Kait Nolan

Clear Your Space, Clear Your Mind by Kait Nolan

I’m back in the land of the living.  Thanks so much for the well wishes, everybody!

So, since I’m jumping in NOT at the very start of the round, I’m going to NOT talk about beginning stuff for once.  Instead, I’m thinking about something that impacts all of us, pretty well all the time, in one guise or another.

DISTRACTION.

I our highly connected, highly technological society, we are always plugged in, always constantly exposed to stimuli–but how important are all of those things, REALLY?  More often than not, it’s just a junk stimulus.  A distraction that takes up valuable brain real estate and pulls our eye from the proverbial ball (our writing and the creative process).

I have long said that the state of my space (house/office/whatever) tends to reflect the state of my mind.  And if it’s a disaster, then I can’t concentrate.  This is particularly a thing for me because I’m a neat freak married to a…not neat freak.  And there’s that balance between how much I’m willing to pick up after him for the sake of my own peace of mind before we tip over into resentment for “you’re a grown man, pick up your dirty socks and garbage” territory.  I haven’t got any answers on this front, as it’s a lifelong project I’m still figuring out (I SWEAR, dogs are much easier to house train than husbands).  But there are other areas where we CAN take control to get RID of some of those unnecessary distractions.

Email.

The thing that is NEVER DONE.  I have other writer friends who live in terror of opening their email because the state of their inbox is just too scary.  I’m one of those people who is chained to my email and tend to constantly check it.  It’s not that I’m necessarily expecting some SUPER IMPORTANT THING…I just have a hard time dealing with something UNFINISHED (aka UNREAD) being RIGHT THERE.

I started combating this last year by getting rid of my email notifier.  I no longer have anything that pops up to tell me I’ve got mail because that was derailing me from anything I might actually be in the middle of.  And since I get a high volume of email, that was REALLY influencing my productivity in a bad way.

I took another step in the right direction this year by starting to UNSUBSCRIBE from anything I really don’t read.  We ALL have newsletters or business circulars or all kinds of things that we’ve subscribed to (on purpose or not) over the course of the year.  They come in, and it’s automatic to click the delete button and move on.  But take the extra 10 seconds to open it and go to the bottom and click UNSUBSCRIBE so that you eliminate it all together.  Be brutal.  Those ads from Target or Lowes or wherever…how often have you EVER actually used whatever was advertised as on sale to save any significant money?  You don’t need them.  And that brings me to another distraction.

Advertising.

Avoid it in all its guises.  It’s just a means of distracting you and trying to get you to spend money you shouldn’t on stuff you don’t need.  Don’t just turn on the TV for noise.  Don’t turn it on at all unless it’s to watch something specific.  DVR everything or use Netflix or Hulu.  Skip those commercials.  Because billions of dollars have gone into making them sticky and memorable, meaning some of those are going to cling to your brain like some kind of mental vampires and suck away valuable brain cells.

Clutter.

We’ve finally finished completely cleaning up from the holidays and from having a month long guest in the house.  OMG, I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER.  We all have areas of clutter in our house.  For some of us, that’ the WHOLE HOUSE.  This is another of those areas where it’s important to be brutal.  If you don’t use it or need it, toss it, donate it, or sell it.  Simplify your life.  You can take your time with it, organizing your house in 52 weeks or tackling the mess with the FlyLady Method.  You don’t have to do it in a day.  You just have to start making small changes and rely on the snowball effect.  Be consistent.  Either way, get rid of the clutter.

Unfinished Projects

We’ve ALL got a list of unfinished projects around the house.  Stuff that we keep MEANING to do and just haven’t gotten around to.  We moved into our new house a year and a half ago.  Still haven’t organized the garage.  There are other projects.  Some bigger.  Some smaller.  All stuff I haven’t done because I don’t feel like I have time.  But the signs are there, reminding me on a regular basis, like a splinter in my mind just kind of hanging out and IRRITATING ME.  So I have a short list of THINGS THAT WILL BE DONE THIS YEAR.  You should to.  Pick a few of the projects you want to prioritize and just suck it up and get them done.  You’ll be grateful to have them out of the way, and then you’ll have more mental energy available for the important things.  Secondary bonus, you’ll probably have a plot breakthrough while you’re in the middle of doing it, because that’s how we work.

Either way, take some time to clear away some of the things that are sucking up YOUR mental energy.  You’ll thank yourself for it later.

Proud To Be A ROWer

 

As this Round is drawing to a close, I’m thinking about community.

Several years ago, I got invited to start up a community for writers.  This was in the early days of the indie scene and after talking with the other folks involved with the endeavor, I was IN.  I have always loved the idea of creating a community to prop other people up–a positive space to help writers remember that they aren’t alone in this sometimes lonely profession.  That…wasn’t how that particular group turned out.  I disagreed with some of the tactics, and with their desire to monetize the group.   Some of you have known me long enough to remember this.  But the ultimate straw for me related to my use of the group to help out another struggling writer.  Not even a full blown fund raising campaign, just notifying folks of that writer’s freelance editorial services.  I caught flack for it and knew that I was NOT on the same page as my co-founders.  So I left.  That group has since crashed and burned.

When I started ROW80, I set out to create a writing challenge.  Like all challenges, I expected that there would be a fair number of folks who would rotate in and out.  Plenty of first timers who dropped out and never came back.  And we do have that.  But what we also have is a group of core ROWers, people who come back round after round, cheerleading, sharing, and supporting.  People who welcome newcomers, show them the ropes.  People who, when I made the call, not only answered but thew themselves in whole-heartedly.  A community.

Our  Fundrazr for ROW80 sponsor Lauralynn Elliott has drawn to a close.  I’m happy to report that LL’s husband is back at work and recovering nicely.  We’re all thrilled to see him come out on the other side of this!  We raised a whopping $1812 to help out.  A great big THANK YOU to everyone who donated, bought Lauralynn’s books, and spread the word.  If you donated, please don’t forget to FILL OUT THE INCENTIVE FORM to select which price pack you’d like to be entered for.  I’ll be making the drawing for that in the next week or so.

I want to say how proud I am of all of you.  Proud of your generosity and your good spirit.  Most of all, I’m proud to call you, this community, mine.

Be The Best You and State Your Round 2 #ROW80 Goals

I do a lot of reading, and it seems I’m often coming across quotes about stuff that makes me think “Oh, I should write a post about that.”  It’s not a surprise that my brain takes stuff from all kinds of venues and sources and twists them around to fit for writers and the writing life.  It’s how I filter the world, interpret it.   I’ve been reading my way through The Art of War For Writers by James Scott Bell, and last night, I came across the perfect quote for the start of this new Round:

Don’t worry about trying to be better than someone else.  Always try to be the very best you can be.  Learn from others, yes. But don’t just try to be better than they are.  You have no control over that.  Instead try, and try very hard, to be the best you can be.  That you have control over.  ~John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach (p. 49 The Art of War for Writers)

So much of our lives as writers leads us down the path of comparison.  It’s a dangerous road to walk.  It can lead us to turn a disease ridden GREEN.  Because there’s always someone further along the path than we.  Someone who got lucky or was in the right place at the right time.  Someone who might not have been working as hard or as long (according to our perceptions) as we have.  That way lies madness and envy and a soul-sucking waste of energy.

I’m big about issuing challenges around here.  I like to push people.  So of course I have a new challenge for y’all this round.

For the next 80 days, I want you to resist comparison.  Don’t you give a single thought to anyone else’s goals, anyone else’s progress.  You are the only one who matters.  If you must compare, compare your progress this round to what you did last round.  Push yourself to do more.  Up that daily word count by 50 or 100 words.  Edit a few extra pages.  Read a craft book.

But don’t you be checking your Amazon ranking.  Don’t look at anybody ELSE’S Amazon ranking.  Or their number of reviews.  Don’t pay attention to whether Billie Sue wrote 5,000 words a day to your 500.  It doesn’t matter.  You’re not Billie Sue.  If you’re hanging out on Twitter and Facebook and talking to other writers, use it to get into some word wars and push your own limits.  Don’t pay attention to whatever the latest article is about whoever the latest wunderkin is who sold 100,000 copies of their ebook overnight.  You aren’t them.  They don’t matter.  They are not part of your path.  All these potential comparative distractions are like the moles in Mario Kart.  They pop up and blind you to your true path, trying their damnedest to make you crash rather than win the race.

The only one in this race is you.

So keep your eyes on the road and challenge yourself.  See you on the other side.

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Fix Your Focus

Champagne glass

Champagne glass (Photo credit: Adam Mulligan)

It is a True Thing during all rounds of ROW80–but most especially as Round 1 comes to an end, that people have a tendency to wail and bemoan all that they didn’t get done this Round.  This is very often because they give in to the New Years Resolution fever and end up setting unrealistic goals.  Or they end up having Life Stuff that they didn’t anticipate (God knows, I’m guilty of that one).  It is a symptom of the misappropriated focus of our society that all we see is the negative.  The missing.  The things that didn’t happen.  The perpetual Glass Half Empty.  Which, frankly, is a depressing state of affairs.

It’s a bad habit, y’all.  It sets you up to feel constantly BEHIND, constantly like a failure.  I bet when you lay down at night, the last thing you think about are the things you didn’t get to that day.  And after you’ve had coffee, you stare at that list of stuff you need to do that just grows ever larger, until your brain just gets PARALYZED by the sheer scope of it all.  Or maybe that’s just me.

But the fact remains that unless you bailed at the very start YOU ACCOMPLISHED SOMETHING.  Whatever words you wrote, whatever pages you edited.  They aren’t nothing.  And it does you a disservice to ignore them and focus on the vacuum of unfulfilled goals.  And maybe you met or exceeded your goals this time.  If so, GREAT.  But I guarantee you’ve done this to yourself at SOME point or other.

And as we are NOT about failure here at A Round of Words in 80 Days, I am issuing you a challenge!

I’m challenging you to change your outlook.  Become, at least when dealing with your writing, someone who looks at the glass half full.  At the end of each day, give yourself a pat on the back for what you DID do, even if it was just picking a new character name or plotting the next scene.  Set yourself up for the positive, reinforce yourself for DOING.  I promise it’ll make it easier to condition yourself to work better, harder, faster.

So keep that in mind as you jet toward the end of this round, and carry the habit forward into Round 2.

A Round of Words in 80 Days: Welcome to “The One”

When I started A Round of Words in 80 Days 2 years ago, it was a purely selfish thing.  I wanted–needed a writing challenge that could work around my crazy life.  Because I operate REALLY well with the accountability.  The closest I’d come was 70 Days of Sweat, which had long been defunct.  So in typical “If you want something done right…” fashion, I created ROW80 myself and used my social media platform to launch it.  I had no idea whether it would last or fizzle.  I’ve started many other projects over the years (Crit Partner Match springs to mind) that didn’t make it due to lack of interest by other parties.

But here we are 2 years in and ROW80 has lasted.

Not only has it lasted, it has thrived.

Because I finally hit on something that really struck a chord in the writing community.  All the NaNo rejects and rebels, all the Fast Draft fearful, all the other writers out there who also agree with me that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to writing goals–they all (or a lot of them) flocked to ROW80 and embraced it–like the stranger the crazy uncle brings home from the airport in a holiday movie and turns out to be The One.  This challenge has turned out to be The One for a lot of writers out there.  And I can’t tell you how much that delights me.

You’ve helped me to build a community that fosters a healthy attitude toward writing and progress, a community that supports its members no matter what level of crazy is going on.  We are recasting people’s perceptions of success, re-calibrating people’s attitudes to look for the POSITIVE, the ACHIEVEMENTS instead of the perceived failures.  We’re making it OKAY to CHANGE YOUR GOALS with the changes in your life.  And all these things are setting the stage for unprecedented successes for all of us.

So happy holidays ROWers!  Thank you for making ROW80 a success.  And don’t forget to be back here January 7th for Round 1 of 2013!

Mid-week Check-In

Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK (for the Americans among us).  Do YOU have a plan in place so that you still get some words in around the holiday?  And, you know, maybe adding in a walk to work off some of that heavy holiday dinner!

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