Bumps and Bruises: My Twin Careers in Rugby and Writing

Nick Kennedy, Gonzalo GarciaThe day my new husband and I moved into our first apartment, he viciously provoked a water fight over the meager boxes of our possessions.  In the interest of saving the defenseless computer, I fled out the door and across the field at the back of the building, snarling about an annulment.  The school’s women’s rugby team happened to be practicing in that same field and, impressed by my rage and my sprints, invited me to join them.  Robert went back to the apartment.  I hared off to play rugby.

Thus began my love affair with the greatest sport on earth.

Rugby hasn’t always been kind to me.  I’ve broken fingers and ruptured a bursa.  I’ve torn my quad and sprained just about every joint in my body.  I’ve dislocated my shoulder repeatedly and been so bruised and battered that coworkers started gently offering me safe havens.  I love, love, love ruby, but I can’t even say I’m all that good at it.  I’m not particularly fast and I have a hard time memorizing plays and my kicks always seem to go awry.  I’m skinny and fragile and can’t seem to reliably throw and run at the same time, which is kind of an important skill in a game that involves a lot of running and throwing.

But still I love it.  I play whenever I can and I watch hours of tourneys online and I delight in teaching my boys how to take me out at the ankles while I run in slow motion.  Rugby pleases me in a way that is both deeply satisfying and wildly thrilling in the same instant.

I feel much the same way about writing.  Writing intoxicates me.  I write whenever I can and I read and research a lot about writing and the specifics of my stories and I always squee for joy when my children tell wonderful stories about rock climbing adventures and zombie attacks and magical foxes at wishing wells.

There is, however, one large difference between the way I think about rugby and the way I think about writing.  With rugby, I’ll never be anything close to pro, and I am totally okay with that.  I want to play my best game and I have a great time doing it.  I get some bumps and bruises and I go home happy.  Knowing I’ll never be pro does nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the game.  With writing, however, I have a hard time letting myself be so carefree.

Maybe it’s a matter of focus.  When playing rugby, I have a laser focus on the ball.  I know where it is and I itch to get my hands on it and nothing outside the boundary lines matters.  When drafting, I can often find that nothing-matters-but-this focus, but the minute I start editing, something changes.  The story becomes not just what pleases me, but something that could potentially please others as well.  And just as surely as it could please others, it could displease them too.  What if nobody likes it?

What if nobody likes me?

I was thinking about this after practice last week, during which I let some sneaky Samoan guy blitz right past me to score the winning try of the scrimmage.  It didn’t occur to me at the time to wonder if my teammates were mad at me, whether they liked me or not.  I’m sure some of them were disappointed, maybe even annoyed, but I’m just as sure that they knew I was doing my best with some serious disadvantages.

Maybe I should give myself the same accolades while writing.  Nobody can deny that I’m giving it my best.  Things go awry and I mess stuff up, but any time you put your heart into something, there will be injuries along the way.  If I don’t get a few bruises, I’m probably not trying hard enough.

In this vein, though, I’m doing a lot better with the rejections goal than I thought I would be at this point- I’m only slightly behind.  But more importantly, I’m learning to take them better.  I think choosing to look at rejections as the goals themselves has made them a lot easier to swallow.  (Because you all know how I am with check boxes.)  Maybe this is a good first step in growing that thick skin professional writers are always talking about!

I’m getting better at this game.  (Not at rugby.  At that one, I’m just getting older, haha.)  I can usually spot my weak points.  Self-editing, although not exactly what I’d call fun, is less excruciating than it used to be.  I’m getting better and better at using feedback.  These are all signs of improvement.

I want to be the best writer I can be, but I always want to enjoy the process.  After all, the thrill of telling a good story is what got me into this addiction hobby in the first place.  Even if I never go pro (although I hope I do some day!), I will always love to tell stories.

And I will always love rugby, too, even when it beats me up.

Happy writing!

PS- Watch some rugby! Go, Eagles!

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Swag Review: Write or Die 2

WoD1

All screenshots used with permission from the inestimable Dr. Wicked, the evil genius behind Write or Die.    THE MAN IS SCARY.

My darling hubby purchased a copy of Write or Die 2 for me for Christmas and I’ve been dabbling in it ever since. (For anybody who missed it, this was one of the writing programs showcased in A Writer’s Toolbox from last August.)

As previously mentioned, I am a devoted user of Scrivener when pounding out rough drafts. Knowing this, Husband eyed the software list for the least-Scrivener-esque program there and, after a bit of investigation, settled on Write or Die. When I made the list, all those months ago, I admitted that the only Write or Die exposure I’d had at that point was goofing around on the online sample version with only the default settings, so I was eager to get to the meat-and-potatoes of the real deal.

Scrivener is fantastic for organizing my long projects and for storyboarding. However, when I’m writing in Scrivener, unless I’m really in the zone or know exactly where I’m going, I have this tendency to… dawdle. I think about it. Tap out a few words. Maybe flex my fingers. Snitch some almonds from the cabinet. And if I’m not careful, I’ll spend an hour ‘writing’ and find myself with a scant couple hundred words (as well as a slab of cake, a cup of mint tea, and a small army of paper cranes.) I have three kids. I don’t have time for all that jazz. If I’m really honest with myself, I can admit that, unless I’m engaged in a writing sprint with people who will mercilessly tease meager word counts, I’m an absurdly slow writer.

Enter Write or Die. Write or Die is like having a sprint partner living on your computer, ready to go any moment you are. This sprint partner accepts no excuses and gives no quarter, but doesn’t give a whole lot of childish taunting when you don’t hit your goals- it just calls you a quitter. (Which kind of counts. ‘Cause nobody calls me a quitter.) So when I’m having a hard time getting going on Scrivener and I just need some words on the page, it’s nice to have a program like Write or Die breathing down my neck at me. It’s pretty much the spirit of NaNoWriMo jammed into a computer program.

So peaceful. So stimulating.

So peaceful. So stimulating.

Write or Die has three modes, which are basically the ambiance in which you’ll be writing.

Stimulus This is nice. I get to choose a soothing background image that fills the writing space, and an accompanying background noise, such as heartbeats and ‘aural hug’s. So long as I keep writing, they remain in place. If I stop writing, they go away and I am less stimulated. It’s kind of like a cross between the Reward and Consequence modes like that. I do pretty well in this mode, and lean toward a forest background with a rainstorm.

D'awwww

D’awwww

Reward Anyone who only did chores as a kid when your mom was waving a bag of Skittles from the kitchen would probably do well in the rewards arena. Rewards are earned for writing a set amount of words and can be visual (cutesy pictures waggling in the background every however-many words, or even a customizable folder of your favorite images) or audible (I personally prefer kitty purring, but you can also pick Tibetan bowls or Pavlovian bells, if that’s your thing).

Consequence For those who like writing under duress (*raises hand*), there is the consequence mode. Not that I love having giant hairy chelicerae dangling over my fingers, but there’s just something about ducking punishment that gets my butt in gear. I find the threat of an alarm particularly motivating, since my writing so often takes place when I’m in a room with children who I dearly hope will soon be and remain asleep. And for when I’m really feeling some self-flagellation, I can step into kamikaze mode, which literally eats the vowels from my words if I stop writing for too long. Consequence is my most effective workspace in Write or Die.

Geh! Don't touch me!

Geh! Don’t touch me!

This isn’t to say that Write or Die is perfect for all writing ever. It does have some drawbacks that I’m still trying to work my way around. It’s not the best for longer stories that require a lot of continuity and I’m still working out if it’s even possible to do a whole book in here without just having an obscenely long block of text. So far, the best I can manage is to write it by scenes and paste the scenes together in another program (usually Scrivener). Likewise, editing is… yeah, I’m not even sure how this would happen in this format. Again, I usually have to look it over in a completely different program. And having the threat of horrible noises hanging over my shoulder, or the sudden appearance of puppies on my screen, doesn’t usually produce the most thoughtful of works. Sometimes I’m so busy trying to beat the clock (because DARN IT I want so badly for that wpm speedometer to be awesome) that I have a hard time really working out what I’m writing at all. Drafts written in this program require heavy editing. (And see above about that.)

But. Write or Die also has some fantastic things going for it. It usually helps me pick up the pace for action scenes and imbue a level of stress I can feel (because again, I’m all about the punishments). It’s really good for brainstorming and freewriting exercises. I’ve found that, even when I do pour a lot of thoughtless junk onto the page, I can almost always pick out at least one gem from the mess to polish up. Likewise, it’s pretty good for rough drafts on new short stories. And most importantly, it gets my butt in gear even when I open it not feeling like I want to write. In my opinion, these things far outweigh the shortcomings listed above.

All in all, if you find that you’re like me and can use the occasional kick in the rear (or kittens! or beaches! or rainstorms!) to get into your writing, it’s probably worth your $20 to buy the program, and it’s definitely worth your time to at least check out the online version for free (right here!). I doubt you’d regret either.

How about you folks?  Any readers have any Write or Die experience?  What do you love/hate about the program?  Let us know in the comments below!  Happy writing!

5 Tools to Enhance Your Focus While Writing

5 Tools to Enhance Your Focus While Writing

If you aren’t hanging out with The Sprint Shack, you should be. I loved this blog of theirs about cutting out the distractions so prevalent when you’re trying to pound out some words. Happy writing!

The Sprint Shack

5 tools to enhance your focus while writing: Apps, programmes and music to increase your concentration and shut out distractions.Distraction is a demon that plagues all writers. Though we fight against it, often we fall prey to the many distractions of the virtual world—Twitter, Facebook, and that inescapable black hole, Pinterest.

One way to increase our focus while writing is to word sprint. The Sprint Shack hosts sprints almost every day over on Twitter, and when we’re not wearing our fingers down to nubs against our keyboards, other notable sprinters are there to help you with your digit erosion (might we suggest investing in a pair of gauntlets?).

But what if word sprints aren’t enough (shock, horror!) or you’re not able to take part in a sprint at that time? That’s where these five tools can swoop in and save the day through enhancing your focus while writing.

1. Simpleology

Prepare to become a productivity ninja with this programme. If the Internet pounces on your writing time like…

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