Category Archives: Word Count

The Power of Being (I’m not procrastinating…I’m preparing)

Hello Scribes friends,

PJ Sharon here. Some of you may not know this about me, but I can be a bit lazy. I know—you’re thinking, “No way, PJ. Not you! You’re so motivated and productive!” Um…not really. Looking at the big picture, I do seem to manage to keep a pretty steady schedule, meet my goals on a regular basis, and take care of my daily responsibilities while maintaining a fairly decent attitude, so I guess I’m not a total slacker. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that anything I do accomplish is because I know myself well enough to make my goals achievable and realistic, I accept my limitations as an imperfect human being, and I plan accordingly. Being a natural multi-tasker and somewhat disciplined helps too, but these days, I’m less rigid and a much nicer boss to work for.

With my writing, I try to push new limits, set appropriate deadlines,  and stay challenged–since I know these are what motivate me to stay on task–but it would be foolish and self-defeating to expect more from myself than I want to give. You have to want success…and you have to want it bad! And you need to ask yourself, “What am I willing to give up to achieve it?”

Admittedly, I’ve given up a lot to get where I am. But certain things–like time with my granddaughter and at least one day off a week, are now higher on my priorities list. What I also won’t compromise on is exercise. I commit myself to doing 30 minutes a day, five days a week because I know the payoff is totally worth it! When I’m strong, fit, and happy, I feel like I can handle anything that comes my way. If my schedule gets crazy, I let myself off the hook for a day or two, but then I’m back at it. The same applies to diet and nutrition. I’m not as rigid as I once was, but I try to eat high quality, nutrient dense foods that properly fuel my body. I like chocolate and pie as much as the next girl, but I believe in the 80/20 approach to everything. If I’m doing the right thing 80% of the time, I can slack off 20% of the time and I’ll probably be okay. Yay…pie!

For me, first and foremost, my mental and physical well-being are my priorities, and stressing out about what I’m NOT accomplishing only serves to make me feel overwhelmed and down on myself. It has become clear to me that my to-do list will never be done and that if I want to keep my sanity, I have to focus on just a few daily tasks that keep me moving toward my overall goals. It might take me longer to get there, but it’s not a race for me anymore. I’m in it for the long haul, so pacing myself is key to staying the course.

If goal setting isn’t your strong suit, here’s a great article to help you get on track and stay there.

Could I accomplish way more if I didn’t watch twenty hours of television per week or spend time gazing out the window at the lilac buds sprouting? scent of spring Maybe I could shave ten or fifteen minutes off my overly-lengthy shower time, or possibly I could sleep less. It seems changing even a few of these “recreational” behaviors would lead to a tremendous increase in my productivity. Then, maybe I could write five books in a year or spend another twenty hours a week promoting my butt off. After all, I do understand that the success of my business depends on me and how hard I’m willing to work. But how hard I’m willing to work today may be different from what it was two years ago, and will likely be different again a month from now. We each have to decide what’s important to us.

It comes down to perspective and priorities. In my opinion, none of those “recreational” activities are a total waste of my time. One could even argue that I am more productive because I’m living a balanced lifestyle. A full night’s sleep–when I can get it–is an essential tool for weight management, stress reduction, and overall health. I need at least 6-8 hours a night to remain productive and happy. Staying up late to write that blog that’s due in the morning, or waking at the crack of dawn to sneak in some “quality” writing time may help me check off a few to-do’s, but it’s going to leave me cranky and tired, and increase my susceptibility to illness. That’s not worth the trade for me at this point in life. Maybe some of you can live on five hours of sleep, but I’m betting it catches up with you eventually.

As for the apparent television addiction, I do try to limit my viewing to “must see” shows that give me the most enjoyment. I’m not a total hedonist! I TiVo my favorites and dole them out throughout the week as reward for accomplishing my tasks for the day. Getting lost in my favorite shows not only helps me decompress after a full day of massage work or long hours at the computer, it activates my creative brain. I’m constantly analyzing and deconstructing what I watch. I’m looking at story structure, dialogue, characterization, metaphor, etc. My mind is being entertained, but I’m also in my writer’s brain and learning.

The long hot showers, which some may argue are a luxury and a waste of not only water and resources, but are a self-indulgence. I assure you, they are a necessity for me. There are many challenges in daily life, and few “inexpensive” luxuries for most of us. If spending a half hour in the shower (where I do a stretching routine to treat my arthritic neck and back) relaxes me and reduces my pain, then so be it. I’ll take every little bit of relief I can get. Besides, my shower time is the most creative and productive time of my day as far as I’m concerned. It’s like a cup of tea, a soothing massage, and an opportunity to let my thoughts flow freely without my internal editor alarms ringing, all rolled into one.  My best ideas and snappiest lines of dialogue come to me while standing under a piping hot shower. I’ve also been known to belt out a few tunes while I’m there. Singing elevates my mood, clears my lungs, and centers me. It helps me shift from my right sided “business” brain to my left sided “creative” brain so I can get those 1,000 words on the page. The long hot shower is staying!

So, what about the inordinate amount of time I spend staring out the window, walking around my yard to see what’s coming into bloom, or simply sitting on my front porch with a hot cup of tea, paying attention to my breathing for a few minutes and taking time to be grateful for the multitude of gifts I have in my life? Am I procrastinating?

Maybe, but these moments too, are priceless. When I’m not actually writing, I’m usually preparing to write. I’m processing my next scene or coming up with some brilliant twist to my plot. As a writer, my brain is always processing some bit of information that will ultimately lead me to where I need to be on the page.

What it comes down to for me is that I’m a human being first, and a writer second. I NEED to stay connected to my higher self–the part of me that knows how to live in the moment and appreciates the power of just being.teens prayers5 (2013_02_16 17_00_55 UTC) That’s the part of me that inspired me to write in the first place and continues to be the well from which I draw my best work. Whether it’s called prayer or meditation…or just plain daydreaming, we all need it on some level.

I know that nothing can substitute for diligence, consistency in getting those daily word counts on the page, or putting in the overtime, but these quiet moments of stillness and reflection are essential to my sanity and well-being. I know this to be true about myself. Perhaps it’s just an excuse to be lazy or to procrastinate, but I prefer to think of it as “preparing” the soil. The fertile ground of productivity is only as good as what you feed into it. So next time you start to feel guilty for daydreaming instead of writing, or taking a day off to hit the beach, don’t look at it as “slacking”. Consider it part of the process. Tomorrow is another day and there is always more work to be done. Today, take a moment to reconnect to what nurtures and feeds your soul. You may be slightly less productive on paper, but you’ll be happier and more balanced in the long run.

Namaste!

PJ

What are your best “self-care” indulgences? What fuels your muse? What have you done for you lately?

Redefining Nanowrimo Success by Vivienne Lynge

Hello Everybody!  Vivienne Lynge here!

Today is the last day of Nanowrimo 2013 and I wanted to give you all a little update on my progress.  I have been saying for about two months that I will be finishing the first draft of Sometimes before the end of the year or I won’t be moving into 2014.  November and Nano were to be my big push to get me there.

Well……It’s the end of the month and while I haven’t finished the first draft, I am 14,000 words closer.  Given all of the other things I had going on this month, two kids, two jobs, a busy husband, PTO volunteer responsibilities, and a chaotic household that I’m trying to get under control, I’m calling 14,000 words a success.

This is what I love about Nanowrimo: 50,000 words this month was just not possible for me.  Even 35,000 wasn’t gonna happen.  But I did write 14,000 new words on a story on which I had lost focus.  Frankly, I’ve written about 20,000 words all year and 14k were in the last couple of weeks.  I’ve needed to refocus.  Re-energize.  And Nano helped me do that.

I am still committed to finishing the first draft of Sometimes ASAP.  In fact, I’m going to spend some time on Monday, pulling all the pieces of the book together.  It’s a bit scattered at the moment.  I bet that once I do that, I’ll have a partial manuscript somewhere in the 65,000 word range.  I’ll be only about 25,000 words short.  And I know I can write that in fairly short order.  Plus I have at least 2 really exciting scenes to write that will probably be half that word count.  So December 31st is still a possibility.  Even if I only get another 14,000 words written by then, that makes a January 30th first draft finish a done deal!

Here’s my very favorite secret: You define success for your endeavors.  It is perfectly all right to modify your definition and keep plugging away.

Balance During NaNoWriMo by J Monkeys

Hiddey Ho all!  J Monkeys here.  As you know I’m scribbling away this month with my 6th year of NaNoWrimo.  But as important as focus and forward movement are to me during the month of November, it’s equally important to remember that I have other responsibilities that I can’t ignore. 

Yes the dishes can pile up and I can order pizza for dinner again.  But the house has to be tidy for the dozen people arriving for Thanksgiving and I’m gonna have to feed them something.  A trip to Santasland on November 30 is more important than spending that last day banging out words.  And Parent/Teacher conferences are coming.  And I have a job that pays for important things like gas and groceries.

So, for all of you out there saying I can’t do it!  I can’t write a novel in November with all the other things I have to do – I’m here to say maybe that’s true.  Maybe you can’t write an entire novel.  But you can write a big chunk of one. 

I am absolutely shooting for 50,000 words this month.  But here’s a secret.  If I only hit 35,000 it’s still a success.  I’m 35,000 words further along than I would be if I hadn’t attempted to hit 50k.

Now I’m going back to writing…

 

NaNoWriMo Me by J Monkeys

Hiddey Ho there Scribblers!  J Monkeys here.  So I know there are both fans and pans of Nanowrimo out there.  If you aren’t familiar with Nano, click here for more detail.  Where do you fall?  I’m a fan.  I’ve learned a very important lesson over the last year.  I hate writing first drafts.  It’s my least favorite part of the writing process.  It turns out, I’ll do just about anything to avoid it.  And hey, guess what?  You aren’t a writer if you can’t write a first draft.  You know that beautifully sculpted final product?  It starts with the first draft. 

Nanowrimo is a tool that helps me staple my butt to the chair and get that torturous first draft written.  In fact, I could use two or three Nanowrimo’s a year.

So, since it’s November, I’m keeping the blog posts short and sweet.  If you are a writer, get writing.  If you are a Wrimo – quit goofing off and get back at that word count!

I Need a Knitted Laptop Hood by J Monkeys

Hiddey Ho Scribblers!  J Monkeys here.  November is coming and with it NaNoWrimo.  If you aren’t familiar with National Novel Writing Month, click here.  I will finish the first draft of my WIP this year or else!  Part of a successful Nano month is being prepared and having the right gear to get you through.  Next week, I’ll be cleaning my office and reading the new Julia Quinn book to get the temptation out of the way.  And, I ordered a new battery for my laptop today – I’ve needed one for a VERY long time.

Now my office is cold and I have many distractions from writing, including my twin boys.  I’m thinking of making one of these.

knitted laptop hood

What do you think?

The knitting instruction can be found here.  Maybe….