Tag Archives: productivity

Meta-Meta-Analysis on Journaling


Is journaling wrecking my creativity?

I’m in another creative slump lately (I know, when am I not) and I haven’t been able to put my finger on why. There’s been the show and the end of school drawing closer, but that doesn’t feel like it — for the last few weeks I’ve had as much time to myself at work as ever. And the slump started before I got really keyed up over that stuff. It started right around the time I started takign time out each morning when I first got to work to write a page-a-day.

Why should that be? I’ve read about journaling dozens of times over the years, and virtually everything I read about seemed to suggest that a bit of unstructured morning writing would be a great way to prime the pump, creatively speaking, to clear out the lines for the juices to flow later in the day. But here I am, flagging on my novel, and — well — just look at the dearth of posts around the blarg of late. Pitiful!

For that matter, I’m not really sure what the journal is doing for me, if anything. Most of what goes into it is irredeemably trite, absolutely worthless, and not fit to be read by anybody but myself, and even then, only at my most masochistic. It’s just me driveling on about any old thing and, a lot of the time, I end up boring myself until I don’t know what to write about. Which, I thought, was why I was journaling in the first place — to kickstart my ideas!

I dunno. It’s only five minutes, after all, and it seems hasty to scrap the practice; with writing, I’ve learned, things sometimes take time to take root, and you don’t always see the benefits right away.

The funny thing is, I wrote most of this post as part of my five minutes yesterday morning. Which is to say that when I turned my attention to my frustration with my creativity and my process, suddenly the thing I was doing to help my creativity and my process actually worked, and I scribbled out a pretty good rant in those five minutes.

So maybe instead of reflecting, I just need to use my morning pages to tear myself a new one each morning.

That seems like a practice I could get behind.

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The Weekly Re-Motivator: Turning Away


So this week has been … well, it’s been something, hasn’t it? One of the weirdest and perhaps most depressing weeks in recent memory.

But I can’t wallow in the pain, the uncertainty, the massive, all-consuming doubt that the imminent Trump presidency carries with it. Maybe it’s my unbridled optimism. Maybe it’s the fact that I have faith (how? where did this faith come from? I hate everything, after all) that, though it will certainly be bad, it won’t be that bad. Maybe it’s that I can’t stand being in a pain- and griping- and complaining-spiral.

Trump’s presidency will either be a total cock-up, or it won’t. And I know people are protesting in the streets, and I know the petitions are swirling and people are social-media-sharing that there are still things we can do to stop it, but … sorry, I don’t have that much faith. The electoral college is not going to negate itself just because the country has heartburn. Trump isn’t going to resign because he sees the protests and all the #notmypresident-ing. (By the way, you won’t catch me saying such ridiculousness. For better or worse, Trump is our president. That doesn’t mean I endorse him, but it does mean we get to hold his feet to the fire. We have to be good skeptics, as I said the morning after, and that means giving him a chance — even a short one — to not be a total scumbag as the leader of our great nation.)

We have to get on with our lives.

And yeah, I know, I speak this from a place of privilege. I know that I have the benefit of being allowed to get on with my life, as a middle-class white dude. And a part of me is more than frustrated with myself on that account. You can’t just move on like that, I hear myself insisting. Others can’t move on; that’s why this is so important.

But he’s only one man, and our country is bigger than one man.

I just … I can’t stay here, in this state of mind where the election of the orange nitwit is front of mind every day, for too many hours in the day. I’ve lost too much productivity and too much mental energy down that black hole (and a black hole it is; it sure as hell doesn’t give anything back for everything I’ve poured into it over the past several months).

He’s the president-elect, now, and in January, he’ll be the president proper. I think that sucks. I think it’s an embarrassment. I think we (and by “we” I mean basically the entire USA, even those of us who voted against him — because we couldn’t stop it) have made ourselves something of a joke on the world stage.

But I’ve got books to write. I’ve got students to teach. I’ve got kids to raise up into something resembling decent human beings. And miles and miles to run.

I’ll keep wearing my safety pin for solidarity, as long as that’s a thing. I’ll stay informed and vote in the 2018 elections, and I sure as hell urge everybody out there to do the same. And I’ll certainly be keeping tabs on our new president as he creeps toward office.

But — and I realize I’ve said this before, but now that the election is over, it feels more final — I’m not going to be posting about it as much around here. It’s tiresome to me, and I’m sure it’s tiresome to my readers. This is supposed to be a blarg about writing and running and parenting and other lighthearted sharknado like that, for fargo’s sake.

I’m not going to be thinking about it all the time. I’m not going to waste my mental energy worrying about a thing that’s out of my control.

I’m going to co-opt a bit of religious wisdom (without the religion) in the form of the Serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.

You don’t even have to believe in god to see the wisdom in that. Any good meditationalist (is that even a word?) will tell you that serenity comes from within.

For me, at least, it’s time to turn away from Trump and the noxious cloud that surrounds everything about him. It’s time to turn inward.

It’s time to get back to work.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


The Weekly Re-Motivator: The Occasional Boost


Know what has two thumbs and had a thousand-word day yesterday?

This guy.

I sort of hate to spend time talking about a productive writing day or writing in any way about my daily word count. Such things are interesting only to a really tiny sliver of whatever readership my blarg might have. (Maybe only to me!) But it feels like an accomplishment, and I’ve become a real firm believer in claiming your accomplishments of late (after all, if you don’t crow about the things you’ve done, who’s going to do it for you?).

1000 words in a session might not seem like a lot, and in fact, it might objectively not be a lot. Browse some writers’ sites on the net and you’ll see that lots of them like to get in 2000 words before breakfast. Which is well and good for them. But a lot of them are paid writers, which I am not (yet), and several of them are even full-time writers, which I am definitely not (yet). Which means they have the time in their day to devote to such things.

Me, I’ve been subsisting on about 500 words a day over the past few months working on my current novel. That, hacked out in thirty-minute sessions at the beginning of my work morning before the day properly gets started. It ain’t much, but those 500 words are mine, and I defend them pretty stridently, even if the force I’m most often defending them from is myself. There are always other things I could be doing, maybe even should be doing, with those thirty minutes. But I also know that a week of 500 words a day turns into 2500 words a week. And a month of 2500 words a week turns into 10,000 words a month. And the math from there is pretty easy: 10,000 words a month turns into a full 80-90,000 word novel in eight or nine months, and I’m pretty much on schedule for that, notwithstanding the loss of about twenty thousand words a month or so ago.

So needless to say, a 1000-word day is a not-insignificant drop in the not-insignificant bucket.

(Oh yeah, after my 1000 word session, I was a good little soldier and backed up my work. Won’t be making that mistake again.)

Even still, consistent or not, the 500 words a day still feels like a struggle a lot of mornings. More than a few mornings a week, I spend about half of that time staring at the screen, wondering just what the hell these characters are supposed to be doing, just how the hell they’re going to solve the dilemmas they’ve found themselves in, just where the hell the whole crazy train is going.

But every once in a while, I don’t struggle.

Every once in a while, the right idea floats past my neurons, makes its way down to my fingertips and crackles like static lightning out onto the page.

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When that happens, the whole “writing” thing feels less like creating a story and more like transcribing it; less like building the thing from scratch and spare parts and more like just watching it happen and making a record of it.

And in that way, you get a thousand-word morning in the same space of time that it usually takes to get a five hundred-word morning.

Of course, there are caveats. Most of these words are probably crap, and will need massive rewrites when it’s time to revise. I have a sneaking suspicion that the big mini-climax I’m writing now, coming in at the 2/3 point of the novel, actually belongs at the 1/3 point of the novel, with much of the first third of the novel going on the scrap heap.

But those, as I like to say, are problems for future me.

Right now, the novel is alive and kicking. The 500-word days pave the way for the occasional 1000-word day, and the 1000-word days keep me motivated to keep pushing the thing forward.

Even if “forward” carries it right off the edge of a cliff.

Whee!

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


Project Update


I can’t write about the thing I really want to write about. I can’t. Dammit!

I just can’t. It’s too close to home. Fargo. That’s okay. There are other things.

So instead, I’ll share with you something I haven’t done in quite some time. Here, then, is my favorite passage from today’s writing session:

“Just go away.”
An ordinary little sister might climb up on the mattress and bounce on him to frustrate him. Rip the covers off and throw the blinds open. Maybe dump a cup of ice water on him as he lies there. But Kitty is never so subtle. She lifts the entire bed and shakes Linc out of it, like a chef sliding an omelet out of the pan. He thumps to the ground, clutching at the blankets and pulling them close around him, but she rips them away with enough force to spin him around on his rear end.

So I’m not 100% on the names as yet, but I’m 110% on the dynamic between the two of these characters. (That’s a lie. I’m never 110% on anything, because YOU CAN’T BE 110% ON ANYTHING. 100% is the max. People who say otherwise need to go back to … sharknado, I dunno, 4th grade math, or whenever you learn percentages. I’m especially talking to you, high school coaches of EVERY SPORT.)

Did I mention that the new project features superheroes? The new project features superheroes. AND SUPER VILLAINS. Especially villains.

Anyway.

I got 1200 words done today, which is a pretty good yield for a one hour session. I only crank out that kind of word count when I’m really feeling the idea, and today, well, I was feeling it. I’m about 13,000 words into the current project and it’s finally catching its wind and moving under its own momentum. Which is actually kind of late, actually — things should probably get crackling way before that — but that’s what the first draft is for, innit?

You can always fix it in the edits.

1200 words. A solid workout. A trip to the pool with the kids. A storm that threatened but never materialized. None of the kids barfed or shat on me today. Stayed on top of the dirty dishes.

Sometimes, all you can hope for are the small things.

Happy Tuesday!

 


The Weekly Re-Motivator: Mind Over Mind


I was sitting at work the other day, having just come back from one of several “important” meetings during my planning time, lamenting my general loss of productivity of late. It’s been an adjustment, getting back into the school routine: waking up earlier to get in my runs and workouts, bundling the sprouts off to germcare (sorry, daycare), putting in my time at school, coming home exhausted but still having to cook dinner and wind the sprouts down for the evening, and finally collapsing in a boneless heap to hope that the kids sleep through the night (they’re both in a bit of a midnight waking sort of phase right now, which is a real bummer).

As a result, I’ve lost some momentum on my writing front. I’ve dropped from writing about 800 words a day on my current WIP to 600 or so, and I’m down from five postings a week here at the blarg to three or four if I’m lucky. Which is frustrating. Toward the end of the school year, I was priding myself on those statistics.

Then again, when I think back on it, my workouts were suffering during that time. I was gaining momentum in one area at the expense of the other.

And then further still, I think back to the beginning of summer, when the routine of the workday disappeared and I fell into a funk and wasn’t accomplishing my workouts or the writing I wanted to. I did some, sure, but I just felt so wiped, so burnt out, so unmotivated. Did I need a bit of time to recuperate from the end of the school year? Probably. Did it merit the amount of down time that I took? Meh… I have a hard time justifying that.

And then, my brain flashed back to my time in college. This is a thing I tend to try to stop my brain from doing, because the results are rarely good. I loved my college days, but man oh man were some poor decisions made. And needless to say, the brain doesn’t flash back to the good things when it senses I need a good kick in the arse. No, it flashed back to a stretch of about a year and a half where I did little more than sit in my room and play video games for hours and even days on end. I failed a class, something I’d never done in my life. My other grades tanked. I packed on about fifteen pounds. I turned into a big old jerk (well, even more than normal). Why? I just lost the drive. I felt worthless so I was worthless. And in the depths of that toxic fog, a good friend of mine (who was somehow still my friend despite all my atmospheric jerkitude) came to me with a bit of advice: “The more you do, the more you can do.”

I don’t know if she plagiarized that, and I don’t care. Because it’s true. The mind is a weird organ. It believes what it wants to believe, often contrary to the empirical evidence all around it. That little aphorism led me to get back into my classes and write the first drafts of the play that would grow into Accidentally Inspired, the work that in no small way set the course for the next chapters of my life, and is still setting the course for me.

The more you do, the more you can do.

Momentum matters.

You pick yourself up out of the funk and do something — anything — take a walk around the block, scribble a few bits of dialogue on the page, bang out a few push-ups, chase your kid around the room a few times — and there’s pushback, sure. Your negative momentum holds you in place. But your brain also says to itself, “hey, that wasn’t so bad, we can do that again.” And if you’re smart, you do, and you do a little more next time.

If the me who heard my friend drop that little truth-bomb on me back in college could see what I’m up to these days — even in my current, slightly diminished and frustrated state — he’d have a heart attack. Married, two kids, full-time job, coaching soccer after school, working out five or six times a week, writing novels and short stories like it’s my job, operating a website… The me of the past didn’t believe he could do all that, so of course, he couldn’t. But little by little, he started to believe. Little by little, momentum grew. Little by little, his mind changed.

Were there setbacks along the way? No doubt. The road is neither straight nor level. But by taking on a little more at a time, slowly upping the ante, slowly turning up the burners, I was able to trick myself into becoming moderately productive.

Which reminds me, it’s time to take the kids out on a walk, and then come back and write…

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This weekly Re-Motivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every Saturday, I use LindaGHill‘s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


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