecting experiences and studying the great smorgasbord of real-life characters out here. We’re soaking up sights, sounds, smells, tastes, moods, settings that could be used to build memorable storyworlds.

But when will we “settle down” and write about it?

In airport lounges? Holed up in chic but unfamiliar cafes? Huddled near a sputtering campfire while coyotes yip in the distance? By night-light, propped up with random pillows in someone’s guest bedroom? Hunched over the navigation table of a rocking boat? Typing with fingerless gloves, sitting on a cold hockey arena bleacher before dawn? Under a beach umbrella between dips in the water?

It all sounds so romantic, so interesting, so fun, so possible. The Writing Life. We can do it anywhere, anytime.

Sure we can. But do we?

Well, here I am, on the road again. Again. My writer’s nook for today is the table of our 5th wheel trailer while I listen to the Pacific rollers out beyond the pine fringe, beyond the flat, stretches-for-miles strand at Grayland Beach State Park, WA.

And I am writing. Getting it done. Even though all this travel has made my post days late. In part, this is because of being constantly on the move or in the midst of social events. But the other challenge is that getting online while away from home is often like winning the lottery. You really take your chances. As I write this it’s Wednesday afternoon, but I have no idea when I’ll actually be able to post it.

My mission today was to call my inner naysayer a liar. When I sat down to write, that little whiner inside was kvetching:

“Writing on the road is too haaard. I want to go for a walk on the beach. I want to read a book. I don’t feel like working. You can’t send your post today anyway, so what’s the point? Why bother going on a trip to someplace beautiful and then use up all your playtime sitting inside writing? I’m missing all the fun. Writing on the road is too haaard!”

Oh, yeah? Well I did it anyway. Maybe not my most captivating post, but it’s certainly “in the now”. And from the heart.

And I didn’t miss the fun. I made my own.


October 16, 2015 … Friday morning under a fog bank. I’ve finally got a cell signal here at Nehalem Bay, OR where we’re camped just behind the dunes on the spectacular Oregon north coast, where every view around every curve is heartbreaking because you want to stop, right there, and just stare at it for hours. So that’s the good news, and here’s the bad news …

5/5/5 challenge scorecard for the week:

New pages written:  Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Word count:  Still 9,320

Rewrites:  None

Blog posts written:  1

Research done:  Nope

Best new thing:  Being on the road again, again.

Apple progress:  3 dozen oatmeal apple muffins in the freezer. Okay, two and a half dozen … 6 already gobbled down.

Procrastination redux

now-later

Silk’s Post #141 — It’s after midnight as I write this post. That means I’ve missed my assigned posting day of Monday and slipped silently, under the cover of darkness, into Tuesday. It’s my old nemesis, the monkey on my back, procrastination. And it’s bedevilling me again.

My tardiness this time is filled with portent. It’s a sign. Why? Because by missing my deadline I have landed on exactly the right day of the year for this post.

That’s right: today, October 6th is the one-month anniversary of Fight Procrastination Day. What better time to celebrate it than a month late?

Never heard of Fight Procrastination Day? Neither had I until I stumbled upon it in, of all places, a blog on the Psychology Today website, as I searched desperately for some fresh insights into why I always seem to be chronically behind, and what to do about it.

Of course, as soon as I learned there was such a thing as Fight Procrastination Day, that set me off researching its origin. It’s one of my favourite online procrastination tactics. Unfortunately, the beginnings of this observance are murky. It seems to have materialized from the ether and I was unable to find any reference to when it started or who started it.

I did discover, however, that Fight Procrastination Day shares its celebration on September 6th – which, ironically, was the day after the launch date of our 5writers5novels5months challenge – with Read a Book Day. Cue the theme music to Twilight Zone.

Just over one year ago, on September 30, 2014, I wrote my most popular blog post ever, Wasting Away in Mananaville, and shared it in the Books and Writers group on Linkedin. To date, it has drawn 5,847 comments. Seriously. To this day, people are still procrastinating on their books by spending time commenting and chatting with each other on this thread. I created a time-sucking monster.

But that’s procrastination for you. It’s a zombie. Persistent and unkillable.

It’s also a favourite topic for writers and other creative types – yet more evidence that procrastination is a widespread condition. Kind of a psychological pandemic. The number of analyses, explanations, serious prescriptions, folk cures and pithy quotes I’ve read on procrastination could fill a whole book. But here, courtesy of International Business Times, is a curated list of the “10 Best Procrastination Quotes” celebrating procrastination, published on the occasion of Fight Procrastination Day.

“Procrastination isn’t the problem, it’s the solution. So procrastinate now, don’t put it off.” — Ellen DeGeneres

“I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do the day after.”  — Oscar Wilde

“If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.” — Rita Mae Brown

“I’m a big believer in putting things off. In fact, I even put off procrastinating.”  — Ella Varner

“The scholar’s greatest weakness: calling procrastination research.”  — Stephen King

“Nothing says work efficiency like panic mode.”  — Don Roff

“If you ask me, reincarnation is just another way to procrastinate.”  — Chuck Palahniuk in “Lullaby”

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”  — Don Marquis

“Procrastination is like a credit card: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.”  — Christopher Parker

“I think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done.”  — Susan Orlean

So, happy Fight Procrastination Day! Sorry I’m late.


5/5/5 challenge scorecard for the week:

New pages written:  10 (that’s all?)

Word count: 9,320

Rewrites:  None

Blog posts written:  1

Research done:  Many little side-trips

Best new thing: The golden fall light – it’s my season

Apple progress:  18 jars of home made applesauce; only 2 laundry baskets of apples still left that need something useful done with them (pies a strong contender)

applesauce

 

 

Welcome to the 5writers5novels5months reprise

555-redux

Silk’s Post #137 — Day three already. Paula threw down the gauntlet on our second 5 month challenge on (appropriately) September 5th – the very date we began our original crazy venture in 2012.

The clock is already ticking. Quietly right now, but it’s bound to get louder. And louder. And LOUDER. Like Edgar Allen Poe’s haunting theme in The Telltale Heart. WRI-ting. WRI-ting. WRI-ting.

It’s exactly what I need right now.

Maybe you do too? If so, please join us in the challenge and check in with your progress in the comments space. To date, all the original 5writers have signed up for either a novel or, in Karalee’s case, a series of short stories. Plus we have at least one visiting writer who’s committed to hitchhiking with us. It’s more fun with a crowd, so feel free to jump on board any time!

I have a kind of dark plot in the works. Murder, jeopardy, quest, high emotion, moral dilemma, and a little gallows humour thrown in to wash it down with. My kind of story.

If you’ve been following the 5writers5novels5months blog for a while, first of all: Thanks! Especially those of you who’ve stuck with us over the past year or so while we floundered around producing … well … not very much novel writing, and a rather erratic schedule of blogging.

If you actually followed our 2012 original challenge to each write a novel in 5 months, you’ll remember that I was the tortoise. While swifter 5/5/5 members sped by me, words flying on the pages and pages flying off the printer, I plodded and plotted on. The way that was supposed to end was with “slow and steady” winning the race.

But that’s not what happened, I’m afraid.

I got the “slow” part down pat, but never quite got the hang of the “steady” part.

Here’s what I did get out of it though, and I don’t regret a moment:

  • I made it halfway through a manuscript that I still think has some good potential. I just need to  hook it up to some electrodes and wait for a good electrical storm to jolt it back to life (but not this time around).
  • I learned how to design, write and maintain a blog (or our “lite” version of one anyway), and now consider it to be the equivalent of learning typing in grade 7: an absolutely essential skill that has now become instinctive and, thankfully, I’ll never have to learn again.
  • I got to know and love and work with an extraordinary, talented group of 5/5/5 writers who have (in turns) cheered on my writing, supported my efforts when they flagged, beat me about the head when I wrote crap, pushed me when I was unproductive, and soothed my bruised ego when needed. They are my angels.
  • I met a whole community of dedicated writers online and realized most of them are going through the same struggles I am – some more successfully, some less. Here I found yet another layer of unexpected support from our blog readers, and from the generous writing gurus who share their knowledge and experience with the rest of us through their own terrific blogs.

So … now that I’ve had nearly two years of (I’ll admit it) writing in circles without much to show for it, I’m ready to take up the challenge again. The question is: can I rev up my productivity, get my groove back, and keep my enthusiasm up for 5 months and complete a whole first draft this time around?

It’s a long journey.

My second blog post in September 2012 was titled “Arithmetic for Writers”. That’s where I first calculated (after already committing to the challenge) what would need to be actually done to produce a full length novel in 5 months. It was scary as hell.

The rough math: 100 days of actual butt-in-chair writing at 1,000 words a day average.

That’s four pages a day. Doesn’t sound so intimidating at the outset, does it? Piece of cake! A monkey with a typewriter could manage that.

But just wait until October, when the calendar shows how many suns have set without 4 pages having been produced that day. Wait until November, when the catch-up panic starts to rise in the craw like acid reflux. Wait until December, when the holidays greedily gobble up time.

I’ve called myself the 11th-Hour Queen, and my post on procrastination, “Wasting Away in Mañanaville”, elicited an astounding 6,000 comments on the Linked In Books and Writers group page. But there comes a point in a long project where you just can’t catch up fast enough to meet your deadline if you’ve fallen too far behind. And that point is much earlier in the process than the 11th Hour.

So my pledge this time around is simple: DON’T FALL BEHIND.

And as much as I resist scorekeeping, I’m going to resort to a tick-tock report in my blog posts during this new 5/5/5 challenge, like the dreaded weigh-in at a Weight Watchers meeting. Ugh.

So here goes for this week:

Words written:  4,568 (yes, I got a head start)

Blog posts written:  1 (a day late)

What I’m reading:  Light of the World by James Lee Burke; Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

Best new thing:  Stephen Colbert is back

Thought of the week:  If you’re planning to write a whole novel, you better fall in love with your story first. Like head-over-heels in love. Otherwise it will someday live in your unloved, unfinished novels drawer and haunt you.

Getting back to work

Joe’s Post #143

Getting back from a writing retreat or a workshop, or even a conference, is a lot like coming back from a vacation with a bad case of the runs. It’s not like you don’t want to get on with life, but sh*t just keeps cropping up.

orange is the new blackBack at home, there’s all sorts of distractions, from Orange is the New Black to a regular life full of ball hockey practices, dishes and yelling at the dog for barking at the cat who’s hissing at the frogs, to bills and fights with Canada Revenue Services.

So while it’s easy to find time to write when you’re on a retreat, or at a workshop, it’s hard to keep that momentum going.

In the last week, I wrote 30 pages. Better than most weeks in 2015, that’s for sure, but far below what I should be doing. And that got me thinking.

How do you keep up the momentum?

Thoughts?

For me, it routine is still my best hope, but I can write for 2 hours a day in the morning and produce 2 hours of crap. So that may not be everything.

keyFinding inspiration is the key. I mean, that’s what those other events are for, right?

Can you find it from other writers? Sure. So you need to be part of a group. A fun group that loves to write.

Can you find it from books on writing? Maybe, but it’s just as easy to get bogged down in editorial mode and that could mean you’ll be writing and rewriting and rewriting the same 30 pages over and over.

Can you find it from novels? Ah, that’s the ticket. At least for me. Nothing inspires like a good book.

Can you find it alone? Hmmm. Maybe, but inspiring myself is kind of like trying to cut my own hair. It usually ends in tears and a trip to the doctor to reattach an ear.

So how do you stay motivated?

talents

Is writing a lonely occupation?

Karalee’s Post #116

I have been known to say that writing can be lonely. I’ve even changed my life this year  by joining a business in direct marketing to augment my retirement AND meet up with friends and talk to strangers. Lots of strangers. And many of those strangers have become friends.

My life has changed. I’m happier being more social. I’m more at peace and moving in a direction that I’m enjoying. Now, did I make this change in my life to get out of the house more because writing is lonely?

 

My answer is a resounding NO!

No that is, that writing is lonely. It isn’t. Not ever. When I think about it, I was wrong when I said that writing can be lonely. How can it be when my mind is filled with characters and places and relationships and mysteries and, and, and…. There’s so much happening when I write that there is NO ROOM for loneliness!

So where does this sense of loneliness come from?

I had to laugh when the truth hit me. I realized that the only time I feel lonely “writing” is when I’m not actually writing. It’s when I stop writing and sit there, just me and my computer, and I feel that I’m the only “real” person in the room or the house. It’s when the sun is shining outside and I think I’d rather be in the garden, or when I “should” be doing the millions of other chores in my life that suddenly become important.

It’s when my writing isn’t flowing that I can feel lonely. It’s when I have hours in my day to write and I continue to have difficulty staying focused that loneliness creeps in.

This was happening to me and I needed a change. I had to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself. My family no longer required my full attention and I had energy to burn.

AND, I have come to realize that I am more social than I ever thought I was. I want more social interaction and if I can achieve this and do business at the same time, it’s a win-win for me. I used to own a large physiotherapy practice and I’m enjoying the challenge of being in business again.

I’m not throwing in the towel regarding writing. Not at all! With fewer hours to sit in my office chair, there’s more push to stay focused and be more productive. My “not writing” hours will be fewer and therefore not as lonely.

A change is good for my writing!

__________________________________________________

Achievements this week:

  • my garden is all planted and set to grow!
  • I’m the sole caretaker of the neighborhood traffic circle garden. I also got this area planted/weeded for the season.
  • reorganize my office/writing area. I’ve moved twice in the last three months to accommodate others in the house. Back to normal in September!
  • 1 hr/day writing. Need to get 30 pages done for July 5th!

 

Keeping balance in my life: 

  •  Sticking to the Slight Edge philosophy to achieve success in my new business and in my writing.
  • Daily meditation and exercise. I am healthy, have good energy and am staying more centered.
  • Staying in touch with fellow 5Writers every Monday (or Tuesday) keeps our group strong and supporting one another!
  • A positive attitude leads to more happiness, and more writing!

Perspective Photos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy writing!