Round 4

Final Round 4 Check-in

This is IT for Round 4 and almost the end of 2015.  Holy cow.  I hope you’ve had a fantastic round and a productive year.  Have a very happy holiday and meet us back here January 4th for the start of Round 1 2016!

If you’d like to be one of the sponsors for Round 1, dash me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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On Mastery and the Power of YET by Kait Nolan

I’ve had about a million ideas for this year end wrap up post for ROW80.  I have, over the last–holy crap–FIVE YEARS, written about everything from data driven decision making, to habits, to owning your dream as a writer, to being kind to yourself, to…all kinds of other stuff.  Because I’m a very outcome-oriented person, I think a lot about goals and how to achieve them–and how to inspire and encourage others to achieve theirs.  I believe in getting things done, and I’m very often of that mindset “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”

I started A Round of Words in 80 Days as a reaction to National Novel Writing Month.  NaNo is awesome in that it gets people excited and amped up–but I saw far too many people beating themselves up for failing to meet that goal.  Writers are already prone to self-flagellation on multiple levels.  We don’t need another reason to be hating on ourselves because the life we lead doesn’t neatly allow for us to attain that one-size fits all goal.  I also hated that it was November (horrible time for people in academia and really for anyone hosting Thanksgiving). I’m a writer 365 days a year.  I needed a support group for the other 11 months, too.  And that’s what ROW80 has become–for me and so many others who’ve become a regular part of this community.   Over the years, we’ve grown together, cheered each other on, and supported each other, no matter what.  That gift is one beyond measure.

Any of you who’ve followed me during that time know that I have an unhealthy obsession with spreadsheets and data.  Call it an occupational hazard.  I’m a social scientist in real life, so I have this driving need to quantify things and track them.  I’ve been tracking my daily word count since 2010, using that information to see where and how I can push myself to write more (I talk exhaustively about this in my post about data-driven decision making).  The goal in the back of my mind has always been to get to NaNo levels of productivity all the time.

That 50,000 words in one month has been my Holy Grail, partly just to prove that I can do it and partly because that level of productivity each month would finally allow me to produce enough content to really build an audience and make major strides toward being able to write full-time (also, it might allow me to carve some inroads in my To Be Written pile, though I’m pretty sure that is hopeless, as I keep getting attacked by rabid plot bunnies on a regular basis).

This NaNo, I actually did it.  I blew through 55k in a month, in fact.  And I’m on track to do the same for December.  Which is…awesome.  I can’t tell you all the numbers I’ve been running trying to sort out what I want to put on next year’s production schedule.  Now I say all of this, not to be all yay me but because I’ve been having all these thoughts about how the heck I got here and how you can, too (if that’s what you want).

Stop saying you can’t do something

For years I said that word count of 50,000 words in a month was impossible.  That I couldn’t wake up early and write.  Along with a whole plethora of other can’ts I won’t get into here.  If you’re struggling with something, don’t say you can’t do it as an absolute.  That’s negative, defeatist thinking and is programming you for failure.  Instead, reframe it as I can’t do _____ YET.  Because that leaves room for improvement and learning and change.  Carol Dweck has a fantastic TED talk about this.

Embrace Write or Die

One of the biggest tools in my box for how I’ve finally pulled off this fast drafting gig is Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die 2.  You can use the traditional punishment mode (wherein if you stop writing it starts deleting words) or you can work it in reward mode, where you get pictures of puppies or kittens or whatever for every x number of words.  The key to this for me is that even in reward mode (my preference), if I stop writing for longer than about twenty seconds, the screen starts to turn red to remind me to get my metaphorical butt moving.  At that pace, my internal editor simply DOES NOT have time to engage.  I’ve come to realize that without that stimulus, I spend a lot of time just STARING AT THE PAGE.  But I set my test mile of 500 words and 30 minutes for a session, and I almost always exceed that by at least 50% and usually more.  And when I’m done, I copy and paste the text over into the relevant section of Scrivener.

Recognize that mastery takes time

So there was this study done by K. Anders Ericsson that basically says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any skill-based field.  Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book Outliers (well worth a read).  For writers, this is generally assumed to equate to a million words.  Now, it’s not just mechanical repetition.  A million crap words with no deliberate attempt to analyze and improve is just going to be a million crap words.  But a million words written with that intentionality toward learning, growing, getting better–THAT kind of practice does lead to mastery.  I realized today that this year I surpassed my million words (see, more reason to track stuff).  Since 2010, I’ve written over 1.3 million words.  And right around the time I crossed that million mark, something shifted in my brain.  Is writing easy?  Nope.  Do I write perfect first drafts?  Other than one book–no, I don’t.  I don’t ever expect to.  But getting that first draft down and out of my head–THAT has gotten easier and I’ve gotten faster.  I’ve spent the last six years studying and working my butt off to learn and do everything in my power to improve my craft, and I know it shows.  Are there better writers out there?  Heck yeah.  Always will be.  But I know that I’m better for all the work and practice.  Great writers never, ever stop trying to learn and improve, no matter how many books or stories they write.

So, wherever you are in your million word journey, I hope you’ll come back to join us on January 4th for the beginning of Round 1 in 2016.  Your cheerleaders will be waiting.

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

It’s Christmas at ground zero, the button has been pressed.  The radio just let us know that this is not a test…

Forgive me, I love Weird Al.  Are you flying through this last week of ROW80?

If you’d like to be a sponsor for Round 1 next year, dash me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.  We kick off January 4th!

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Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

We’re rapidly drawing to a close here to both Round 4 and 2015.  Can’t believe another year’s gone by!  This round officially wraps up Christmas Eve!  Just in time to spend some good time with our families. I hope everyone has a great one!

If you’d like to sponsor Round 1 in 2016, send me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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What Is Your Motivation by Tonya Cannariato

As a writer, this is something you think about all the time in terms of character development and plot devices. But as is clear from your participation in the ROW80 challenge, you also have to think about this in terms of what prods you forward. How do you convince yourself to commit the time and effort to complete your story, let alone tell it well?

 

There are conflicting bits of information out there regarding whether telling others your goals is motivational or demotivational. Then there’s the boatload of articles with the top 20 tips to motivate yourself or even the 3 must-dos to stay motivated.

 

In the end, it comes to this: You’ve joined a group of writers who are all looking for that elusive set of tricks that will keep us from being distracted by all the shiny objects–on the Internet, on TV, in our daily lives–long enough to drive toward a mysterious destination: A completed creative endeavor.

 

If you approach this task from the meta perspective of viewing yourself as a character who’s reaching toward a goal, how do you recognize the stumbling blocks you put in your own way? How do you reward yourself for the progress you make? Sometimes the key to moving forward is taking that internal step back and assessing your circumstances.

 

And because creative inspiration is a notoriously fickle beast, how do you handle the obstacles that sometimes-fiend can put in your path? Where do you store your multiplying plot bunnies? Or how do you slog through the desert of the middle of your story?

 

For myself, even though in recent rounds I’ve vastly overestimated my capacity to power through life events I knew could put roadblocks on my creative path, I still find the public accountability of the ROW80 group can push me further than I otherwise imagine I might have managed.

 

So I offer you a different kind of motivational reward this week:

from GIPHY

from GIPHY

May enjoying the cute of a shooting-star-producing sloth so juice your dopamine levels that your writer’s brain kicks into high gear and you reach your goals this week. If not, at least let the smile he produces in you be the consolation that it’s not the end of the world and there are others out there who are still rooting for you to make it.

Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

It’s holiday central everywhere.  I’ve been bitten by a Christmas-themed plot bunny.  How are all your projects going?  Have your words fallen by the wayside while you run around trying to finish your Christmas shopping?

Do you want to sponsor Round 1 in January?  Check out the FAQs and dash me an email at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Take Care of Yourself by Lauralynn Elliott

Sometimes it’s really hard, with all the sponsors writing posts for all these rounds, to come up with something new and original. I know something similar to this has been done before, but everyone has a different take on things.

 

So…I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. This thing about taking care of ourselves. My thoughts have turned this way mostly because I’ve failed so miserably at this. And I thought maybe some of you felt the same way.

 

Many of us aren’t lucky enough to be able to write without the burden of full time jobs. And some of you have small children to take care of, even if you don’t work at an outside job. Or you could have some other commitments that take a lot of time. So all of us are busy one way or another. There are groceries to buy, a house to clean, clothes to wash…so many things! And then there’s the writing. Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by all these things, we forget to take care of ourselves.

 

My advice is always to do things in baby steps. Many times we get gung ho about something and jump in with both feet, ready to take on the world. And then we burn out because we tried to do too much. As much as we meant to keep going on that exercise plan or that healthy way of eating, it was just too much for us.

 

Let’s look at some little things you can do to take care of yourself, and then maybe you can build up to something bigger.

 

  1. Don’t sit for too long. Writers tend to get on a roll, and the next thing you know, a couple of hours have passed. Try not to sit more than an hour at a time. Being still for a long time can lead to complications, especially blood clots (my best friend died of this). Also, your legs get stiff, your back hurts, and then you don’t want to write anymore because it HURTS. Get up and do something for just a few minutes before sitting back down.
  2. Sip something as you write. It’s important to stay hydrated. I’m not going to sit here and say it must be water. I would be a hypocrite. I don’t like to sip on water. I tend to chug-a-lug it and get it over with. But a cup of hot tea (or a glass of iced tea) is lovely. And it breaks up the monotony of just sitting and typing.
  3. If you feel guilty because you aren’t cleaning house, etc., it can really wreak havoc on what you’re trying to write. If you feel you must do something, when you take that break to move around, put in a load of clothes or wash a few dishes. Doing little things at a time can help you get things done without spending hours on the house while neglecting your writing. Using every little minute is efficient and will make you feel better about spending the time writing.
  4. Take time for your family and friends. I know we tend to “get in the zone”, and we go for days without much interaction. Sometimes we feel like we have to get those scenes written, so we turn down invitations because we don’t have time. It’s perfectly fine to say no when we need to. But our mental health is important, and we need some of that relaxing time with others to just chill.
  5. Add healthy things to your diet little by little. What does this have to do with writing? Well, I’ve noticed lately that I don’t have a lot of energy, and I get sleepy early in the evening. This cuts down on my productive time. Adding healthy snacks and cutting back on chips and other unhealthy snacks can make a difference in how you feel. And if you feel good, you are more productive. So if you like to have snacks while you’re writing, try carrots, olives, pickles, cucumbers, grapes, apple slices…there are SO many things.

 

Those are just some thoughts I’ve had recently in my own life about how to better take care of myself. You might not be ready to jump into a gym membership or completely change your eating habits. You might not be able to suddenly become the most productive person ever. But taking one step at a time, and one day at a time, will gradually help you learn better habits without overwhelming you. After all, we have enough to do without adding the extra pressure of trying to be perfect, right? Baby steps!

~*~

Lauralynn Elliott