Adjusted Goals

Hello, hello! Welcome to July! How is everyone doing? Can you believe it’s already July? This year has flown by despite (or maybe because of) everything going on. Anyway, I stayed up late with Dad while he had some stuff on the smoker last night (a couple of briskets, pulled pork, and a “prime” rib… it’s okay to be jealous), so we got a late start today, which means I’m too lazy to come up with something decent to blog about. So, since it’s actually the first of the month and I haven’t done a goals post in a while, I’m just going to give you a quick update on new goals and how my old ones are going.

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Here are my goals from January and how I’ve been doing with that/what’s changed.

1. From January: Finish revising DS1.
Status: Complete. I finished in April instead of March because I got lazy, but I finished nonetheless and I love this book.
Updated Goal: Write a first draft of DS2. I waffled about starting this book until I see how DS1 does, but ultimately decided that it’s better to have a draft started and have no one want it than to procrastinate and have nothing if someone gets interested and wants to know where I’m at with book two. I’m aiming to have the first draft done by September 15th at the latest.

2. From January: Read 30 books.
Status: I have read 20 books so far this year. Six were from my “to re-read” pile, nine have been books I’ve reviewed (no idea how that happened), and the other five were new to me, but not necessarily new.
Updated Goal: My official goal is still 30 books. I still have six months of books to review. I also want to re-read at least two more books. And I’ll squeeze in at least two new to me books. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to more in the latter two categories, but I won’t push it.

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Amazon, but yeah.

3. From January: Keep submitting.
Status: I haven’t missed a week yet.
Updated Goal: The goal is relatively the same, submit two short pieces to magazines or anthologies every week. I normally do this on Mondays, but I’ve decided it doesn’t matter which day as long as it gets done every week.

4. January Goal: Query 100 agents.
Status: In progress. I’ve queried 16 agents thus far and received a couple of form rejections as well as a couple of really encouraging personal rejections.
Updated Goal: I’m still going to query 100 agents unless I find one. I send out five queries a week and I will participate in appropriate Twitter pitch sessions. If I can’t find an agent, there are also a few publishers I will try querying before I give up and move to a new project or debate self-publishing.

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Accurate.

5. January Goal: Crochet.
Status: In limbo. I haven’t crocheted in a couple of months.
Updated Goal: I want to finish the shawl I’m working on and a hat by the end of the year. I’m just weird and can’t find the motivation for it. But I will get back to it soon.

Those are my revised goals for now. What are some of your goals? How have they changed since earlier in the year? As always, feel free to leave a comment here or on my social media pages!

You Might Be A Writer If…

Howdy, howdy! How is everyone’s June going? It’s moving along pretty quickly for me. I’ve already written next week’s post. It’s part of a blog tour for the paperback release of Jaquira Diaz’s memoir Ordinary Girls. So, look forward to that! The following week is my normal book review. In other words, the rest of my month is pretty well planned out blog-wise. That just leaves this week’s post. I have nothing new to ramble about on the writing front, so I think I’ll just do a random list post about things that might mean you’re a writer.

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My friend tagged me in this a couple of days ago and it’s not wrong.

1. You might be a writer if you think about and/or talk about writing a lot, but procrastinate when it comes to actually doing the writing.

2. You might be a writer if your to-be-read pile randomly switches genres because you’re thinking about writing something new and want to see how the tropes work and what types of topics are currently popular.

3. You might be a writer if you buy a bunch of fancy pens, but only use cheap BiCs because they write so well and no one cares if you lose them.

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My newest journal. I named her Melusina. Made by Sullivan Book Arts.

4. You might be a writer if you have a bunch of empty journals sitting around the house and almost exclusively use the computer for writing, but buy new journals anyway because they’re pretty.

5. You might be a writer if you get caught staring at people while you’re trying to figure out which character of yours they resemble.

6. You might be a writer if you’re watching TV/reading a book/listening to music/etc. and have to start over because you got distracted by a certain word or phrase that you want to work into your own story.

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7. You might be a writer if you buy books just because the covers are pretty and rationalize it by telling people to look at these great examples of current cover trends in certain genres.

8. You might be a writer if you drunk purchase fifteen books in genres you don’t even like, but decide to keep them because you can never have enough books.

9. You might be a writer if that random piece of conversation you heard somewhere in public becomes fodder for your latest story.

10. You might be a writer if you turn down real-life plans because you have a date with the voices in your head.

I think that’s enough. It’s time for you to jump in with your own examples. Not a writer? What are some indications that you might be a… whatever your job or hobby is? Artist? Crocheter? Mathematician? Whatever. It’s fun. As always, feel free to share your lists, comments, thoughts, or anything here or on my social media pages!

The Things I Do For Procrastination

Hello, hello! Welcome to June. Can you believe it’s already this far into the year? I’m still stuck back in March somewhere. I’ll be honest: motivation for productive things is hard right now. I know I should be writing something, but I’m also nervous because the only thing I’m drawn to is DS2. I’m currently searching for an agent for DS1 and I don’t want what happened with G&G and its sequel to happen this time. I don’t want to get deep into DS2 only to end up with a bunch of rejections for DS1, get disgusted with everything, and trunk them both. That’s too depressing. But I’m also not excited about any of my other ideas at the moment, so I’ll probably cave and start DS2 tomorrow. I’m just procrastinating and I know it. Just like I procrastinated before writing this post. And since I have nothing else to talk about, I thought I would explain what a day of procrastination looks like for me.

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When I get up, it’s a long drawn out process during which I usually have time to play my three mindless games on Facebook for a bit. During that time Dad makes breakfast. We watch an hour of TV while we eat, then we go out back and feed the fish (we have a pond). Afterwards, Dad usually goes out to work in his shop. That’s when the procrastination truly begins.

Today (as in the day I’m writing this, not the day you’re reading it), I came inside and did the crossword puzzle. I checked my email. Got something from Panera Bread about contactless delivery, which they’ve emailed me about before but never delivered to our address, so I checked again figuring it would be the same as usual. To my surprise, they now deliver to us! So, I spent twenty minutes perusing their grocery menu and normal menu even though I know what they have. I was that bored and desperate to avoid working. Sue me. Then, I decided to read a chapter of the book I’m currently reading to review on the 24th.

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It’s something so far.

I followed that up with slowly wandering around the living room and kitchen, then staring out the back door for a few minutes. I usually tell myself it’s because I need to give my eyes a break from the computer screen, but really it’s because I don’t know what to write and hope a change of scenery will help. It never does. And before I returned to my room, I went into the dining room to stare at the crochet stuff I haven’t touched in almost a month. It was a mess. The shawl was all scrunched up and the hook was dangling from the last stitch I made. Instead of waiting for Dad to come inside and help me straighten everything out (which would have taken all of five seconds), I spent fifteen minutes getting the hook into position and shoving everything around as best I could with my back scratcher so that it’s ready for me when I want to work on it again, but won’t fall off the table in the mean time.

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When I noticed it was almost six, I decided to get serious and write this post. This isn’t an unusual day for me. Granted, when I’m in the middle of writing a book or short story, I force myself to get serious closer to 4:30, maybe 5:00. But that’s only because I write more words and sprinkle in random breaks to stare out the back door or check my email or scroll through social media for five minutes.

What about you? What’s a normal day of procrastination like for you? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

The Agent Hunt Begins

Hello, hello! How is everyone’s May going? Are you still staying at home? Is your area opening back up? North Texas is opening new stuff every week or so, but Dallas county alone is still gaining around 250 new cases every day. Needless to say, Dad and I are staying home for the foreseeable future. What does that mean for my productivity? Nothing. I’ve been pretty lazy the last couple of weeks. I know what I should be doing, but I can’t find the motivation. At least I couldn’t find it until I got an email on Monday informing my that the next PitDark is on the 21st. That means I have about a week to get my shit together and get ready to start my agent hunt. What does that entail? Panic. And some other stuff I’ll ramble about right now.

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Borrowed the image from the site listed on it. Click here for the link.

First, if you’re not familiar with Twitter pitch sessions (and you haven’t clicked the link under the picture), you’re probably wondering what PitDark is. It’s a chance for writers of horror/dark fantasy/murder mysteries/anything on the darker side to pitch completed manuscripts to participating agents and publishers. Anything from middle grade to adult is welcome. Basically, you post a Tweet-length pitch with all of the appropriate hashtags (see the website above for that info) up to once an hour per manuscript from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Eastern time) on May 21st and if an agent or publisher hits the little heart button, it’s an invitation to query them if you want to.

Luckily, I’ve finished my revisions of DS1 and also completed a round of edits for consistency and grammar and typos. I’ve just been trying to convince myself to prepare everything I’ll need in order to query agents. What does that include? Most importantly, a query letter that contains a blurb about the book to hook the agent (basically like what you find on the back of books to let you know what they’re about), a brief summary of my publication history, anything unique about me that informs my writing of this particular book, and a brief introduction reminding them if we’ve met or why we might work well together just to show I’ve done my research. Sometimes, that letter and the first few pages (or chapters) of the book are all you need. But some agents also require a synopsis. There’s the standard 1-2 page synopsis that introduces everything, but doesn’t necessarily spoil the ending. Most of the time, that’s enough. However, there’s also the 3-5 page synopsis that gives away everything. Some agents ask for that or both types of synopses. In other words, I have to write all of these things PLUS a Tweet-length pitch if I want to participate in PitDark and be ready to submit to someone if they like my pitch.

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And that’s not all. I also need to research agents. This I can do as I go along or after PitDark is over in the event that I don’t get a bite. The list of participating agents on the PitDark website is a good place for me to start. I can look at their preferences and see if we might be a good fit, then query them if they’re accepting unsolicited queries. I can also look at other agents within the bigger agencies to see if I can find a better fit. Some agencies have the policy that a no from one agent is a no from them all. Other agencies allow you to query multiple agents (one at a time of course). So, it’s good to find agents who are looking for work similar to your own instead of randomly querying everyone. I have a list of 101 agents from when I queried for G&G, but most of them wouldn’t be interested in DS1. However, I can use my list as another starting point because I listed the agencies they were with as well, so I can look at other agents in each agency. Otherwise, there’s always Google and checking to see who reps authors of similar works and a million other sources it would take too long to list.

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Anyway, my next few days will consist of writing a query letter and two synopses. If you notice my Twitter feed spammed with hourly pitches on the 21st, now you’ll know why. I’m not crazy, I’m just searching for an agent. As always, feel free to post your thoughts or comments or advice or good vibes or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Self-Imposed Deadlines: Do They Work?

Hello, hello!  How did your first week of 2020 go?  Were you as productive as you wanted to be?  My week has been pretty good.  I made a revision schedule for DS1 and came up with two deadlines (the ideal one versus the actual one).  I’ll share them with you along with my thoughts on self-imposed deadlines in a moment, but first I wanted to say that I’m ahead of schedule and (so far) sticking to the goals necessary to complete the revisions ahead of my ideal schedule.  I’m not crocheting as much as I want, but I’ll eventually find a balance.  Anyway, the year has been good and productive thus far!  Huzzah!

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Go me! I’m not above celebrating myself.

So, like I said, I made a revision schedule for DS1. If I revise a 1,000-word chunk four days a week, I will be able to finish the second draft of this novel (draft one was 66,100ish words) by April 30th. That’s my actual goal.  It’s realistic and easily doable even if I fall a little behind.  Why only four days a week?  Because Sunday is shower day, which is an all day thing; Tuesday (or sometimes Monday) is blog writing day, which I usually don’t feel like do anything productive afterwards; and one day a week for doctor’s appointments, errands, crocheting, or just me time.  I think that’s a reasonable schedule at this point.  However, if I continue with the same basic schedule, just with revising 1,500-word chunks, my finish date becomes March 20th (my ideal deadline).  So far, I’m keeping up with the latter date, plus I already had about 2,000 words revised that held up well under scrutiny, so I’m ahead of the March 20th deadline by about a day.

I realize that these are self-imposed deadlines, which a lot of people think are useless.  There aren’t any real consequences if I miss them, so are they really that helpful?  For me, the answer is yes and no.  Let’s tackle the no first.  The efficacy of self-imposed deadlines really depends on my mood.  If I’m feeling depressed and unmotivated and all of that, a self-imposed deadline means absolutely nothing to me.  All it does is make me feel worse because I let myself down.  You give me a deadline for a paying job or if I’m taking a class or something and I’ll get everything done a day early come Hell or high water.  But a self-imposed deadline doesn’t offer me the same kind of motivation.

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Accurate.

If that’s the case, then how are self-imposed deadlines helpful to me?  Because they remind me that I have my own pace.  That I know my own abilities.  In a couple of weeks, when I’m looking at my revisions and upset that I’m not closer to the end, I will be able to look at my deadlines and remind myself that I’m on track according to my own abilities.  I’m not capable of writing 5,000 words in one sitting.  I can’t fully revise 6,500 words in one day.  Other people can.  I’m not them.  And having those self-imposed deadlines reminds me that I have a plan, that I made this plan for a reason and it’s catered to my own abilities.  It helps me from getting too discouraged.

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I think.

What are your thoughts on self-imposed deadlines?  Are they helpful to you?  Do you stick with them?  As usual, feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Another Round of Shameless Self-Promotion

Howdy, howdy!  Can you believe July is already more than halfway over?  Neither can I.  But I must admit it’s a good month.  First and foremost, Dad’s birthday is tomorrow (happy early birthday, old man!), so drop him some birthday love here or on my social media pages and I’ll pass it along to him.  Secondly, I recently found out that a piece of mine called “Cracked and Broken” will be appearing in Harbinger Press‘s Flash Fiction Fridays.  So, I thought I would take this week’s post as a chance for some shameless self-promotion.

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For Dad.

Harbinger Press is a brand new venue that opened in March of this year and was founded by Marie Robinson and B.C. Palmer.  It will be running its first round of Flash Fiction Fridays from July 19th through November 29th. My story will appear during this time.  I will announce via social media the exact Friday it comes out, plus I will share links to the story in those posts and on my website.  In other words, if you haven’t done so already, please stalk my pages all of which can be found off to the side here or at the top of my website.  And if you want to see all of the flash fiction pieces in this series (and participate future events like the “best of 2019” contest they’ll be having for their flash fiction selections), subscribe to Harbinger Press’s newsletter, which can be found on their website linked above.

If you’re interested in submitting your own flash fiction pieces to them, their winter call opens on August 1st and runs until November 1st.  They’re open to fantasy, sci-fi, and horror according to the submission page.  I know I have some friends whose writing could fit in those categories!  Harbinger Press pays a flat rate of $25 for stories with a maximum of 1,000 words (so, basically semi-pro pay).  You can find their guidelines and the basic rights they purchase on the website I linked above.

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Borrowed from their website.

I’m extremely happy to be included in this debut batch of flash fiction.  “Cracked and Broken” is one of the few pieces I’ve written that I liked even before my writing group  gave their approval of it.  They helped me improve it a lot, so I have to thank them for the suggestions and critiques.  They know who they are.  It was also one of the first pieces I wrote after Stonecoast, without the guidance of my mentors, so it was a little scary to send it out into the world.  But I’m glad it has found a home!

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Will o’ the Wisp by Rob Powell.  Not what the story is technically about, but close enough visually.

As I mentioned above, I’ll announce when the story is released on my social media pages, so stalk me or subscribe to Harbinger Press’s newsletter to catch it when it comes out.  Next week we’ll return to our regularly scheduled program of trying to figure out this writing life.  Or maybe something cripple-focused.  I haven’t decided yet, but I’ll see you then.

More Shameless Self Promotion

Hello, hello!  How is everyone doing this wonderful day?  I just realized it’s National Poetry Month and what better way to celebrate than to announce my latest publication?  My poem, “Dear God,” was released on Monday in Breath and Shadow’s Spring ’19 issue.  So, I thought I would take a moment to update you on this and on how Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 3 is doing.

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Couldn’t find one with a writer instead of the skier.

First, the new one!  “Dear God” is a piece I shared on here a few years ago, so if it seems familiar, that’s why.  However, the version posted on Breath and Shadow has been edited into a more streamlined piece.  It was originally written while I was an undergrad taking an Intro to Poetry Writing class with professor Jennifer Key.  One of our assignments was to write a poem speaking to God.  Many of the students wrote extremely happy and/or vague poems, so it was a little weird when it came time to read mine.  But I’m glad I read it to the class and I’m proud that this newest version is out in the world.

A little bit about Breath and Shadow.  It’s a quarterly journal out of Maine that focuses strictly on disabled writers, no matter the disability.  It’s a wonderful publication that gives a voice to a vast group that often goes unheard.  Normally, I keep my disability to myself when I’m submitting my work because I don’t want to be a publication’s token cripple or fodder for inspiration porn, but Breath and Shadow is a place where I didn’t have to worry about any of that.  Why?  Because all of the editors and staff have their own disabilities, as well as all of the contributors.  It’s simply a neat journal that publishes awesome writing by people who happen to be disabled.  Check it out.

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Inspiration porn, BUT there’re also adorable puppers.  I’ll let it slide.

And lastly, an update on Road Kill vol. 3.  It recently won the North Texas Book Festival Book Award!  I’m super proud to be in a collection with such a wonderful group of writers.  Thank you once again to E.R. Bills for putting it together.  If you haven’t checked it out, visit the link at the beginning of this post and consider picking up a copy.  It’s available as a paperback and a Kindle ebook.

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Wootwoot!

I’m wrapping this up a little quicker than usual, since I’m sure you’re tired of my shamelessness.  I’ll be back next week with a special book review of a duet (two reviews for the price of one)!  In the mean time, feel free to share your thoughts, comments, or recent accomplishments here or on my social media pages.

Keeping Track

Hello, hello!  Thanks to my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum, Tony PisculliI actually have something halfway productive to talk about today.  After my last post, he asked me how I keep track of my submissions and gave me a couple of ideas for how to improve on it.  So, I’m going to ramble a bit about three options for keeping track of the things you submit and where you submit them.  The first two options are things I currently do, but the third is one that I hope to implement in the near future.

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As one should.

1. Duotrope.  This is a nifty website that offers a searchable database of magazines and anthologies looking for submissions.  It keeps track of acceptance rates and a bunch of other useful tidbits like what word count and genres these places accept.  Its information is fairly accurate, but always check the submission guidelines of each venue before you submit, just in case.  One of its main features is the ability to track what you’ve submitted where.  It’s currently my go-to way of keeping track of everything, but it is flawed in that some smaller venues aren’t listed, so I need a backup way of tracking those.  But for $50 a year, it’s a great tool for writers to invest in.

2. File names.  I learned a long time ago to use the date, the story title, and the name of the publication when I’m saving my work for submission.  Labeling the file something like 2019.03.20_story_publication keeps everything in a neat chronological order.  However, the more submissions you make, the more unruly this method becomes.  One thing Tony suggested to help improve this was to give each story its own folder, that way everything isn’t mixed together and it’s easier to scan through and see where you’ve submitted individual stories.  I plan on giving this a shot before I send out too many more submissions.

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3. Spreadsheets.  This is something I’ve been meaning to create for a while now, but I keep putting it off because it’s going to take at least a couple of days.  It has been a long time since I’ve made any kind of in-depth spreadsheet for anything, so I’ll have to teach myself all the ins and outs of it again.  But I would love to not only track where I’ve sent things, but where I want to send them in the future and when.  It’s difficult to keep track of which venues have open submission periods.  I’ve almost missed a number of windows because I didn’t write it down anywhere.  Plus, a spreadsheet would allow me to personalize the information I keep track of, like which venues encourage me to submit again or random encouraging words for a particular story to look at when I’m considering trunking something.  When I do get around to creating a spreadsheet, I’ll make sure to give you all a glimpse!

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Sure…

What about you?  How do you keep track of your submissions?  Do you have any tips or tricks to share?  Have you ever considered a spreadsheet?  What kind of information would you include if you created your own tracker?  Feel free to comment here or on my social media profiles!

That Didn’t Go Right

Hello, hello!  How is everyone doing this week?  I’m a bit annoyed at myself if I’m being honest.  I was going over my story’s timeline and looking at the revisions I’ve made when I realized I had made a stupid mistake.  There were two main plot points that I meant to reverse, but apparently in my zeal during my rewriting sessions, I forgot to switch them.  So, today, I’m going to ramble until I figure out some kind of solution for my dilemma.

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Me when I realized why something felt off with my story.

The more I think about it, I have a couple of solutions.  The easiest one would be to leave the story like it is and follow my original plotline.  I admit that I liked this section the way it was, but it drags a little in between scenes this way and there’s no good transition that will speed things up.  Slowness isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It gives the writer a chance to build up the setting or show the characters in different types of interactions.  All of that can give the story depth.  But, it can also cause the reader to put the book down and makes it easier for them not to want to pick it back up.  Which makes this option dangerous.

The other solution would be to go back and add the chapter I wanted to move in the first place.  This would require reading through what I’ve already rewritten and finding the best place to transition to the “new” material, then figuring out how to make that section flow into the old one.  Luckily, I haven’t gotten too far ahead of the switch, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to go back and find a place to insert the other plot point.  And it should speed up the pace of the story.  Plus, some of the scenes in that section would really benefit from appearing earlier in the novel anyway.  My main concern is that, while it sounds great in my head, it won’t work as well on the page and I’ll end up switching everything back to the original order in the next draft.

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Because I’m too lazy to think of any others right now.

Honestly, since my first instinct was to flip these two plot points when I was working out the timeline for the revision, that’s probably what I’ll end up doing.  It’ll be more difficult and time consuming because I’ll have to read through what I have thus far and find a good place to insert a chapter.  However, I think the potential benefits are worth the risk.  It’s not as if I’m on an official deadline or anything.  If it sucks, I have time to switch it back.

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Maybe not always, but enough to trust it.

Have you had any moments where you realized you made a stupid mistake in your creative work recently?  Did you decide to go back and do what you had originally planned or did you go with the flow?  Feel free to share your stories or comments or thoughts here or on my social media pages.

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!