Tag Archives: staying motivated

Pitiful Excuses


Pitiful excuses for the week: I’ve got a few. Not that every week doesn’t come with a few excuses, but some are more pitiful than others.

Of course, this week’s big pitiful excuse is bigger than the average pitiful excuse, which is: a stomach bug tore through our house like a honey badger (I almost wrote an angry honey badger, but then that’s redundant, innit) on peyote. First my daughter had it (barfing all over my wife, which she enjoyed about as much as you’d expect, my wife being something of a germophobe the way our new president is something of a Twitter user), then my son had it, then I had it, and finally, my wife has it.

So it’s been a stressful, and kind of miserable, week. Add in a couple of snow days* to the mix, and the beginning of rehearsals for our school’s upcoming musical, and the fact that the new semester is starting so new students are popping into and out of my class like quantum particles winking in and out of existence, and it makes sense why my productivity would take a hit.

Which it did. I missed a run day Wednesday, and I missed two days’ work on the novel, not to mention posting absolutely nothing around here (which is hardly an obligation, but it does keep the juices flowing). Missing days sucks. Even five years into a running habit and three years into a writing habit, I can still feel the black hole of slothitude and couch-lump-syndrome tugging at me with its unflagging gravity. While I know a day here or there isn’t going to knock me into that black hole, the lost productivity is a sharp reminder that the hole is there. Lurking. Waiting. The black hole doesn’t just swallow you up one day; it doesn’t have to. Time is on its side. One missed day turns into two, turns into three, turns into a week, and somewhere along the line you cross the event horizon between taking a break and giving up.

Of course, the reminder that the black hole is there, waiting to swallow you, is good enough motivation to kick me right out of my funk.Even though the week started off decidedly poorly, I still ended up with about 1800 words and a good bit of outlining for the end of the novel, and a nice little mini-arc of action to write that will start me off next week. The writing always goes easier when you know what you want to write before you sit down to write it (would that I always knew when I sat down!).

In summary: kind of a crap week, salvaged. But that’s what you do with crap weeks, innit?

Next week can only be better.

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.

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2016 in Review


*peeks out of his apocalypse-proof bunker*

*looks both ways for passing trains, heart attacks, or plagues*

So, uh, 2016, huh? Been a bit of a treacherous road, hannit? I mean, we say that at the end of every year, and certainly every year has its share of ups and downs, celebrity deaths, breakthroughs and disappointments. But it’s hard to deny that 2016 feels different, especially owing to the recent spate of deaths.

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, text

Not least among them of course is Carrie Fisher, whose passing hit me harder than any this year. Probably because I’ve been a Star Wars kid for the entirety of my functional memory (all I can really remember before I was 14 or so is locking myself in a locker at the high school while my dad — a teacher at the time — was playing basketball, shooting the light bulb in my bedroom with a squirt gun until the bulb exploded [it didn’t take long at all], and watching Star Wars and Back to the Future about a hundred times).

Then there’s Trump getting elected, which fills me with more despair than I care to even think about, so I’m just going to bury my head in the sand and forget I even mentioned it today, lest I fall down another diatribe rabbit hole around here, and NONE OF US WANTS THAT.

Point is, the last few months especially have been rough, so it only makes sense for the rest of us to keep our heads down until 2016 has run its course.

Of course, the end of the year isn’t just for turtling up inside our shells, it’s a time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished, and I’m happy to say that 2016 was a decent year for me personally. I overcame my nerves and self-doubt and finally got my first novel submitted and out in the world. (No leads yet, but that’s okay.) I lost my mind and ran my first obstacle course race, which was awesome and I’m already registered to repeat in April (thanks to my wife, who is ever-indulgent of such dalliances). I started my new job, which, while a little more taxing than my old job — and more demanding of my time outside standard working hours — is also a lot more creatively fulfilling.

Running-wise, I haven’t looked at my metrics in a while, but the nice part about running with gadgetry is that I don’t have to think all that much about how much I’m running — the technology tracks it all for me. Apparently, I’ve run 596 miles this year, up from 460 last year. I’m pleased with that — the number could be higher, but I was lucky enough to spend most of this year not dealing with injuries. Most of those miles have been comfortable and pain-free, so to get almost 600 there is encouraging.

Writing-wise, I finished up the first draft of novel #2, completed a third edit on novel #1 (and finally started submitting it) and have completed about 60,000 words of novel #3. That’s somewhere in the range of 8,000-10,000 words a month, minus a month’s worth for those edits; call it 90,000 words. For a guy like me with a full-time job and two full-time kids … well, I was going to say that’s respectable, but seeing as that’s a sliding scale, I’ll content myself with saying it makes me happy, at least.

Then there’s the blarg, here. I’ve not been quite as prolific as in years past, but I still get about three posts a week, for anywhere from 500-1100 words on average, with the odd outlier (*COUGH* Force Awakens Review) pushing 2000. Wordpress tells me I have 172 posts this year, and if the average is, let’s be conservative and say, 600? That gives … damn. 103,200 words. On the one hand I feel bad about that; it seems to recommend that I’m more productive here than in my capital “W” Writing, and I can’t say I’m pleased about that. Then again, a thing I read over and over is that all writing is good writing — it all sharpens the iron, as it were — so in that case, any productivity is good productivity.

All that is to say that I’ve produced something like 200,000 written words this year, run about six hundred miles, and taken some real, concrete steps to actually getting my writing out there in the world. None of which is a small thing; altogether, it’s pretty damn encouraging. Furthermore, if a guy like me can do it, then literally anybody can do it, and given that resolution season is upon us, what more motivation do you need?

Next up: a review of some of the year’s top posts.


The Weekly Re-Motivator: Art Harder


My writing and blogging spirit animal, Chuck Wendig, urges his flock to “Art Harder” (and he usually intensifies that with a “motherf*cker”, because that’s the way he does it). It’s catchy for sure, and it bears repeating — so much so that I’ve thought more than once that I maybe ought to put it on a big poster and hang it on my wall. (The “Art Harder” part, maybe not so much the MF.) In fact, now that I’m a drama teacher, that seems maybe more apropos than ever. But it’s good advice, and not just because it’s catchy.

The world is not a forgiving place, least of all for an artist struggling to make his mark. The work itself can beat you down like a desert wind blasting the face off an ancient monument. Then you try to make the leap to getting your work into the public eye, look for some vindication, and that’s when the wolves come out. (Actually, that’s when the crickets come out.) You push and you push and you submit and submit and you keep sending it out there and all you get are rejections or, even worse, an ever-expanding ocean of nothing at all, and it’s enough to make you want to give up.

Add that to the fact that your life doesn’t want you to take time out for your art in the first place — you have a job, after all, and maybe a family, and a host of other distractions that are easier than arting, more immediately rewarding than arting, more sensible than arting. Arting is hard. Not for the faint of heart. Not for the weekend warrior.

In Fight Club, the nameless narrator claims, simply and without boast, something along the lines of “when a guy came to us, he was a lump of clay. After a few weeks, he was carved outta wood.” Counterintuitive as it may seem, artists have to be made of harder stuff. Lean, corded, wiry, spry. Float like butterflies, sting like bees.We have to be able to follow the art where it leads, dive into the thicket after it, wrestle it to its knees, outrun it across the unforgiving desert, hold it still while we extract all that glorious juice from its weeping orifices.

And you don’t get that lean, mean, carved-outta-wood mentality from creating “when you get the chance” or “when inspiration strikes,” any more than you get that Schwarzenegger physique from hitting the gym “when you can squeeze it in” or “when you’ve got the energy.” You get there by putting in the work every day, by chasing after it even when it’s uncomfortable, by squeezing in a few more words, a few more brush strokes, a few more reps, like Satan himself were your very own personal trainer.

Train every day. Create every day. Art Harder.

MF.

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.


Early Progress


It’s hard to get any consistency about my schedule these days, but the words are flowing. I’ve made it easy on myself with my daily goal: I’m only asking myself for 500 words daily, 5 days a week.

But surprise surprise, I’m finding that the “goal” is more like a “limitation”. Just this week, I’ve done:

(Mon – 475 words)

(Tue – 537 words)

(Wed – 570 words)

(Thur – 623 words)

And that’s not trying to write more, that’s just writing where the writing takes me and stopping once I find a decent stopping point. Problem is, it’s getting harder to find good stopping points, because I’m enjoying myself so much.

But these are good problems to have.

Holy crap it’s so far past my bedtime.


Writer Moments: The Tipping Point


In any endeavor there are magical moments.

There’s the brilliant beginning: full of purpose and brimming with the righteous light of conviction, you take your first wobbly-kneed steps into the great unknown. Sure, your steps are uncertain and the path is dark, but you move forward anyway, driven by the cattle prod of motivation that drove you to pick up the torch in the first place. Every problem is just another step in the road. Every question, a mystery full of wonder and delight. Every setback serves only to motivate you further, and every accomplishment is a furious gale beneath your wings, buoying you toward the heavens. This is the honeymoon period, and no obstacle you face is too large, no challenge too stout, no door too locked. (Can a door be too locked? Don’t stop me now!)

There’s the elated ending: exhausted beyond the limits of what you once thought possible, you stumble across the finish line and collapse into a smelly, grumpy heap. The imperfections, the wouldas and the couldas, the endless desert of possibilities, all lie like the discarded husks of cicadas in your wake, as useless and irrelevant to you now as a screen door on a battleship. The journey is over, the battle won, and all that matters for the moment is the whistling glory of the wind in your ears, the sweet cocktail of accomplishment and fulfillment served with a job done. (Not necessarily well done.) The dragons are slain, the damsels are rescued, and all is right in the world. This is when you lay back, have a cigarette (no you don’t have a cigarette, smoking is banned everywhere in the world, what’s wrong with you??), and bathe in the vapors of completion.

But there’s another moment that doesn’t get nearly as much attention, and it’s maybe more important than the others. It’s a moment when you’re not finished yet, when the road stretches on and on in front of you and in back. When you’ve left home so far behind that you can’t even remember the last time you were there, but the end is still so far in front of you that it might as well be on the moon.

It’s a tipping point.

This is the moment when you aren’t yet at your goal, but you can look back on the path you’ve walked and see the arc of the gains you’ve made up until now. You aren’t running marathons yet, but you booked a 15-miler this past weekend. Your novel isn’t finished yet, but your characters and the action are all poised for the grand finale. Your kid still needs a diaper to get through the night, but you haven’t had to clean crusted-on poop out of the creases in his crotch for over a month.

This is a moment almost sublime in its transcendence. At this stage, perhaps more than any other, you feel the gravity of both extremes — the beginning, when the task seemed impossible, and the end, when it will all have been worth it — but you know, deep down, that short of an asteroid smashing into the planet and obliterating all life, you’ll finish the thing you’ve been working on for months if you can just keep at it for a little bit longer.

This is a moment to be relished, to be savored, like the last drop of a Dr. Pepper. This is a moment to pat yourself on the back just a little bit while girding your loins for the home stretch. The air is still up here; still but full of static, the twenty minutes of quiet before the hurricane hits.

Because, make no mistake, you’re not done. The finishing is not for the faint of heart. You will be chewed up. You will be spit out. You will suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

But if you’ve come this far, you can make it through.

This post brought to you by me reaching the 75% mark of my novel today.


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