Writer’s Block AKA Stubborn Procrastination

Hello, hello!  I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day or Singles Awareness Day or Excuse for Chocolate Day or whatever you want to call Thursday.  I have no plans, but I do have chocolate.  Huzzah!  Anyway, that’s tomorrow.  Today is about confessions of a writerly nature.  Namely, I haven’t done anything productive since January 20th (the day before the sickness of doom took over).  Yeah, I can blame the illness for about two weeks worth of laziness, but what about the last week and a half?  I had no excuse for vegging out.  So, I thought I would talk a little about what some people call writer’s block and my plan to deal with it.

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This is true.

First off, I want to say that I don’t particularly like the term “writer’s block.”  It sounds like something that just happens, something you have no control over.  For some people, that might be true.  Other people might enjoy having the excuse, being able to say that their lack of writing time is out of their control.  Not me.  I fully acknowledge that when I’m not writing, I’m usually procrastinating.  It’s rare for me to run out of words, at least on fictional things.  Motivation is my biggest issue.  And sometimes, I admit that the procrastination bug digs deep and stubbornly refuses to let go.  It’s what’s happening right now.  My motivation is low due to an influx of rejections I’ve been expecting (because of my year-end submissions that are just now being looked at).  It’s hard to want to write and revise when you keep getting told “it’s not for us, but good luck elsewhere.”  So, when the opportunity to procrastinate presented itself, I didn’t bother fighting it.

However, it’s about time for me to get over myself and get back to writing regularly.  Before the sickness decided to knock out all my will to work, I was actually struggling back into a decent rhythm.  How?  I joined a sprint group and one of the leaders happens to write around the same time I do during the week (early evening).  So, I have the support of checking in after each sprint and being held accountable.  Even if the leaders aren’t doing sprints, I can still create my own sprints and see if anyone wants to join me.  It’s a super helpful group for me and I plan to get back into it this week.

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I feel this on a deep level.

Aside from the sprint group, I need to find other forms of motivation as well, otherwise I know I’ll eventually fall back into the procrastination pit.  The problem is that I don’t respond well to self-appointed rewards.  Mostly because I usually forgo the rewards.  I promise myself anime or manga and by the time I get everything done, I’m either too lazy to find something to watch/read or it’s time for dinner and TV with Dad.  I guess all I can do is keep trying different things until I find something that works for me.

What about you?  How do you battle writer’s block or the procrastination bug?  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Happy 4th of July!

Hello, hello!  I intended to write a blog today (I swear), but ended up procrastinating by running errands with Dad and having a late lunch.  Then, I decided that I’d rather watch Jurassic World or something with him than write a blog.  My rationalization?  It’s a holiday here in the States (or at least it will be by the time this posts), so I can take a day off.  In lieu of a blog post, here’s a picture of me looking all festive.

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Dad bought me this shirt!

Whether it’s your Independence Day or just another Wednesday, have a wonderful 4th!  Have fun.  Be safe.  Don’t light too much stuff on fire.  I will be back with an actual post next week!

See you then!

The Revision Struggles Begin…

Hello, hello!  It finally happened.  On Saturday, I wrote THE END on the shitty first draft of novel attempt number three!  Yay!!!  I celebrated by doing nothing productive whatsoever on Sunday.  Monday, I slowly dipped my toe into the revision pool by revising a micro fiction piece before sending it and another piece out into slush land.  Which brings us to today (because I’m writing this on Tuesday).  Now, the real revision struggle begins.  Sure, I have a short story that needs to be doubled in length and smoothed out.  That’s my immediate focus.  But then, I have to decide which novel attempt to revise, two or three.  And that’s what I plan on rambling about today.

Make Good Choices
I try.

Option 1: revise novel attempt two (LR from here on out).  In my head, I know this would be the smart choice.  For one thing, it would give me a break from the one I just finished, which is always encouraged so that when it comes time to trim the fat away, you won’t be blindly attached to it.  I’ve had more than enough time away from LR to be able to make the hard cuts.  I’m still super excited about LR, so that’s a plus.  And I really do miss being around those characters.

The downside of revising LR first: while I love it, I’m not really sure it has much potential in the way of attracting agents.  Are dragons even “in” anymore?  Or are they passé?  I know I shouldn’t worry about stuff like that, and I should work on whatever my heart tells me to, but it’s something I think about.  I’ll have to do some research on the trends right now/where the trends seem to be headed.  Plus, I’m concerned that if I get caught up in LR’s world, I’ll lose steam in the other one.

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Don’t worry, Toothless.  You’ll always be cool.

Option 2: revise novel attempt three (DS from here on out).  Some of the advantages include that the plot is fresh in my mind and I still remember what all my little revision notes mean.  From that perspective, it makes sense to dive right back into DS.  It’s also a genre that’s always in high demand, but with a supernatural twist.  So, I feel like it has a better chance of catching an agent’s eye.  Plus, I’m completely in love with these characters and their stories.

The problem with starting with DS is that I wouldn’t have much time away from it, so I would probably still be super attached to all the fluff that needs to be chopped out.  I have trouble decluttering my room because of sentimental values, decluttering a story isn’t any easier.  It would also mean more time away from LR, which has been randomly popping into my head the last couple of months.  Plus, I’m not entirely sure if the supernatural elements will be attractive in this particular genre or if it’ll be confusing and off-putting.

Too-many-options
I’m being indecisive and procrastinating all at once.

I guess I’ll read through both of them and see which one pulls me toward it more.  Until then, I have a short story to focus on.  What about you?  How do you decide which projects to revise and when?  What’s your method of making these kinds of choices?  As always, please feel free to leave your comments or thoughts here or on my social media pages!

Character Questionnaires: Yes Or No?

Howdy, howdy!  While I was searching for something writerly to blog about, I kept coming across ideas for character questionnaires (getting to know your characters, things to know about your character before you start writing, etc.).  The questions varied from basic stuff about looks and personality to weird things like “what’s in their fridge right now?” (the main character of my novel-in-progress currently has pizza, coffee creamer, and pouches of blood in her mini fridge, in case you were wondering).  And, at first, this seemed like a really neat idea, until I came across a list of 1,000 questions I was supposed to know answers to for my characters.  Yes, three zeroes.  It seemed pretty excessive to me.  I started to wonder when something like that went from a useful tool to being something to procrastinate with.

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Pretty sure this would be the reaction from my novel-in-progress’ main character and her bestie.

I just feel like there are things you should naturally know about your characters before you start writing, even without a questionnaire.  Name/nickname, the basics of how they look, main personality type, any distinguishing features.  For me, these are all things that come naturally with the voices in my head.  I don’t need to write them down, because I know them.  Occasionally, I’ll make a conscious decision to change an eye color or hair color if I have too many blue eyed blondes or whatever, in which case writing it down somewhere is helpful.  But all the questionnaires that start off with these things feel more like a way to procrastinate than anything useful.  On the other hand, if you’re the type of writer who works on multiple projects at once, I can see how you might mix up characters without having some kind of reference sheet.

Then, there’s the group of questions about character motivations which seems a lot more helpful to me.  Knowing why your characters do things helps when you’re writing and trying to decide how they’ll react to different scenarios.  It makes writing believable scenes easier.  Say your main character freaks out when their roommate pulls out a sword in a non-threatening manner.  Why?  Well, if you know they witnessed their sibling getting stabbed, you can hint at that or build around it even if the reader doesn’t know it yet.  Something less severe: why does your main character throw a tantrum every time her boyfriend steals her Oreos even though she’s a grown woman?  Maybe her siblings always ate all the cookies when she was a kid.  If you know their motivation, you can figure out how they’ll handle things realistically.

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A completely acceptable reaction.

Last, they have the really out there questions.  The “what’s in the fridge” and “favorite sex positions” types of things.  These are the ones that I’m almost positive people answer to feel productive, but they’re really just procrastinating.  I don’t think my character’s preference for red Gatorade over blue has any impact on my story, unless there are monsters in the Gatorade, then maybe.  These are the questions that are fun if you’re having trouble writing one day and are hoping answering them will spark something.  Otherwise, you’re just goofing off.  And that’s okay!  I understand the desire to put things off, but don’t lie to yourself about it.

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It’s totally procrastination.  Own it.

Overall, I don’t find character questionnaires that helpful.  They’re fun and something to do if I’m stuck or really don’t feel like writing, but, honestly, I’d rather just write most of the time.  What about you?  Do you fill out character questionnaires wen you create your characters?  What are some questions you find the most useful?  Which ones do you ignore or consider unhelpful?  Feel free to comment here or on my social media pages!

Writing Rituals

Howdy, howdy!  I know a lot of people who can sit down and write with little to no hoopla, but I also know a lot of others who have to perform a kind of ritual before they can get the words to flow.  I’m a little bit of both.  There are only a couple of things that I have to do before I can write, everything else is just procrastination (at least I’m honest).  But I thought I would share how my routine/ritual usually works.

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It can be fun, but usually it’s a lot of hard work that gets tossed aside in favor of other hard work that flows better.

My routine starts with my morning (actually, it’s noon-ish, but I don’t know what else to call getting out of bed and getting dressed) ritual.  It takes about an hour and a half to finish because of the whole cripple thing.  I can’t just jump up, throw pants on, and be ready for the day.  That has to be done regardless of whether I write or not, so I don’t know if it really counts as part of the writing ritual or not.

Anyway, while Dad makes breakfast, I do all the little things that would normally draw my attention away from writing if I didn’t get them done.  I post on my social media and respond to any comments, I check my email and note who I need to write back when, I play a round of my mindless games, and I work on the crossword puzzle.  All of these things are just procrastination waiting to happen, so I try to get it out of the way before I eat (or right after if breakfast is a quick one).

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It really is, but you can work it into your routine if you try.

Breakfast is the only big thing that I have to do before writing.  It’s impossible for me to focus on anything productive if I’m hungry.  After food, I open the files I’ll need to get started on my work, do another quick social media and email check, set a timer for an hour, then start writing.  After the hour is up, I log my word count and do another round of short procrastination, then write for another hour.  I can usually meet my writing goal in two hours, but occasionally I’ll do a third.  I will say this: I can usually write even if I don’t break it up by hours if I have to, but I find it harder to concentrate that way.

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Apparently there’s a Ryan Gosling meme for everything.  I don’t really know why.

I know, I know.  My writing rituals and routines aren’t all that interesting.  There’s little to no blood sacrifice going on (it constantly surprises me too).  But it’s how I usually work and it’s been good to me.  When I stop being (kind of) productive, I’ll try something new.  Maybe I’ll throw in a complicated chant or something to summon the muse.  All my stuff aside, what works for you?  Do you have a particular routine or ritual that gets you into the mood?

Productive Procrastination: Just Go With It

Hello, hello!  It’s been a slow couple of weeks writing-wise.  I’ve been re-reading Garnets and Guardians in preparation for another round of edits (it really shouldn’t have taken me two weeks to get through it, but I was lazy and not so productively procrastinating).  At the same time, Dad was doing a deep clean of the house and, when it came down to the last room or so, he started doing everything except cleaning what he said he was going to (he did the laundry, ran errands, put knobs and pulls on some cabinets and drawers, etc.).  When I picked on him for procrastinating, he denied it because he was doing things that needed to be done.  That’s exactly what productive procrastination is: doing things that need to be done eventually instead of what you’re supposed to be doing.  Apparently we all do it, not just writers.  I felt much better about myself when I realized that.

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It’s kind of like when you realize everyone poops.  You’re not a freak anymore.  And yes, this is a real children’s book.

 I know writers who clean their house or run errands or answer emails when they’re supposed to be writing.  I tidy up my computer files when I’m desperate to avoid writing.  I also volunteer to read for people when I’m looking for a break.  There are all kinds of ways to avoid what you’re supposed to be doing when you have other stuff to focus on.  I know some people who keep busy by working on a short story or two instead of the novel they’re in the middle of writing.  I’m supposed to start edits on G&G today, but I might just write a ten minute play instead.  Sometimes, the brain insists you do something else.  That’s okay.

Productive procrastination plays two important roles in life.  First, it gives you a well-deserved break while keeping you from feeling guilty for not doing something that needs to be done.  Sitting around and binge watching Netflix instead of writing feels like a no-no, but fold the laundry while you’re doing it and suddenly it’s not so bad.  And second, it gives us the motivation to do all the little things no one really wants to do.  I didn’t really want to do my checkbook the other day, but I didn’t want to read G&G again even more, so guess which one got done first.  It forces us to prioritize things.

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Exactly.

 Eventually, you’ll run out of things that are less painful than whatever you’re supposed to be doing, or you’ll realize you have a deadline looming, and you’ll suck it up and do the thing.  If not, then whatever it was wasn’t that important to you in the first place.  As long as you’re getting something done, take it as a win.  Yeah, I feel guilty when I don’t get my writing or edits or whatever done, but as long as I did something important in its place, I’m happy.  Every task completed during procrastination is one less thing you have to worry about the next day.  Enjoy it.

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Embrace the productivity.

Are you a productive procrastinator?  How do you decide when enough is enough and you should do the thing you’re supposed to do?  Is there a method to your procrastination or do you simply do whatever pops to mind first?  Feel free to share your words of advice with us.

See you next week!

Productivity Is Overrated

Hello, hello!  I know I’ve probably posted about feeling unproductive and all of that before, but I can’t find a specific post, so that’s what you’re getting today.  I asked for some blog topic suggestions for today’s post and my friends did not disappoint.  One of them asked “What do you do when you feel unproductive?”  Honestly, it depends on whether or not I’m actually being unproductive.  Just because I feel that way, doesn’t mean that I’m not just being too hard on myself.  So, the first step is to evaluate what I’ve done that day (or week or month or whatever) to decide if I’m being my own worst critic.  Then, I go from there.

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I am quite good at procrastination.

 If it turns out I really am being unproductive for the week (I go by the week because we’re all allowed a day for goofing off here and there), I suck it up and write or edit something or do whatever it is that I need to do.  Sometimes, I have to accept that I’m going to be unproductive in my writing if I have to do extra adulting (doctor’s appointments, the dentist, meetings, etc.) or if I want to go out and have a life or something, but that’s just being productive in different ways.  I have to remember that productivity comes in many different forms.

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That’s how it usually goes.

If I have been productive, I allow myself the chance to take a day off (unless deadlines are involved, then I kill myself with work until I’m done).  If you’ve been working steadily and have kept up with your work, one day of doing nothing isn’t going to hurt you.  It might actually help.  It gives you a chance to breathe and come back to the project rested and ready to look at it in a new light.  Self-care is a very specific type of productivity that seems unproductive to everyone else, but we all do it and we all need it.  If you’re ashamed of taking a day off, call it a “self-care day” and that helps make it feel more like you’re doing something.

 Then again, if I’ve been doing my writing and editing and all of that, but slacking in other areas, I re-prioritize my time for the day.  I read (which I always put on the back burner, sometimes for months) or I adult or I devote time to checking in on friends (not as often as I should) or whatever I’ve been ignoring.  There’s always going to be something I fall behind on.  I have to accept that.

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And that’s when it’s time to start writing again.

 It’s really hard to find a balance where I almost always feel productive.  I’m always slacking on one front or another.  But since I’ve convinced myself that productivity comes in many forms, it’s a little easier (and a lot more complicated, if that makes sense) to know when I’m truly being unproductive.  I think productivity is more about learning to prioritize your time around the things that need to be done.  Sometimes, that will mean cutting back on writing in order to take care of yourself.  And that’s okay.  It’s always going to be a juggling act, and there will be times when you drop a ball or two.  Pick them back up and start again.  Eventually, you’ll learn which ones you can leave off to the side until you’re ready to swap something out with them.  The point is, you keep trying and learning and growing.  That’s the most important thing: keep going.

A Day in the Life

Hello all!  So, I was chatting with the beautiful Danielle Rose, trying to come up with a topic for this week’s post.  She suggested I talk about my routine a little more, even going as far as telling you about my usual day.  In other words, blame her for this.

Graduation selfie with the culprit
Graduation selfie with the culprit

Honestly, today (Tuesday, March 17, 2015) was really hard writing-wise, so I suppose it’s as good a day as any to use.  My daily routine always starts with the hour and a half+ long process of getting out of bed and into a presentable state.  I won’t bore you with the details.  Anyway, I’m usually up and active by 1:30 or so.

At this point, I usually putz around on Facebook and check my personal email and all that fun stuff, or I work on a crossword puzzle.  Today I did all of the above.  I also started playing that stupid trivia game that’s so popular right now.  Trivia Crack?  Whatever.  It’s basically multiple choice Trivial Pursuit.  So, that also took up some time before breakfast.

lesion-clipart-39056-clipart-illustration-of-a-stack-of-five-square-waffles-garnished-with-whipped-cream-maple-syrup-and-berries_450Again, I eat food instead of modeling it.  Breakfast is usually about an hour, and it’s TV time #1 of my day.  Afterwards (around 3:00, 3:30), it’s supposed to be time to work.  Some days go better than others.  Today was not one of those days.

I stared at the page for a few minutes, then said screw it, and gave myself until 4:30 to work on the crossword (that was less than half an hour).  Then I stared at WordPress for a while.  Sometimes, if I write the blog post first, it gets me in my writing rhythm.  That didn’t work.  So, I read through the last chapter I had written, all the way to the point where I had stopped.  Again, this is a technique to get the writing juices flowing.

creativejuices1It kind of worked.  I got down a couple of hundred words, then remembered that I hadn’t posted on my social media author profiles.  I gave myself ten minutes to find something and get it shared, then back to writing.  I got another hundred words down, then took another five minutes break.

Normally, I’m done with my words around 6:00.  Today, dinner rolled around (7:30ish) and I still wasn’t done.  I took the hour break and instead of hanging around for the usual couple of hours of TV, I went back to work.

That was when I hit my stride.  Granted, I ended the day with only 905 words on the novel (it’s over my 900 words goal, so it counts) around 9:30, but I did it.  Then, I came here to write this post (another ~500 words)!

The point is, it took me for-freakin’-ever, but I didn’t give up.  I set my goals and I met them.  You can do it too!  Even with unplanned for distractions last week (babysitting), I managed to meet my goals.  It helps to have people who support you and help you out.  It also helps that I have nothing else to do.  However, look at all the breaks I took!  Maybe writing can be done when you’re avoiding your responsibilities (we all do it, it’s okay).  Take a break, write some words, have fun!

Top 5 Distractions and How Not to Avoid Them

 Welcome!  Last time, I talked a little about creating a writing schedule, so I thought I would discuss distractions a bit.  Now, I know people who swear by eliminating ALL distractions, even if that means cutting off all those fancy electronics they’ve collected over the years.  I’m not one of them.  Personally, I believe in indulging those procrastination itches in moderation.

displayI’m going to go through the top five instances of procrastination (and yes, realizing that that’s what they are is half the battle) I face or hear about , so I can show you what I mean by “moderation.”

1.  Let’s start with the hardest one: Social Media.  Who really goes more than half an hour without checking the Book of Faces or Tweeter or whatever social site is hot that week?  It’s damn near impossible.  I know.  I get those urges, even when I know I’m supposed to be writing.  I don’t suggest going cold turkey.  If you’re anything like me, ignoring the urge only makes you fixate more.  I moderate things by only allowing myself a five minute break when I hit a lull in writing.  Even then, I limit myself to checking my professional accounts or my writing group.  Otherwise, I’d get sucked down the rabbit hole.

down-the-rabbit-hole 2.  The most annoying of all: Calls/texts.  It’s not annoying because of the people (unless they know it’s your writing time and do it anyway), but because we have this weird desire to know who did what when.  Personally, I keep my phone in sight.  I allow myself that half-second glance to see if it’s important.  If it is (it rarely ever is), I respond.  If it’s not, I write on, assured in my knowledge that I’m not missing anything important (aka everyone I know is safe and nothing life-threatening is happening)!

3. Music.  I classify this as a distraction because many people think it is.  I allow it to play while I work.  Once I get into a scene, nothing can really pull me out of it.  If you’re the type to get easily distracted by music, but still want to listen while writing, I suggest instrumentals or something in a language you don’t speak.  That way, you’re less inclined to sing along and lose focus.

GTGKW4. TV Shows.  I rarely get this urge, but I know it pesters a lot of people.  When it does strike during writing hours (or bursts or however you write), if I’m in a lull (always wait for a lull), I let myself look at the episode description and remind myself that watching that episode will be my reward when I’m done doing productive things.

5.  Food and drink breaks.  A lot of people I know sit down to write and are suddenly overwhelmed with hunger or thirst.  Lies!  It’s just your brain saying “Waah… I don’t know what to write.”  My advice, keep a drink with you and keep snacks in your writing area.  My chocolate and Pocky stashes are on my desk.  Pick something bitesized and keep it nearby.

I guess what all this is meant to convey is that you don’t need to eliminate distractions.  In my experience, it’s better to acknowledge and moderate them.  All work and no play makes work freakin’ unbearable.  Just make sure to limit yourself so you still get your work done!