Zen Habits September Challenge: Unprocrastination

I clicked through a link on Facebook and found a site called Zen Habits. The challenge for September is to stop procrastinating. The goal is to spend 5 minutes every day, doing just one thing. No switching tasks. No stopping to check social media. Just focus on the one thing.

I’m going to try this. I need to go through my things, unclutter, decide what I really need and what I don’t.

I will even be able to use this unprocrastination to focus on writing and other creative projects as well. I don’t know when the last time was that I did just one thing for five minutes. I think it’s going to confuse my brain quite a bit.

It seems like multitasking has become a way of life. I’m torn on whether it’s a good thing or not. I feel more productive, but am I really? I have read articles that argue whether it’s really possible to multitask. And, if we are multitasking, is the quality of what we’re doing suffering?

I’m looking forward to doing this. Are you going to give it a try?

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30-Day Project: March failure/April potential

30-day Project

March was almost a complete failure. I tried to be conscious of what I was eating and how it made me feel, but I didn’t really write it down. Ever. If the point was to be more aware, then yay! If it was to actually write shit down, not so much. But, can’t dwell on failure forever!

April will complete one year of these 30-day Projects. I was thinking I’d go out with something big, but I’m more realistic than that. April is also CampNaNoWriMo, and I will be participating this year again and using it for the 30-day Project.

What I like about CampNaNo is that I get to set the amount I want to write, unlike NaNoWriMo, which is 50,000 words to “win.” I’ve set a nice low number of 10,000 words for this April. I *should* be able to do that. I won’t be giving myself daily goals, but rather that over the course of April, I hit that 10,000 words.

The decision to write to publish instead of just for fun ended up paralyzing me. I felt like if I couldn’t get out a perfect draft the first time around then I was a crappy writer and I shouldn’t even bother. I don’t know if it’s perfectionism or impostor syndrome or WHAT that makes me have those kinds of crazy thoughts. They’re unhealthy though.

I’m guessing that almost no one has a perfect draft the first time around, even people who plan when they write. For people who just sort of go with whatever comes into their heads (like I do), it would have to be nearly impossible. You have no idea where the story is going to go so you can’t possibly know what you’d be missing, what detail that seemed insignificant is now huge or what seemed so big that became so small.

I’m using April and CampNaNo to change how I think about my writing and just go back to having fun. I can usually get the core story out that way. I can go back and edit/change/add as I need to so that the story becomes a fully rounded entity.

Fingers crossed that this gets me away from my self-destructive ways!

Perhaps not a writer after all…

For years now, probably since my first National Novel Writing go in 2005, I have wanted to be a fiction writer. My mom has said that there was always at least a part of me that wanted to write, even as a kid. I got beaten down a little by my stepfather about it. He was an English teacher and just didn’t think I was any good at it. I don’t really think I felt like my mom thought I was much good either. I could do academic papers just fine, but I completely abandoned the fiction side of things until 2005.

Once I got married, took a part-time job, and moved across the world, I decided I would commit to writing. I was going to be a PUBLISHED AUTHOR! I had way more free time than I’d ever had before so clearly now was THE TIME.

I’ve been here over a year and I have just about no writing to show for it. I got 20,000 words into a mystery book last National Novel Writing Month and then just stopped. I got almost 10,000 in this year and then somehow wrote another 7,000 or so on the plane to visit family for Thanksgiving. Then didn’t pursue it any further.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas, I do. They’re not terrible ones either. Definitely books I think should exist. But I cannot seem to push myself to do anything about them.

There have been big things going on in my life over the last year and some. I had a major back surgery (that I didn’t think was that major – have since learned my lesson on that one since when they fuse anything, especially in your back, it’s a big deal), had complications, got married, moved overseas, didn’t have many local friends, had more surgery to deal with the complications of the back fusion, dealt with depression and anxiety. It’s enough to make anyone take some time.

But even when I was doing relatively okay, I wasn’t writing. November rolled around and I was like, “AHA! NOW is the time to write!” as though other months are off-limits from writing. Then, when November started, it was too much pressure and I just couldn’t.

Some of the time I think I forgot about the idea of just writing for fun and focused on the wrong thing – becoming published and making money. That isn’t why I started writing in the first place anyway. I started writing because I wanted to write happy endings for the people I knew when their lives weren’t really taking them to happy places. But once it stopped being about that and started being about other things, it didn’t hold the same interest.

I started working as a life coach in October. I only have one client, but so far I think it’s been great for both of us. One of the things we discussed was making lists. Lists give you a great sense of accomplishment when you can check something off as being done or not needing to be done. Lists can also let you know what you really value in your life. f you have a task on there (WRITE BOOK) that just doesn’t seem to be getting done no matter how many days, weeks, or months it spends on your list, it may just be something that isn’t that important to you.

And that’s where I am with the fiction writing. Rather than continue trying and beating myself up when it doesn’t happen, I’m going to let it go. Perhaps in the future my interest will swell and the words will flow. I’m too tuckered out with everything else in my life to beat myself up over this.

It’s also not like I don’t write. I do. It’s just not fiction. This blog is a place I can always come to get sorted out. I enjoy it. I have ideas at night that keep me up and it seems like if I just get them down on virtual paper, that my mind can rest a bit more easily.

So for now I’m going to focus on getting thoughts down onto paper when I have them, even if they’re about real people and real things and they aren’t going to make me any money.

30-Day Project: October Wrap-up & November

30-day Project

Hello November! My goal for October was to read for one hour every day. It didn’t always come in a one-hour block, and there were two days I didn’t read at all. However, I read 18… EIGHTEEN books this October! Even though I didn’t read an hour every day, these 18 book went a long way toward finishing my reading challenge of 100 books for the year. I was behind schedule at the beginning of October and now I am 7 books ahead of schedule! Which is good since November is all about writing.

That’s right! It’s National Novel Writing Month again! I didn’t finish last year which disappointed me. I had over 20,000 words in the first 10 days and then basically stopped. I had some personal things going on and it was a novel that should have been plotted out a bit more (murder mysteries need SOME planning). Even still, I wanted to finish. I liked what I had.

This year, after reading “2K to 10K” by Rachel Aron, I have decided to plot out my story (I did it the old fashioned way with notecards on a cork board) and then, each day before I start writing, to plot out what I want to accomplish in each chapter. After having done this for only today, I can tell that it’s going to make a big difference.

My goal for November is to write for the novel every day. To finish 50,000 words in November and “win” NaNoWriMo, I have to write at least 1,667 words per day. Today I wrote for an hour and a half and got almost 2,600 words done!

This is a novel I want to publish so I’m taking it pretty seriously. Knowing that is stressing me out more than it’s helping, but I’m tired of making excuses for myself for why things aren’t getting done. So I’m just doing it.

I am still going to try to read this month as well. To me, being a good writer comes in part from being a good reader. Every time I read a book, I’m adding more notes – don’t do this, do this, that’s a good item to add/good plot twist/etc.

If you’re interested in what I’m writing, let me know and I’ll fill you in!

Oh, I’m also going to be doing the 30 Days of Thanks! I should really focus on thanks every day of the year and perhaps once I get on a roll this month I will.

A Good Month

I talked briefly about this yesterday, but this has been a really good month for me. I’ve been on a different sleeping schedule to go with my new job – I don’t get up until the afternoon and I’m up until 3am or 4am. I’ve always been more of a night owl, so this feels more natural to me than waking up in the morning.

I think the other thing that’s really helped is writing every day. Forced creativity apparently agrees with me. It was an easy way to give everyone a status update on my health after the surgery, which was a total bonus.

It’s been my thought for a while that if I wasn’t blogging it meant that something was wrong. It never occurred to me that I could sort of force myself out of a funk by making myself write. I’m not entirely sure if that’s what really happened this month, but I feel like that could be right.

The other thing that may have contributed is that I finally feel like I’m on a path to really doing something about the foot drop. I’ve had less pain this month, even after the surgery, because I haven’t been able to walk on it. Pain with walking is really frustrating and energy-zapping. I hope that the pain stays away when I’m back to walking on both feet.

I’m not sure what’s made the difference this month – whether it was the writing or the health or the sleeping or all three, but it’s been really excellent. Thanks to everyone who has commented or liked the blog posts. It helps keep me going!

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Putting it out there

I just finished reading a book called Write for Your Life to help me work through issues I have about my writing. The book was originally a seminar that the author used to host with his wife, but he turned it into a book so people who couldn’t make it to the seminar could still benefit. He also thought it might be a good way to sell the seminar. At this point he has stopped the seminars, so this was the only way I was getting the information. I found it extremely effective, in part, because the book encourages you to face your fears head on, because once you show them the light of day, they aren’t nearly as scary.

One of the exercises was to write down everything we wouldn’t want anyone else to know about ourselves. When we write, we shy away from going anywhere near those topics, lest anyone figure out that we are what we don’t want to admit. (I hope that made sense.) This was more effective at the seminar because people had to express these things to someone who is a relative stranger. They’d been interacting throughout the day, but after the seminar they were unlikely to see each other again.

I made the list, but sitting in my notebook, on a page no one else is going to see sort of seemed to defeat the purpose a little. So I’m doing what I do best – sharing more of myself on the internet than a lot of people care to read. However, I hope that once I put all of this out there, I won’t have anything to hide from anymore. I’ve debated about this for the last couple of hours, so I’m just plunging into the cold ass water, ripping off the Band Aid, [insert your own expression here].

Things I didn’t want anyone to know about me:

  1. My first sexual experience was rape.
  2. I’ve been the victim of domestic violence.
  3. There was a period of my life as an adult where I didn’t believe my parents loved me, and if they didn’t love me, who would?
  4. I’ve never really felt attractive.
  5. I’ve been severely depressed and suicidal (like had a plan for how to send good-bye emails on at time delay and the manner of suicide).
  6. I’ve often felt completely alone in my life.
  7. I didn’t felt good enough for pretty much anything most of my life.
  8. I usually feel pretty alone even though I have some amazing friends and family.
  9. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but never thought I was good enough.
  10. I went to law school to gain my mother’s approval, not really because I was interested in going to law school.
  11. I think that if I’m good at something, it has to be because it’s easy to do, not because I’m good at it.
  12. I’ve always wanted a family of my own, and a big one, but worried I’d never have it.
  13. I also never thought I’d find someone who really got me and wanted to be with me. (SCRATCH THAT OFF! Love you, Mr. Lyndsy – even though he won’t read this.)

Anyway, now that they’re out there, I do feel a little better. I’ve worked through most of these issues, and what I haven’t, I am still working on it now. I don’t feel nearly as concerned about my looks as I used to, though I occasionally have some lapses. I do think this will help my writing and I hope I’m not shying away from anything else going forward.

If you’ve ever felt any of the things I listed, you’re clearly not alone. If you ever want to chat about them, we totally can.

Also, even if you don’t want to be a writer, the book is pretty good for working through your fears, though a lot of the exercises are things you can find elsewhere. If you want more details about the book, let me know!

(And yes, that’s an affiliate link up there.)

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Perhaps a little psychotic

I can already tell I’m going to have trouble devoting time to writing. Some of it has been that I’m still adjusting to the time difference and occasionally been waking up only in time to check some email and then start working… at 4pm. We forced ourselves to get up yesterday in the morning just to see if we could make ourselves get onto some kind of more “normal” schedule and I had a manicure/pedicure today at 11am to continue that. Well, it’s 1:45am and I am still WIDE awake.

Some of it is that Mr. Lyndsy’s off work for 10 days and I love hanging out with him more than anything else. We play video games, watch TV shows on DVD, and watch movies or sporting events. We both love shopping, even grocery shopping, so we do that together too.

But I also know that I am just not great at committing myself to writing… unless there’s a community deadline. Like National Novel Writing Month. Do you see where this is going?

I love the pressure of 50,000 words in a month. And it’s in November! Where there is Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping! And I did it while I was working full-time. Surely I can do it now.

If I were a writer who planned this wouldn’t be so easy. But, I’m not. I’ve tried that. It failed miserably.When I tried to plan, even the main ending of a story, the story went somewhere else. I don’t have kids, so this could be way off, but the way I see my stories is how I think parents see their kids, or at least the way I think my mom saw me. You have this idea how the story how your kid is supposed to grow up, but inevitably, the kid figures himself or herself out, and does what he or she wants to do because it’s what he or she is interested in. It may not be anything you’ve ever conceived. So, rather than try to sculpt this into something, I’m going to let the pottery make itself.

The good part about this plan is that since I’m not counting on a publisher to like me, I don’t have to worry about my book being any one way or another. I won’t publish it if it’s total shit, but at the same time, before it can be published it has to be written.

Beginning August 1st, I will write 50,000 words per month. For those of you who aren’t crazy enough to have tried National Novel Writing Month, this means an average of 1,667 words per day. Wish me luck. Or, if you want to be really helpful, leave some story ideas below!