Round 1

Final Round 1 Check-In

You technically have until tomorrow for end of round, but I have you trained to look for check ins on Wednesday.  So consider this your 24 hour warning!  Then I expect a ROLL CALL and REPORT IN on how you did on your goals this round!

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Burn Out and Recovery for #ROW80 2014, First Quarter by Dawn Montgomery

Fifteen months, two weeks, and three days.

That was my longest consecutive burnout period. Creatively and with my everyday work load (I was in the military. Lots of deployment, work pressure, highly technical and competitive field, battle stress, and writing pressure on top of it all). During that time, I started many things and finished nothing. I floundered in confidence and my publishers increased pressure (I had no firm deadlines, but I had a solid readership).

Emails came in from readers asking if I would work on a series or create a follow-up to this or that couple. My family didn’t get it. Writing income slumped and it wasn’t like I wasn’t working. I was crying at the computer. Hands on the keyboard. Typing all the mess they tell you to in order to “get the muse working”. Nothing helped. Why couldn’t I speed write like mad and “get over” this slump?

On top of this stress came the nightmares I suffer with when I’m not writing (I’m one of those kinds of people who have to exhaust my mind daily to keep nightmares at a minimum). So my sleep suffered as well. I was convinced this was the wrong field. I needed to quit and walk away.

Then I came across two posts that changed my life. Morgan Hawke talks about burnout and how it relates to success. She focuses on tedium as the number one factor. The other was by comedic writer Gene Perrett (Emmy winning writer of the Bob Hope and Carol Burnett shows). Gene talks about the need to get away from writing in order to rebuild your mind. Read them if you get a chance. I’ll highlight where they helped me if you hang with me a little longer.

As writers we spend a massive amount of time in our own heads. We get into routine, expect to knock out x number of words per writing session, per day. When it doesn’t happen, we get upset with ourselves and keep at it past our normal days, working harder, dragging out word after word. If any.

Each day gets harder and harder, crawling up behind you. You’ve got promotional stuff, deadlines, emails, social media interaction, blog posts, instant messages, work phone calls. All of this is on top of real life.

Then you reach a point in your book where you wonder who these characters are and what they’re doing. Why should you care about what happens to them? You might grind out another chapter (or finish the book), but it’s not your best, and it eats at you.

But you don’t have time to think on it, because the next book is due. Now. Yesterday. Tomorrow. So it’s butt in chair, hands on keyboard for the next book. You might have been excited about the book at the beginning, but the words aren’t coming like you’d hoped.

Stress starts building. You’re not producing the words at the level/speed you’re used to so other things are falling behind.

You run timed writing sessions every day, trying to get the words down, but they are getting harder and harder to drag free? Why?

Boredom/apathy to your characters and the book you’re writing. I read both articles at different times in my writing career, but at the 15 month mark, it all came together in my mind.

Somewhere along the way I stopped emotionally investing in the story/characters and shifted my focus to the numbers every day. I wasn’t giving myself time to unwind from the last emotional upheaval of a book before diving into the next one.

I took a week off away from the computer and writing. In that time I read, watched tv, hung out with my family, and just relaxed. I gave myself permission to not worry about writing. Then, I started playing with characters in my mind. I didn’t think about what book would sell over another or which story would be more likely accepted by my editor. Instead, I went through idea after idea until I found two characters whose story interested me enough to get to know them. And I wrote it.

I also finished it. And took time off after that. I then tapped my mind for the next two (or more) characters who captured my interest. For years I did great, but it’s easy to fall back into old habits.

January and February I hit two burnouts. Each lasted a little over a week. Both were highly stressful and devastating to my ego. We’re into March now and I’m still shaken.

Not because I burned out, but because I saw the signs and ignored them.

November and December were record-breaking in word count numbers. I wanted to top the previous month with even bigger word counts. I ignored my previous schedule. Mondays were admin days. Write from Tuesday to Saturday. Off, completely, on Sunday (I’d schedule my ROW80 post on Saturday). No, according to my new obsession, I needed those days to write more.

I forgot how important it was to enjoy the characters, to invest in their lives. It became a numbers game. I finished a novel in January and immediately jumped into publisher’s edits for a novel that would release at the end of that month. From there, I jumped right back into a new novella.

And then I spent two weeks writing nothing while staring at my computer screen. Hands on the keyboard. Internet shut off. Nothing to distract me. But nothing came.

I took a few days off and dove into paperwork, updated my blog, and tried to touch base with people so I felt like I’d accomplished something.  What I didn’t do, however, was talk to the characters and figure out why their story was so important.

February I forced it. The book was due, I didn’t have a choice. I cried, ranted, ground my teeth together, and suffered, but I pulled 20k in two days. It wasn’t the best rough draft, but I’d done it.

My critique partners slaughtered the book and one of them (who has been with me since the beginning) told me it looked like burnout. “Not as bad as that one time, but…”

Lightbulb moment.

How had I missed the signs?

1. Ambivalence toward the characters (including a lack of backstory)

2. Obsessive focus on the numbers

3. Exhaustion the moment I THINK about writing.

4. Prone to tears of frustration when I write (I hardly ever cry…EVER). This one, btw, is usually the only warning I get before I go into dark writing depression.

5. No memory of what I’d written the day before or why.

The moment I realized where I was headed, I backed off writing and took some creative downtime. I relaxed with the family, read, painted, and didn’t open my writing programs once. If I had writing ideas, I jotted them down and then went back to what I was doing.

One week into it, I could start blogging again.

One and a half weeks, and I could write this post.

At two weeks I saw the first need to write. The first sparks of interest in two characters and their journey. When I thought about writing, it filled me with nervous excitement. This kind of joy is something I’d been missing for a while. I wrote the first chapter with a light heart and a huge amount of relief. I was afraid I’d lost my writing ability, but it looks like it was just tired of being worked to death.

Be kind to yourself. Burnout is a very real thing, and recovery can take a very long time if you don’t catch the signs early.

~*~

Dawn Montgomery

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

Less than a week to go, y’all.  Make these last few days COUNT!

If you’re interested in being a sponsor for Round 2, check out the FAQs and email me at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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The Tongue of Experience Has The Most Truth by Alberta Ross

What do we dream of as writers, apart from writing the bestseller of the century which will resonate with endless generations that is:)  Most of us here in this group, it seems, long for a pure life of writing, free from distractions and real LIFE, with its irritating habit of slapping our faces with a wet fish.

 

Ah, to have a den of our own, time at our disposal, and money in the bank to fund it.

 

There are many impediments to obstruct us; LIFE’S many little trickeries include mortgages, food bills, health issues and family.  Constantly cropping up. Bills and taxes to be paid, cars and computers to be repaired or changed, sickness in the night, paid employment, university courses all joggling each other for our attention. Visitors, family gatherings, holidays to organize. Then there are  pets breaking hearts. So many barriers to ‘our time’ to create our alternative worlds.

 

This isn’t a post about ‘if you really want to achieve something you will find the time’, or ‘be ruthless and shut yourself away’ or even ‘stop making excuses and just do’, we have all heard these words and we all agree with them and to a certain extent they are true.  No, we know how to respond to them.

 

This is a post about reality and creativity.

 

A world which enables a pure uninterrupted life could happen I suppose, a space where we can write constantly and forever – yeah – well – no.

 

Creativity, in whatever capacity, cannot even be born, let alone thrive and grow in silence, in emptiness, in sterility.  LIFE conceives it ,feeds it, nourishes and loves it. With experience and its memories imagination can do wondrous things, it can change, turn twist and manipulate, embroidering and embellishing with lace and fancies. What imagination cannot do is work with nothing.

 

What of the Internet and books you might say?

What indeed.

They do certainly help with the exteriors.

 

We can work hard, carve out impossible deadlines, have the passion, keep faith with our dreams. Because we know dreams are rarely achieved by luck alone, hard work and constancy is needed as well but, sometimes we get so tangled up in the ‘work ethic’ of our Western civilization we mistakenly think this is the only way, the correct way. We are fooled into taking as gospel the code ‘nose to the grindstone’ or even worse ‘hard work never killed anyone’

 

Yes it does sometimes.

 

Forgetting the equally valid ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’.

 

Keep the machines going. We are not machines and, more importantly for this post, creativity and imagination are not either.

 

LIFE creates imagination and creativity and, like all life, these evolve over time.  Both  are unpredictable and capricious, neither will be tied or constrained and both need to be fed constantly to grow strong. Creativity needs to be nurtured by the springs of experience and knowledge, as well as work and passion. We constantly hear, in this group, of deadlines missed, goals being moved and the theme is nearly always because of LIFE’S interruptions. And so more tricks  need to be learned

 

To love the interruptions,

To remember the old saying of every cloud having a silver lining

To be content to wait a while when our plans get changed

To consider a day’s time worthwhile when not a single word has been written

To be content when time spent has been within our heads.

To relax and care for ourselves, our families and our friends

To let every experience and interaction become absorbed into every fibre of us

To accept that our writing will be stronger more powerful when we know what LiFE is all about.

 

It is difficult to accept that our training into ‘work hard and you will gain the world’ doesn’t always work. All of us here wish to write our tales and entertain and inform, we fear time is racing by and we are not there yet, not there yet, not there. . .We make time our enemy and have the urge to fight it, to race it, defeat and become masters of it.

 

It is impossible.

It cannot be done.

 

We do not want to be dead before the tale is written, but somewhere a fine line has to be drawn between stressing ourselves into an early grave, by trying to become super-people attempting impossible feats, and becoming more relaxed and still working towards our dream. LIFEwatching/experiencing/being is as important as health/family/friends as important as dreams/desires/passion/work.

 

We must learn to love it all.

~*~

Alberta Ross

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

Only 3 check-ins to go!  Buckle down and feel the burn for this last sprint to the end!

If you’d like to be a sponsor for Round 2, please check out the FAQs and send me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Midweek #Check-In

Are you in part of the country where spring has sprung?  Why don’t you take a walk or do some writing outside to enjoy the sunshine?  If you’re still laboring under the blanket of winter, maybe comfort yourself with some hot chocolate while you pound out the words!

If you’d like to be a sponsor for Round 2, check out the FAQs and send me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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The “Other” Writer’s Block by Eden Mabee

Time for a confession:

I have a writing problem.

I can’t make decisions. It’s a problem of choices. There are so many choices…

This shouldn’t seem like a serious problem; choices are good, right?

Let me explain the why of this problem…

As part of a sponsor’s duties, one writes a inspirational post. Thing is… there are SO very many things out there that could be defined as “inspirational”. I never know if what I’m saying will help my fellow writers. Even limiting the topics to “writing inspiration” doesn’t narrow the field. Picking a solitary topic for me is akin to the authorial version of scaling Mt. Everest in a swimsuit. Terrified by the overwhelming odds, often I give up before I make that first step.

This post was due weeks ago (it’s February 23rd, and Kait wanted it by January 6th) but nothing I picked felt good enough to be The One. The ideas flowed fast and furious. Should I write about Insecurity as a Writer? How about that Nagging Inner Voice–the Fickle Muse?

Oh, the choices… I feel exhausted just thinking about the options. It really looked like Mt. Everest. And yet I was foundering in the dirt and Base Camp 1. (Huh! That’s a ways up—how’d I get here?) Getting started… Getting started always stops me.

Getting Started! Oh, now that would be a great post too. (See how hard is it to just start sometimes?)

There’s more to this confession.

A few months back I asked for help gathering ideas for this post. Thing was, I didn’t need more ideas. It’s not hard to come up with ideas… I already had a ton. I was looking for help in narrowing down my choices. If anyone mentioned an idea… then it was probably good, a bit of consensus that meant it would resonate with others.

I didn’t get much feedback, and the bit I got confused the issue–something new I hadn’t though of. Oh, no, more choices loomed! Did this mean all my original ideas were terrible? Should I abandon those and try these? And how did I deal?

Well, I didn’t stop dead. I researched the choices (another great sponsor post idea… the Problem with Research); I gathered webpage after webpage on the Inner Voice, or Writer’s Block, on Time Management

I did all sorts of things that weren’t writing.

The delay in writing this sponsor post had other effects. Because no one was “waiting” for my fiction writing, it felt wrong to spend mental energy there, and now glacial winds have nearly stripped that landscape barren. I began to wonder if a post on Choosing Priorities might be in order, or perhaps a post on knowing when to just stop and say Maybe I’m Not a Writer (as I hinted I might write in a previous sponsor post).

Thing is… I like writing, even the frustrating bits like editing and critiquing and planning. I love reading (not only other people’s work but my own once it’s been edited and proofed). And… there really is only one thing that can happen. I have to write. I have to be a writer. Writers write. Writers also submit stuff, make mistakes, choose the wrong words or ideas for the piece they need to do. Writers make mistakes. They don’t try to do it all. They make a choice and write. And if that doesn’t work, they make another choice and write and then another and then another…

They take steps up that mountain. Sometimes they slide down on their rump, and sometimes they lay in their tent a few extra days nursing wounds. But they climb on because they’ve chosen to be writers.

If you’re interested in more about this phenomena… (Research is good, right?) here are some TED talks about how choice can be as much of a curse as a blessing:

Barry Schwartz on why having too many choices limits us; his book lists ways to help making the surfeit of choices easier to bear

Sheena Iyengar explains how deliberate attempts to limit choice might be cultural or protective, and in a second TEDxSalon talk (industry funded) she gives specifics on why some of us might not “buy” the next idea we get…

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

Spring is FINALLY around the corner (for some of you that might be wishful thinking but THINK POSITIVE, YO!)…take a walk in the warmer weather and get the blood flowing.  It’s good for your creativity!

If you’re interested in sponsoring for Round 2, check the FAQs and dash me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

Rolling on toward the end of this round.  Only 3 weeks to go!  Push it hard for a solid finish!

If you’re interested in sponsoring for Round 2, check out the FAQs and dash me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Let Your Mind Go By Skye Callahan

Since I stepped in as a sponsor for this round, I’ve been tasked with writing an inspirational post to get you through this stretch, so I thought I’d talk a little about distractions and inspiration. A while back I had a long discussion with a few of my author friends on the differences between distraction and inspiration. As writers, we’re often told to make time for writing and to avoid distractions—cut the cord to that TV, forget video games, or hanging out at the bar with your friends, you have a book to write, and the only way it’ll get done is if you sit down and write it.

But is that the best way to finish a project?

With so many things in life taking up our time—jobs, family obligations, etc—sometimes it seems hard to justify taking that extra time out of the day for a purely fun distraction. But, ideas aren’t developed by locking ourselves in an office, sitting at our computers looking at a blinking cursor. We develop ideas by getting out of our own heads, getting away from the computer, and living our lives.

Is watching an old Hitchcock movie a distraction from what you’re supposed to be writing, or does it have inspirational merit? For me Hitchcock movies and his TV series have a great way of making me think about things differently. What if, after getting lost in that half hour of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, I suddenly have a new insight into my own character’s motivation? Then, the distraction was well worth the time.

There’s a connection between distraction and inspiration.

The best writing tool you have is your brain, and it has its own stubborn and cockamamie way of doing things. Often when we’re completely engaged in other things, our brains are working the hardest on creative ideas.

It’s important choose times to write during which you set aside as many of the little distractions as possible—yes, teasers need made, emails need answered, and the world of social media isn’t going to pause for a second, but just as we have to decide which projects are worth our energy, we have to decide which distractions will be most beneficial to our goals.

My advice to stay inspired is to not think so critically about the “distractions” in your life. We all need a moment to unwind and enjoy what we have in the moment.

~*~

Skye Callahan