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Four Secrets

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Sep. 11th, 2012 | 10:08 pm

Some who have encountered my Type-A, go-get-em personality, online or in the real world, think I am pretty good at getting things done. They think of me as someone who accomplishes a great deal of business and writing while also traveling and performing. But from the inside--I confess--it feels a lot like stuffing a congregation of alligators into a gunny sack. It can be done, but there's a lot of mud and gnashing of teeth, and not everyone comes out with all their limbs intact.

And yet, somehow, the alligators get into the sack.

How'd that happen?

There is a secret. There are four secrets. They are childish and embarrassing and honestly, I can't help but think, if I was an ADULT, if I was a REAL writer, I would not need these tricks, I would be able to calmly gaze at my organized to-do list at the beginning of the day (which would start a lot earlier) and methodically tick off tasks in order, with a smile.

But I don't.

I need:

Bribery
Games
Competition
and Feedback.

Maybe you need them, too?


Bribery:  If you answer five emails, you can play three more rounds of Word Bubbles. If you finish twenty pages this week, you can get a massage. If you just run those five errands, you can eat whatever you like for dinner.

Games: Right now, my favorite game is "25 Things." I use an app called Things to keep track of my to-dos (and I'm not gonna lie, the most useful feature is the ability to move a task to another date) and projects, and it syncs from my computer to my phone. After sorting out what I'd like to get done in a day (and it's always too many) I try to get 25 things checked off in a day. I know, I know, 25 sounds like a lot--but I get to count everything. Went into the grocery store and also got shampoo? Now it's two items. Stopped off for an extra errand on the way? Write it on the list and check it off. Some days, showering counts. I can often squeeze out one or two more things before bed, just for the joy of hitting my arbitrary number. And by writing in extra jobs as they spring up, I realize at the end of the day what I actually did. Instead of thinking, well, hell, nothing on the list got done, I'm a lazy slacker, I notice that four clients returned calls and I booked three gigs instead of making it to Kinko's or unpacking my car. And every day, something to do with writing goes on the list. Today is Tuesday, so it's "BLOG--Personal Essay/Non-Fic/Inspiration/Writing Practice" day.

Competition: Writing for The Real LJ Idol is one of the best things that's ever happened for my writing. The promise of winning and the threat of losing kept me motivated. Not inspired? No ideas? No time to write? Well tough shit, because the deadline's at 9. Having that external carrot-and-stick made me make time to write, and being serious about being in the contest helped me build some habits I'm hoping will stick. Now I keep a list of ideas that I'm constantly adding to, and training my brain that we don't have to write right this minute, but we will come back to it, so be ready. Another discovery was that my process involves picking an idea, thinking about it for a few hours while I do other things--but actively thinking about it, starting phrases and concepts in my head--and then sitting down to write. Now that the contest is over, I'm sustaining this competitiveness by setting "Writing Appointments" with fellow writers. We make a deal that we're going to write something--anything--and set a firm deadline. And just like I did during Idol, I'm finding myself pulling off the road to the nearest coffee shop, because oh shit, the deadline's at 9.

Feedback: The benefit to keeping a public blog is the crack-heroin-ecstasy of comments. I wish I was a Beautiful Artist who didn't need External Validation to keep going, but you know what? I'm a Fucked-Up Needy Writer and I want my goddamn Biscuits of Approval. On the up side, this is teaching me to make conscious choices to engage the audience and encourage response. It also means I have to be on my game about responding to comments and writing things people care about.


So that's the secret. The four secrets. There's also a spreadsheet, and some larger goals, and a mission. We'll get back to those next week. Right now, I've got to hit "post" and start looking for biscuits.


_____________________________________________________________

What do you do to do the things you love that are hard to do?
Isn't it cool that a group of alligators are a "congregation"?



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Comments {15}

notodette

(no subject)

from: notodette
date: Sep. 12th, 2012 02:22 am (UTC)
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Bribing worked well for me until it came to bathrooms. Then I was a for real eight year old.

Can't have dessert if I don't clean the bathroom?

FINE. IN FACT, I NEVER WANT TO EAT AGAIN SO THERE. lol

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Sep. 12th, 2012 02:29 am (UTC)
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Yeah, sometimes you just gotta outsource :) Now you have to teach the twins that cleaning the bathroom=MOST FUNZ EVAH!!!!

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notodette

(no subject)

from: notodette
date: Sep. 12th, 2012 02:56 am (UTC)
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They LOVE cleaning the toilet, no lie. Proud mama, over here.

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Ellakite

...?

from: ellakite
date: Sep. 12th, 2012 02:42 am (UTC)
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What do you do to do the things you love that are hard to do?

I don't understand the question. Really, I don't.

I am blessed/cursed in a peculiar way -- The things I love to do have always been easy for me. Or perhaps I love them because they're easy for me, I'm not sure. But the point is that they're not easy for a lot of folks. Hard-core math, computer programming, science and tech of all varieties... these come to me as easily as breathing.

Writing has never been easy for me. So I don't "love it". I still don't.

I started in LJI in Season 7 as a form of therapy -- I was feeling down, wrestling my inner demons, and felt I could address them through writing. And I did. And yes, the "competition" and the "feedback" helped keep me going.

Until one day I found myself so angry at what I was writing that I literally had to restrain myself from punching my computer screen. So I walked away.


This past season I got *TOO* wrapped up in the "competition" aspect of LJI. So I did something stupid and wrong. And I got caught. And though I was given the option to stay, I recognized that the fact that I had done something so stupid and wrong was a sign that I needed to get out of the competition. So I did.

I'm still writing... but these days it's more out of a sense of camaraderie than anything else -- all of my friends from LJI are doing it, and I don't want to feel left out. I guess that falls under the heading of "feedback", doesn't it.

The problem is that I so rarely enjoy the results of my labors that it is *ALWAYS* a struggle for me to sit down and write. I'll admit, though, that my most recent "Flash Fiction" piece is an exception... but it very much is the *EXCEPTION*, at least in my mind.


At least right now, I write because I haven't found anything better or more enjoyable to do... and considering how I'm usually unhappy with my writing, that isn't saying much.

On the other hand, I'm still writing, I've got a friend who is working with me in the hopes that I can learn to enjoy writing (or at least not hate it so)... and I recently acquired a copy of BIRD BY BIRD, though I must admit I haven't opened the cover yet.


I suppose what I'm saying is this: I don't have a clear answer for you... yet. But I haven't given up looking for one.

PS: I always preferred "A Murder of Crows", myself.

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tigrkittn

(no subject)

from: tigrkittn
date: Sep. 12th, 2012 03:21 am (UTC)
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Wow, I am *bad* at Word Bubbles - which doesn't mean I won't now spend/waste hours playing. Thank you? Also, I'm totally stealing 25 Things from you. That came out wrong... I'm stealing the idea. I love that idea. I've been known to add things I already did to my to-do list just so I could cross it off.

Bribery? Check. Games? Check. Competition and Feedback? Currently tooo scary. Maybe someday!

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Dom

(no subject)

from: comedychick
date: Sep. 12th, 2012 09:04 am (UTC)
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For me, for the writing, I only really "need" the feedback one of those things. Well, technically I suppose it depends on my writing. I've written about my travel experiences for years without caring how many people respond (usually it's been one or two family members), because I write those for myself, to save my memories somewhere I can go back and reflect.

But when it's come to fiction... there's no way I could've written my novel if I wasn't getting feedback and encouraging words along the way. I found the strength to even start because of the feedback I got when I first introduced the characters through Idol.

Bribery works for me in other avenues, when it's chores in particular. But usually I need someone else setting it so I know it's an okay "reward" for the task at hand.

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blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Sep. 12th, 2012 09:37 pm (UTC)
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Good writer! Have a biscuit! :)

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(no subject)

from: whirlgig
date: Sep. 16th, 2012 06:38 am (UTC)
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Just quickly, I think you're awesome.

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blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Sep. 16th, 2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
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Aww! Thank you. :) Drive by compliment. :)

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(no subject)

from: whirlgig
date: Sep. 17th, 2012 12:36 pm (UTC)
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the best kind ;)

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Sally

(no subject)

from: i_smell_apples
date: Sep. 14th, 2012 03:50 am (UTC)
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For me it's deadlines. "You need to have this written by this day OR ELSE!!" LJI works well for that because the or else is ELIMINATION. Without that threat I slow waaay down, sadly!

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(no subject)

from: whirlgig
date: Sep. 16th, 2012 06:38 am (UTC)
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For me, group writing sessions are a must - thus I continually book myself into classes (pay money for them, whatever), formal, organised classes that I have to go to where I don't want to look like an idiot who hasn't done any work, so I do it. I do the work, I get the writing done.

I'm entering the last season of LJ idol. I'm going to home game it if I get eliminated. I want to write damnit, and this is the finest online community I've found yet.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Sep. 17th, 2012 01:56 pm (UTC)
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YES. God bless group accountability!

I can't wait to read your stuff :) I'm going to do some home gaming and stay involved a bit, and try to keep my practice going in general. It is an excellent community.

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Laura, aka "Ro Arwen"

(no subject)

from: roina_arwen
date: Sep. 17th, 2012 03:05 pm (UTC)
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Everybody loves feedback, and this is an awesomely helpful list!

And now I feel like I need an icon that says "I Want My Biscuit of Approval!" LOL.

Hopefully, this puppy cookie icon will count. Good Writer, Biscuit!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Sep. 18th, 2012 05:39 pm (UTC)
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Arf Arf!

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