Home of Ane Ryan Walker, Teller of Tall Tales, Writer of Short Stories

Tag: Procrastination (Page 2 of 3)

Self Talk

Having a low opinion of yourself is not ‘modesty.’ It’s self-destruction. Holding your uniqueness in high regard is not ‘egotism.’ It’s a necessary precondition to happiness and success.

― Bobbe Sommer

This is the short version of believing in yourself.

The truth of the matter is, if you don’t believe in yourself, how can anyone else be expected to believe in  you?

They can’t.

You must approach each day with determination to succeed. During NANO, you make a commitment to do 50,000 words in thirty days.

So now we’re three weeks in and I need to ask, are you on target? Are you struggling? Or are you committed to seeing it through to the bitter end? No! NO! Don’t look back at the words already written. Just don’t do it. This is one of the worst things you can do. More important than trusting your self, you must keep the self talk positive.

Just look at the word count. Are you keeping your word count handy so you can feel expansive and generous if you exceeded your daily word goal? Or are you agonizing over missing a writing day? If so, it’s not  too late to make up for it. If you only missed one day, you still have eleven days left, so if you write a mere 170 words extra for the next eleven days, your missed day disappears.

Yes, it is magic.

Like self talk. Work with me now, and say it “I can do this” followed by, “It’s a piece of cake”, which ends with, “No more cake until we’ve double our writing goal for today”. You don’t want to get fat, but you do want a big, thick, juicy novel to edit at the end of the month, right?

Just remember the little engine writer that could!

 

Trust

Someone who thinks the world is always cheating him is right. He is missing that wonderful feeling of trust in someone or something.

― Eric Hoffer

Many of us have difficulty when it comes to taking a leap of faith. We inherently need reassurance, especially when we seek to make changes in our lives, such as career or personal choices. I get it. Change is hard. But trust is something we learn in early infancy. When we begin our journey through life we are totally dependent on others for food, shelter, physical protection, and human contact. Infants who are not nurtured fail to thrive, and beyond that typically do not survive into adulthood.

Once we become adults and take on responsibility for our lives, the choices, actions and the consequences of those actions, we have achieved maturity. More or less. This is where it becomes important for us to trust others, especially those who love and support us.

During NANO we chose to commit to daily writing in order to finish the rough draft of a novel we all (hopefully) would like to see in print someday.

That’s correct. At the end of the thirty days/ 50,000 words we are hopeful that the rough material will put us closer to our goal of a finished product. Because I am a realist, I know the editing process will bring major changes to the rough  draft of any novel. In fact, I expect it to happen.

Let’s talk for a minute about the guy who signs up for NANO and doesn’t make the word count on any given day. What happens to him? or Her?

This is where trust comes in. You have to trust yourself to make up the word counts you miss or work ahead if you’re not available to do word counts on any given day. For example, I do realize thanksgiving is a major holiday, with lots of relatives, partying, elaborate meals, and family visiting and travel taking place during the thirty days allotted to NANO. I have been doing this for several years now.

I also do the majority of the food preparation for the huge feast known as Thanksgiving Dinner.

How do I handle these responsibilities along with meeting the word counts I planned? I plan ahead. I organize my time, and sometimes I write in really small increments.

I start dinner early since I can count on things not going the way I planned, this is also known as “life experience”. I do a lot of the prep work ahead of time, on days when the word count came in over schedule or ahead of schedule. I’ve learned how to delegate (get someone else to do a few tasks for me) and to let things go that are not important. Someone could bring a side dish and YES, it won’t be exactly like mine, but they want to helps and I need help so it works out. I have learned to trust others not to disappoint me, and if they do?  Well, then I like to give them a second chance.

I trust myself to keep the promises I’ve made to myself, and so I need to trust others to keep their promises to me. This usually works.

Who we really are

Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.

― Steven Pressfield

Hopefully, as we all prepare for NANO this year, we’ll remember it isn’t our job to be perfect. It’s our job to tell a really great story. The best way to do that is to put your head down and go for it. If you didn’t do any pre-planning or pre-writing, it’s too late now.  The purpose of NANO, National Novel Writing Month is to just get it done. The Goal is 50,000 words in thirty days. Roughly, that works out to 1,666 words per day for thirty days. I don’t like to do it that way, since I’m superstitious. I just can’t get comfortable with 666 especially since I write horror novels. So I write 1,700 or 1,500. However it works out.

Are there rules, you ask? No, but a few guidelines.

Must you write every day? No, you don’t have to, but hopefully  you will want to write consistently, which means every day. I keep the word count on a post it next to the computer, so I’m not tempted to edit yesterdays words before I begin my daily count. Since I do edit the previous days work in my normal life, this temptation is great, but in November, I ignore it completely. Good practice for learning to ignore people who will want to see you fail. I don’t know why they do this, but they do and you can ignore them anyway.

What happens if you don’t meet the 50,000 word goal? You end up with whatever word count you’ve got, and you can always try again next year. Hey, it’s a start.

Is there a prize? Yes, the rough draft of your next novel is your prize. Editing is another matter. So this is where most people realize once the first draft is done, there is still a lot of work. Yeah. Even if it is damn near perfect, it still needs editing.  Never forget that.

Oh, and the reason I chose this quote to start? Because I really don’t want you to forget who you really are, and a good way to find out what kind of writer you are is to just go for it. Get that rough draft done and then go forward from there.

Fear and Doubt

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.

― Dale Carnegie

The truth of the matter is we learn by doing. When you were a kid learning to ride a bike, would you sit on the sidelines letting your Dad demonstrate how to ride a bike and then watch him walk away while you were left with a bike you couldn’t possibly handle? I don’t think so.

Writing is like that, too. We each believe we have a story to tell. By the time we get around to writing our story down, we know a lot of words. We know what we want to say, but we usually don’t have the skills to keep a reader engaged for the length of the story. I say usually, because sometimes, and it’s rare, but sometimes there are born story tellers who know instinctively how to do it.

But back to riding a bike. So we wobbled, and occasionally fell down. Sometimes we got hurt and sometimes we didn’t. Some of us got the benefit of training wheels (not me) and learned a little faster or encountered a little more difficulty along the way. But eventually we learned to ride the bike. And then we never had a problem after that , right?

Wrong. The bike for me was freedom on wheels. The ability to escape the mundane and outdistance the dullards of my childhood was pure magic.

But did this mean that I never fell off the bike again? No, it did not.

Just like learning to ride a bike, skills evolve along the way. For most writers, published or aspiring, we continually seek to improve our skill by studying the craft of storytelling, even when we are “born” storytellers. There are many aspects of crafting a great story that come instinctually to us, and we can’t tell how we know. It’s a gut level thing; we just know it’s right.

But most writers, whether they are a natural storytellers or not, continue to study craft. It is usually a career long pursuit.  And don’t discount the knowledge we acquire when we teach others the things we get right.

Getting past doubt and fear and moving into confidence and courage is a worthwhile trip. But you do have to take the all important first step.

Go for it.

 

Success & Happiness

Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.

Dale Carnegie

Successful people know a thing or two about starting over, and doing it again and again. The ability to recognize that it’s time for a change is a hallmark of a successful person.

I’ll be the first to admit that changes are difficult and starting over is often overwhelming, but it is sometimes also necessary. The changes which require us to begin again are painful and confusing, like the move from childhood to adolescence, but they are also necessary.

The worst aspect of starting over is the lack of familiarity with the new event, the very thing that makes it difficult and frightening. But then again, like most of life this is a matter of perspective.  Treated like an adventure which is chosen rather than a change forced upon us is a much better start.

Because fear of failure holds so many of us captive for a large portion of our lives, through simply daily insecurities, we often fail to realize our full potential. Dreams we are quick to nurture in childhood become the regrets adulthood. Most often the creative ability often celebrated and encouraged falls victim to our brand of self-sabotage with lip service paid to mundane excuses such as “the just isn’t time for that”, or “I wanted that when I was young” no longer apply.

We must learn to celebrate our creativity at any age, without fear or restriction as we did during childhood.

The truth of the matter is that we are not too old, or to inept to share and celebrate the creativity which is ever-present in our souls. If you had a dream which fell by the wayside in your youth, it is not likely the dream is dead forever. If that dream was telling your story, or storytelling in general grab a pen and write it down.

Success will take you many places, but happiness will keep you grounded.

Getting Stuck

There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book than the page you were stuck on.

― Zayn Malik

Some folks call it “writers block”, but not me, I just call it lazy.  I have a very good reason for saying that, too.  I spent a lifetime working the “day job”, and I never had a nursing block. Never.

I went to work and did my best job every day, the way I was supposed to, and things worked out fine.  Did I stamp out disease and cure mankind single-handed? No. But I did my best everyday, and I never once suffered from a “block”.

Writers (this includes artists and creators of all kinds) should never claim they suffer from a block.  It’s just not possible.

Admit the truth, you just don’t want to work today.  Or, you have chosen poorly and don’t have enough story to keep writing. If the first is true, then take a day off.  Many writers write every day, but there is no rule that requires participation on a daily basis.  Most folks work a five-day week and that’s good enough to get the job done.

If the second is true and you don’t have enough story to finish the project, then act like a grownup and stop right now!  You made a mistake, and it happens to everyone, so just either set it aside, or choose another project to make forward progress.

This situation of not having enough story usually comes from a failure to plan, and there isn’t much you can do other than planning ahead, next time.  But even with a story well planned, we sometimes find flaws which we cannot overcome with additional planning and sometimes a break, the chance to step back and reassess, is what is required to move forward.  That is not writers block, it’s just common sense.

And common sense tells us that we just need a opportunity to move on, get back in the flow of the story and move forward, usually by simply turning the page.

 

Purpose and Direction

Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.

― John F. Kennedy

I’d like to continue on the subject of how writers plan their work.  I’ve thought a lot about this lately and have made changes, both large and small over the years to improve the process.

I believe every writer I know has a method, a system if you will, around how they plan their work.  Those with a “day” job, must carve a writing niche from the day to accomplish their goals.  Those with children and husbands, or either or both, must allot the requisite “family time” and still make time to write.

In the end it’s all the same, we each get twenty-four hours and no more.  So if you want to dedicate time to writing, a plan is a good thing.

I’ve been fortunate to be around writers for a long tome, including those who aspire to be published and those who make their living as published authors.  Now it’s true many writers find a pace if you will, once they get their feet under them in the writing world and so they find the second, third and etc., books go much faster than the first. I would assume, and many do validate the thought, that once having learned what not to do, they are less likely to repeat mistakes. I also assume an air of confidence will allow one to move boldly forward with each new project. But that is not always true.  Many authors complain of the “sophomore slump”.  One close friend told me it took her eighteen months to complete the second novel.  She felt the time was proportional to the fear of finding out the first novel was a best seller.

The time she spent promoting the novel did not detract from writing the second, but simply renewed the fear of success which accompanied completing the first book.  She told me, she feared the editor, her agent and numerous fans who bought the first book would know she could not repeat the success of the first book, and so she became “paralyzed” with fear.

When a writer, either aspiring or published sits down to complete a daily word count with purpose and direction, they set aside everything else except the work which needs to be  accomplished today, in the here and now, in the work moment. Thus a writing plan which often includes a break between manuscript editing and completion allows a writer to move on to the next project while allowing a completed manuscript to mellow.The distance provided by beginning on a new manuscript immediately will make it easier to edit the book that came before the new project.

What would you give for success?

I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.

― Frank Lloyd Wright

I know what I’m willing to give, and I know what I’m not willing to give up in order to get where I want to be. I hope you have the same understanding of what success entails.

I will work hard and learn the craft.  I will continue to work on craft long after others have floundered, and fallen by the wayside. I will dedicate myself to constant improvement, and I will mentor others who aspire to tell the stories that live inside them. I see writing as a process, rather like a journey than a destination.

So tell me, what do you do to ensure your success?

First things first, you need to understand that a plan is a very good thing.  Now hold on to those tempers all you pantsers out there who never want to plan anything and who believe planning is a curse. It is not a crime to plan your work.  Have you ever heard this old saying, plan your work and work your plan?

When people talk about maximizing your writing time, this is the issue they’re addressing.

It is often useless and sometimes futile to sit down to write without having a clue what writing you will do today.  I have always been in awe of the pantsers who sit down to write and just go for it. That physical demonstration of a leap of faith is awe-inspiring indeed.  But I remember a time, years ago when a newbie writer sat down with great enthusiasm and a unique idea and wrote a four hundred eighty page novel without a viable plot.  Great details to character, scenic description, and many other fine aspects of the craft, without a thought in the world as to how to bring them together.

What a waste of time, if not talent.

Remember, when you commit to each project you aim for success and having a plan will get you there.

Imagination

Both desire and imagination are stored in the mind of the individual and when stretched, both have the potential to position a person for greatness.

― Eric Thomas

The unbeatable combination, desire and imagination.  Almost as popular as cheese and pepperoni on a pizza.  These two qualities are what set authors apart from the billions of human beings who espouse the intent to write a book.

Come on, I know you hear it every time you meet someone new and they ask “what do you do”? You know as well as I do that after a few years you want to say ridiculous things like “I am a street sweeper.  Yes,  that is correct.  My mother was a street sweeper, her mother was a street sweeper . . . in fact, I can name street sweepers all the way back to our founding fathers.”

You do this because you know what comes next.  The painful admission on the part of the new person to tell you how they are going to write a book.  Pffft!  Like it’s easy.  Like you can do it in a week.  Really?!?

Or the ever popular, “I have a terrific idea!  Why don’t you write it up and we can share the rewards?”

Seriously?  Those of us who make our living by writing, know how difficult it is to discipline ourselves into writing every day. Even with a brilliant idea, and a true desire to tell our story, we have odds set against us from the outset.

Few make their story so perfect and so notable as to rise from the mythic slush pile to achieve recognition on the busy editors desk.  When we do achieve placement at the top of the pile for whatever reason, we still have the possibility of rejection because even when an editor loves your story it’s still not salable until the distributor says to the publisher, I can sell this story.

So, in truth, writing the story is 5% OF THE PROCESS.

Desire and imagination can take you a long way toward success in a writing career, but it is only the first step. Real success comes when you don’t give up.

Fear

the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s brilliant Dune:

“I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing….only I will remain”

I’m not sure if Frank Herbert is brilliant, but I do know that fear is real.

There are many things we fear, out of a need to survive, to keep the race intact, to protect our homes and families.  For writers, we use fear to keep the ever fragile ego safe in its soap bubble.  Yes, that is correct, creative people, especially writers, have extremely fragile egos.

I’ve finally decided to give up my fears and take the proverbial leap of faith.

That is correct.  I am working on a novel that will be self published later this summer.  I’m working hard, but having fun.  Writing every day and making the story shine so that you can join me in my little make believe world and have some fun with the people who tell me their stories every day.

I  am so looking forward to hitting the “GO” button on this that I need to remember not to get ahead of myself.

  1. write the best story possible.  Check
  2. edit, proof, and correct copy.  Check
  3. get input from impartial readers.  Check
  4. hire professional editor.  Check
  5. Have professional cover done.  Check
  6. make list and check it twice.  Check

There may be a few other things I need to do, such as –promote on social media, up the buzz about the book, and let’s see where did I put that list?!

 

 

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