Go! Speed Racer!

Running

I did NOT look this happy at the end.

Here in Fairbanks Alaska, summer solstice is a big deal. I mean like eat-too-much, party-all-night, don’t-go-down-‘til-the-sun-does big deal. (I’ll let you figure out what time that would be.) And part of my solstice celebration this year included the Midnight Sun Run.

The Midnight Sun Run is a 10k race kicked off at 10pm. Depending on your cuppa, there can be costumes, alcohol, various pets, roller skis- you name it, it’s there. I even saw someone do the whole thing juggling on a unicycle one year. Another involved some really valiant attempts with a pogo stick. (A pogo stick! Who does that for over six miles? Heck, who does that for over six feet?) It usually draws something more than three thousand participants, although there’s no accounting for all the unregistered runners. This thing is big and goofy and weird.

To up the fun factor even more, Hubby and I decided on a little wager. The loser gets three hours of community service of the winner’s choosing- and does it while wearing an outfit of the winner’s choosing. Now, my husband gets pretty creative with this kind of thing. And I was yet to beat him at… well, pretty much anything. So I was absolutely determined to WIN.

And so I began the grueling, months long process of training.

This, like most of my life, has a correlation to writing. Sometimes, we get out of good habits. I was once in pretty decent shape. But <insert million excuses here> happened and I not-so-suddenly wasn’t. I similarly find myself out of the writing habit (as you may have noticed with this spate of late blog posts).

But giving up and accepting the new state as the always-and-forever is a huge disservice, to yourself and to the world! So, here’s my training schedule for the next several weeks.

Week 1: Write at least three hours

Week 2: Write something daily

Week 3-7: (Camp NaNo starts) Write 1k daily

Week 8-∞: Keep at it

Easy, right?

I suppose you want to know whether this training paid off. I suppose you want to know that I kicked my husband’s rear and made him work in a soup kitchen wearing a wrestling singlet and a tutu.

Except that I didn’t. 😦

This is the other point I took away from all this. Comparing myself to my incredibly athletic husband (or to the nine-year-old boy or the seventy-five-year-old woman who also kicked my butt) is pointless.

Did I improve? Yes. Do I feel fantastic? Yes. Did I beat my time goal? Yes.

I am me and no one else. I run as only I can run. I write as only I can write. And I am completely and utterly happy to be me, the best me I can be. (And I hope that’s true for you, too!)

So work hard to be your best, and don’t worry about how that stacks up with everyone else! Run without registering. Walk the entire way, or run so hard you pee your pants. Do the race while juggling on a unicycle. Forget comparisons and be your own best.

Happy writing!

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Words on the Page

(I am currently still locked in battle with the scanner. It’s still too early to tell who will prevail. In the meantime, here’s a post I didn’t intent until next month so it’s not totally polished yet. A million apologies.)

This image is dedicated to my nerdy darling. Happy birthday, handsome!

This image is dedicated to my nerdy darling. Happy birthday, handsome!

Writers write. It’s actually pretty simple if you look at it like that. Writers put in the time and effort to make words on the page. It doesn’t matter if those words are good, bad, or ugly; their creator is still a writer- one who writes. If you really want to write, you will find a way. We always find time for the things that we love, whether that’s money, people, or entertainments. Making the effort to write, even when it’s hard (ESPECIALLY when it’s hard), is the mark of a dedicated writer.

But even dedicated writers need a few tips every now and then. Even if we really want to write, it can be hard to know the best way to go about it. And even those of us who have been at it for years still have room to improve our craft and the manner in which we produce it. These are a few methods I employ to encourage myself to get the words on the page.

Make time for writing. This one really should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. We’re all busy, but if you don’t have time to write, you aren’t a writer. Words on page = writer. There are all kinds of tactics for making time. Rigid scheduling. Sneaking words in on the bus or on lunch breaks. Furiously typing into your smart phone when the muse pays a surprise visit during a board meeting. Some writers need big blocks of time. Some writers do it in snatches. Some write at the same time every day. Some have more fluid timetables. I personally work best in clumps of at least an hour whenever the house is quiet, but it varies person to person. There are endless articles about making time for writing (including one here!), so I won’t go into detail now.

Know when your best writing time is. My best writing time is between one and four in the morning. That’s when I’m just bursting with ideas and experiences from the day and when distractions (read: children) are at a minimum. That’s also very unfortunate, given that my schedule doesn’t allow for sleeping in and my body doesn’t allow for such excesses in sleep deprivation. (Curse you, mortal frailties! Curse you!) But I can get pretty close by writing after the kids are in bed and at least getting close to being asleep, and then write like crazy until eleven or twelve.

Tell others you are a writer. Those of us who aren’t megafamous are sometimes a little embarrassed to tell people about our writing. Well, knock that off. If you expect to be taken seriously as a writer, you have to give others the opportunity to take you seriously as a writer. That means owning up to it. Be proud! The chief benefit of this practice is that it bolsters your motivation to write (and sometimes those psychological hurdles are the biggest roadblocks we have). If you know Aunt Ethel is going to ask about your book next time you talk to her, you’re more likely to make sure you have something to tell her.

Make writing friends. It just makes life more pleasant to have friends with similar tastes, hobbies, and problems. Your significant other might not understand why you keep calling your oldest child by your MC’s name (or even think you’re talking about a ‘master of ceremonies’ when you mention it), but your writing pals will totally get it. And, much like an über Aunt Ethel, they’ll check in with your writing projects AND help you slog through the sticky parts. (Extra win if you wordwar together!)

Treat yourself for a job well done. I allow myself a candy or a cookie when I get halfway through my daily word goal. And every day that I meet the full goal, I get to claim a Write Chain link (Learn more here!) and my alpha reader grants me ten minutes of babysitting credit. These small gifts may seem paltry, but they get me there. Your motivators don’t have to be huge to work. Small, simple rewards given at the achievement of small attainable goals are much more effective than something big and difficult.

There are tons of other tricks and tips to help you get that lazy muse off her toga’d butt. What’s YOUR best go-to method for getting words on the page? Please share in the comments below!

Time for Things We Love

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Berries and Prolificness, wherein we discussed how every unimpressive little bit adds up to create an impressive whole. Sort of to follow up on that, I asked some of my writing pals on Twitter:

TwitQuestion

We all agree that you can’t write a book in a day (at least not a long one, or a good one), but I loved their answers. (And by the way, any of these folks would be worth your time to follow, if Twitter is yo thang.)

Twit1

Twit2

Twit3

Twit4

Twit5

Twit9

Twit6

Twit7

Twit8

Some of those things aren’t really all that applicable to me (for example, my phone is a phone- not a camera, not the internet, and not a writing platform), but I delved into them all a little deeper over the last couple weeks, as well as in my own brain meats, and came up with three main principles for making time for writing. Of course, you could extend these principles to making time for anything that you love.

Reduce your commitments- If you honestly, seriously, really, truly have no time for writing, you need to cut back on your commitments. Not having time to jot out even fifteen minutes of world building or to spend ten minutes writing a scene means your schedule is too full to be healthy. If writing is on your short list of things you want to do with your life, you need to cut back on other things. All the writers I talked to mentioned prioritizing writing above other things that mattered less to them (sleep, social life, etc.) As a personal example, I like to watch movies or TV shows, but writing is more important to me than that. As a result, I watch one movie a week maximum, and no television. I don’t play video games at all, except occasionally with my husband, but I count that more as hubby time than personal entertainment. (Side note: hubby time is one of three things that always trumps writing.) My free time, rare bird that it is, is most usually spent in writing.

Keep goals simple- If I tell myself I want to publish a novel, that can be pretty daunting. Even if I just want to write a novel, it’s still daunting. It’s much more attainable to break long term goals down into smaller goals. Write 1000 words a day. Write one hour a day. Write a chapter a week. Write each lunch break. Whatever works best for you. My write buddy and I have a pact to do something every day to further our writing careers, whether that be working on a blog post, world building, or actually working on our novels. It’s simple and easy to achieve, and so we’re set up for success instead of for failure.

Be serious about it- I’m terrible at my closet hobbies. I don’t tell anyone about them, I only practice them when others won’t notice, and, as a result, they take back burner to everything else, even stupid things. I’m serious about my writing, though. Everyone who’s close to me knows that I write daily and that I get mighty irritated when my writing time gets disrupted. Plus, people ask me about how my writing is going, about where I’m at in my rocky road to publication, and the added accountability of knowing that anyone could ask at any time encourages me to have something on hand to tell folks. If I expect others to take my writing seriously, I’m more likely to take it seriously myself. If I conduct myself as a professional, pretty soon I might actually be a professional.

Now, this post isn’t nearly exhaustive, and I know you’ve all got some tricks and tips that I’ve missed, so please share them in the comments below! One of the biggest struggles many of us deal with is finding the time for writing, so let us know how you make it happen.

Berries and Prolificness

This evening, I was blueberry picking. It’s been a good year for them and we have some friends with a really prolific patch (and by patch, I mean mile wide boggy lowland surrounding their house). We were picking away and our friend mentioned that she’s put away almost ten gallons of blueberries. Ten gallons. To give you perspective, last year, I went blueberry picking three days, dragging my kids up a hill and into the clouds every evening, and went into winter with about a half gallon of berries for my trouble. Ten gallons is more blueberries than I’ve ever heard of in a private freezer.

She goes out for an hour or two every day, filling her little yogurt bin, and then brings it all in, cleans it up, and pops it in the freezer. She brings in maybe a quart a day. But she goes at it every day.

It made me think of my own freezer. It’s actually looking pretty good this year and I think we’ll be well fed this winter. Husband and I had a fantastic year of salmon fishing. The raspberries are questionable, but the cranberries should be good. I might even sneak some strawberries out of the garden if the kids leave them alone long enough to ripen. The garden’s looking good, with plenty of potatoes, and I’m having the best tomato year I’ve ever had. And there’s been talk of my husband going out moose or caribou hunting with one of my brothers. We raised chickens in the spring and they’re all nestled snug in our freezer as well. Food’s pretty expensive in Alaska and I do what I can to stock up because winters can be pretty rough on the budget. (Yes, we have grocery stores in Alaska, but seriously, why spend money when you don’t have to? If a chunk of food springs up out of the ground, free as dirt, I will pull it up and feed it to my children. You have no idea how many weeds my family consumes.)

Husband and I were talking about all this on the way back from the blueberry patch and I thought of a parable. Writing books is like filling a freezer. If I try to do it all at once, it’s really daunting. But if I do it in little bits at a time, work at it just about daily and don’t give up until the frost sets in (and even after that for a few things), then pretty soon the freezer’s full. But if I wait until fall, the blueberries are wilted, the greens are gone, and I’m trying to butcher a thousand pound moose and trying to pick the cranberries and trying to can the garden and whatever else I have to do. And trying to do it all at the same time is completely crazy.

Earlier today, I passed the 50,000 word finish line on my Camp NaNoWriMo novel. I’m happy with myself, even though the book isn’t technically done. It seems like a lot, but it breaks down to about 1670 words a day. If I have an average of two hours a day in which to write, then I need to be able to push out around 850 words an hour. And I can do that, no problem. It gets even easier on those happy days when I have three hours to write.

But if I don’t write in a day? Oo, then it starts to get a little trickier. Because although I can write 850 in an hour, writing 1670 an hour is quite a bit harder. And 2000 an hour is nearly impossible. It’s better to break it up, to spread out the difference, but then if I miss another day? Oh, dear, I’m even further down. It can be hard to recover.

I have written nearly every day of my life for the last fifteen years. I assume I will continue to do so until I keel over dead as an old woman over some absurdly outdated protocomputer. What will I have accomplished by then? Because the little bit of writing at a time doesn’t just build up into a book. Over time, it can build up into books.

Steven King has written fifty-five books. Ursula K. LeGuin has written something over fifty as well. Terry Brooks has written a staggering twenty-three New York Times bestsellers alone; I don’t even know how many he’s written total. Do you think anyone busted all that out in a day? Or a year? Or even a decade?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Writing is not easy. Sometimes you’re just too busy to squeeze it in. Sometimes the muse goes to bed early, the lazy strumpet. Sometimes your fingers have been broken because some massive horse of a woman from Reed University crushed your hand trying to get the wildly escaping rugby ball. (Yes, that has been an excuse. Typing with broken fingers HURTS and is in reality probably counterproductive.) But if you stick with writing, if you manage to eek out just a few words a day, and a few words the next day, and so forth, your little snowball will get bigger and bigger. And someday you too can look in the mirror and smile about your first book published, or your second, or your tenth. I know I plan to.