Page by Page

Finished my first page-by-page of my spec! It has a LONG way to go but it feels good to get this far. I’ve always goofed around at scriptwriting but having the structure and deadlines of a class is helping me get through the slumps. I have to write it, because I have to turn it in or look lazy. That’s a stronger motivation.

The DNA chain I wrote for the pilot of Grimm.

The DNA chain I wrote for the pilot of Grimm.

I’m taking the spec writing class at iO with Michael McCartney. Who, by the way, is such a great teacher.  He really cares about us and what we’re doing, he isn’t all burned-out and cynical like some of the teachers I’ve met in Chicago. Michael gives us “art” homework, related to out scripts. He also gives us “commerce” homework, which relates to turning this into a career. Another thing I appreciate. It’s one thing to teach me how to write a script. It’s another to help me learn how to talk to agents and what to do once I have one. The goal of the class is that at the end of the 8 weeks I’ll have the 2nd draft of a spec script, as well as have started reaching out to targeted agents to build a relationship. More

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Recap: FAILED

My quest to write 1,000,000 words in a year is over.

I’ve not updated my blog in two weeks because I didn’t want to admit it, even to myself, but today I finally faced the facts. I am too far behind.

The pace I was writing in Nov was doable, and had I done that from the start I would have easily made it. However, the first three or four months I consistently did not make weekly goals. Part of it was the fact that it didn’t feel real, part of it was the very difficult transition to writing a significant amount every day. It was a hard adjustment.

Now, however, as much as I am screaming at myself to not give up, I can’t do it. To hit my goal at this point I’d have to write about 4,800 words a day. Every day. Until mid-March. On top of a full time job, a (hopefully) part time job, class, and life. While I think that’s a reasonable word count for a professional writer it is not for me if I’m working 40-60 hours a week. Especially with no break days.

This experiment, failed as it is, has taught me so much about writing and, more specifically, myself as a writer.

  • I do better with multiple projects at once, that I can switch between.
  • My productivity is uneven. I get more words done in four days of writing with three off than I do if I write every day.
  • Journaling/morning pages are exempt from that rule, and something I need to do every day. For my mental health if no other reason.
  • I am capable of turning out large numbers of words in a day, that the hurtles are mental only. That 1,100-1,300 words in 30 minutes is a reasonable goal, and that I can do that about 4-6 times in a row before there is a noticeable slump in my speed. That there’s no point going on after that, it’s best to leave and come back in a few hours. Do another 4-6 sets then.
  • I work better out in a coffee shop or even a fast food joint than I do at home. I do NOT work well on planes/buses/etc.
  • Music is useful for focusing, but if it’s Top 40 stuff I’ll end up singing along instead of writing. Best bet is either film scores or heavy rock.
  • I write fiction best in the late morning, afternoon, or evening. Early to mid-mornings and late nights are better for non-fiction.
  • Reading before I write is hit or miss. It might inspire me, but it also might depress me with the difference in quality. Votes still out on that one. However, reading the same short piece (one by Anne Lamott) about writing before each session is grounding and puts me in the mood to write.
  • My writing style is a reflection of what drove me to embrace improv. I enjoy chasing the unknown. More experiments with plotting have left me just as frustrated as before. I want to chase the story. Maybe I have an end scene in mind, or at least a theme, but the actual events are best found in the moment.
  • I enjoy both writing and editing. I’ve found that most people claim it’s only possible to like one of them but I truly look forward to both. I love creating stories, and I love tightening what I’ve written. I do find editing to be more overwhelming and thus more difficult to work on for long lengths of time.

So the project has been very useful. I may try it again one day. Maybe. But for now it is over. I will keep posting my word counts every week, just not against where I should be. Both for the accountability and for the knowledge of the ground I am covering. I want to keep tracking my word counts, I just know they aren’t going to hit 1,000,000 this year.

Thanks for coming on this journey with me, and hopefully big things will be coming soon! I am going to be putting more time into editing my novel Raising Trouble, since I won’t feel guilty for not using that time to work on my goal. And I’m going to finish my current novel, Avon, pretty soon. Also, I’m getting back into fan fiction as a way to get some feedback and do some shorter pieces. When I get something new up I’ll put a link on here.

Lots of changes, and yet my focus is the same. Writing, acting, creating. Failing forward. Which this failure has been.

Recap: Week 33

One Million Words Challenge

Week 33

This week was a “getting out of the hole” week! Which they all need to be, from this point forward. NaNo starting was a big help. It’s nice to have a main project to work on, and to meet with people to write. I find that quite useful. Something I should try to put together after Nov ends.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 1,710
  • MPs 6,804
  • Letters 307
  • Blog 347
  • RT 118
  • LCFF 265
  • Avon* 13,363
  • Total 22,914
  • YTD 462,633
  • Where I should be 632,940

*Avon is my novel for NaNoWriMo. I’m aiming for a double NaNo, which is 100,000 in 30 days.

Ways I Stay Motivated

wpid-IMG_20130702_162825.jpg

I set a lot of goals for myself. Getting the motivation to complete said goals is not always easy. So I thought I’d share my methods in hopes that at least one of them will be useful to you.

  1. Take a class
  • This is the number one way for me to stay motivated and finish what I start. I love taking classes. I’ll take a class on almost anything as long as I’m even remotely interested, and I’ll do the homework, study, whatever. I don’t know why this is such a part of my identity but it is. And it’s not that I like sitting in classrooms, I don’t. I’m a kinastadic learner and I want to move around. In a class.
  1. Join a group
  • Similar to above. Less structure, perhaps, but still getting with other people to do something. If I have to explain was I wasn’t there, or know that everyone else is doing X without me, it puts a lot of pressure on me to show up as well. Gets me through those days where I wouldn’t do it if no one knew that I wasn’t. Going to an improv jam, a write-in, or a church small group keeps me on track with my goals.
  1. Make a chart
  • I love charts. I love making them and filling them in. Colored ones. With markers. The physical sensation of coloring in a square gives my brain a little reward rush. Then I hang the chart where I can see it all the time, which motivates me to do the work so that I can color in the next section. Electronic charts don’t work though, I want to feel it in my hand. (Jerry Seinfeld seems to think work along the same line)
  1. Write it down
  • I suppose this is a subset of above. If I write something down and look at it regularly I’m much more likely to do it.  Reading them regularly helps me to remember them, and then to actually do them.
  1. Make it part of something else
  • This one is suggested by almost every person who teaches habit forming. I use it to motivate myself to do something. Multi-tasking would be another word for this, bad rap that it’s gotten lately aside. If I have things I need to do but am lacking motivation to do I try to find a way to combine it with something I like. I try to convince myself- “You don’t want to go running? But if you do you can listen to junk music guilt free” or “Aren’t you going to finish that knitting project? You can watch Ocean’s 11 again at the same time….” Things like that. It works quite often.
  1. Remind myself about what I want
  • Credit for this brilliant idea goes to Justine Musk, here. The idea felt selfish to start with but by the time I finished her article I was sold. I try to use this on myself and the more I remember it the more I get done. What do I WANT? Really want? OK, what should I do in light of that? Maybe I don’t feel like writing, but I want to be published so I write anyway. I tell myself I don’t want to run, but in reality I just don’t feel like running.
  1. Actually want the end result
  • Of course, that supposes that what I am aiming for is what I want. I pruned my goals list earlier in the year because I picked it up, read it, and realized that I didn’t want half the crap on there. It was on there because I wanted to want it, or because it sounded good (not that anyone else ever sees the list), or because I felt like I ought to want it. It is very difficult to be motivated over the long haul when the thing you’re striving for isn’t something you actually want to reach.

Hopefully something on that list was useful. If it wasn’t at least you have a few more insights into the backwater parts of brain.

Recap: Week 16

One Million Words Challenge

Week 16

I thought when I got to Chicago I’d have more time to write. No job, class four days a week, why shouldn’t I knock out huge chunks of writing?

No. Hasn’t happened.

Issue one- Things have been busy. Very busy. Yeah, class is only six hours a day but I have my commute, which is only half useful for writing, and hanging out after class and going to shows. Days are actually really packed.

Issue two- When I do get time to write I end up journaling, but not the fast, productive sort. No, it’s the mulling over things and processing sort of writing, which leads to low word counts. I’m metabolizing what I’m learning, which is great, but it’s not helping me stay out of the hole.

Issue three- My brain hurts. For reals. Doing improv is tiring. Intense improv workshops are exhausting. Intense improv workshops five hours a day (after breaks) for four days straight leave me with hardly enough brain cells to remember to eat. Not joking. On Friday I slept and read and stared at the wall, didn’t even make any food until it got dark. Seemed like too much work. Now, I was probably still trying to catch-up from my bus ride but still, no spare brain cells. That makes it really hard to muster up the energy to open my laptop or pick up a pen. Especially to write fiction.

I plan to do better, though not “next week” since I’m writing this the day before the next week ends and I have not done better thus far. But the next one should show an improvement as I adapt to my current surroundings and schedule.

Here are my totals for the week–

  • Journal 1,431
  • Letters 254
  • MPs 5,832
  • Black Dog 5,736
  • Total 13,253
  • YTD 225,532
  • Where I should be 306,880

Recap: Week 11

One Million Words Challenge

Recap: Week 11

This has been a much better week. I don’t know if it was publicly admitting that I was failing, accepting that my writing was going to be bad and getting on it anyway, a natural end to a slump, or a combination of the three. Really, I don’t care.

I’ll take it.

Plus, first week yet where I have gone over my weekly word goal! A step out of the hole I dug myself.

Here are my totals this week–

  • Journal 4,092
  • Brazil 5,360
  • MPs 6,804
  • Letters 435
  • Blog 778
  • Black Dog* 8,580
  • Total 26,049
  • YTD 152,065
  • Where I should be 210,980

*Black Dog is a story I started by accident but I am enjoying it so much that I am going to keep writing it. I woke up with two paragraphs in my head, waiting to be written down. I made it twelve pages that day. I don’t have a plot or a genre, and no idea of where it is headed. My favorite type of writing.

I’m back

As you can see, blogging is a habit that is not coming easy for me.

On the other hand, that means I don’t spam your inbox! That’s a plus.

This is not really a post, it’s more of a notice that posts are coming.

Consider yourself warned.

10 Greatest Things of 2011

I typically sit down and work on my goals list twice a year, using that time to review the last six months, but the review in December is always a little more in-depth. It has less to do with the January 1st craze and more to do with my birthday falling into that week between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ve found that turning a year older prompts me to consider my life more deeply and it just so happens that it occurs in conjunction with the new year.

Anyway, I’d already finished my new goals for 2012 before I read this post but I liked the questions he asked so much that I did the review anyway- they made me think. I’d recommend going through it now, especially if you didn’t take the time already to think about last year. For me, it’s not “making resolutions”, as I said, I set goals twice a year. But reviewing the previous year helps me to see what did and did not go well, and reveals if I am actually getting any closer to some of the big things I want to accomplish in life.

After doing the entire review I reread it and noticed something interesting. But we’ll come back after I show you the first question: The 10 Greatest Things That Happened To Me In 2011.

 

  1. Moved to Minnesota
  • This involved a Southern woman tackling a 1,500+ mile road trip in the snow, white-outs, a visit with good friends, and frostbite.
  1. Joined Sovereign Grace Church
  • First time I’ve been a member of a church since my teens, a scary/exciting step for me.
  1. Moved into an apartment with 2 awesome roommates
  1. Started a job at Bethany
  • Fear alert! This was/is the scariest job I’ve ever had. Also the hardest and yet most fun.
  1. Learned to knit
  • After a fashion. Things turn out, but they don’t always match the pictures.
  1. Saw my first improv show
  • It was an Improv-A-Go-Go show at HUGE, and it was not what I expected. Three of the four groups did not impress me and I likely wouldn’t have gone back if not for the fourth. So glad they were there!
  1. Learned to do the improvs
  1. Wrote a fictional story in my own voice
  • Yes! And it was fun! And I just got my first ever rejection letter when I tried to sell it! Now I feel like a real author.
  1. Payed Matt back all the money I owed him
  • It only took me 2 years…
  1. Went home for Christmas
  • And it was lovely to see my whole family in one together for the first time in a long time.

 

I was looking through that list when it struck me- I didn’t consciously put only things I actively did on there but that’s how it worked out.

The greatest things of 2011, the things I most enjoyed or that most changed my life, were all things I choose do to. None of them just happened to me; every one of the above items took effort and time, and most cost money to boot, which meant more time and effort to get said money. No one is going to hand me an awesome life. Do I receive gifts? Of course! All the time. And all of these things involved other people. But none of them would have happened if I hadn’t put effort in as well, in some cases a lot of effort (example- calluses from both knitting and writing so much).

My list of things to do this year is longer and more ambitious than last year, though tempered with the knowledge that life changes so quickly. Example? This time last year I was still living with my parents in TX, no job, no church, a ball of yarn that I couldn’t even get on the needles, and I’d never even considered going to watch an improv show. There’s no way I could have foreseen where I’d be now and some of the goals I set last year were derailed along the way.

That’s ok. I’d rather have goals and have to set them aside for more interesting things that come up than to wander aimlessly around and get very little done because I don’t know what I’m going after.

I urge y’all to go to this site and download his 2011 review, then take 30-60 minutes to fill it out. It’s well worth the time.

Lying to Myself

Come Alive by Jonathan Mead

Life wastes itself while we are preparing to live. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you had one week left to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing now? In what areas of your life are you preparing to live? Take them off your To Do list and add them to a To Stop list. Resolve to only do what makes you come alive.

Bonus: How can your goals improve the present

and not keep you in a perpetual “always something better” spiral?

(Author: Jonathan Mead)

Honestly, this prompt confused me a bit. Something about the wording. Plus, if I only had one week to live I’d quit doing a TON of things that I cannot practically quit now, like my job or doing laundry. Seriously. No one wants me to quit taking out the trash because it doesn’t “make me come alive”.

I guess that’s my biggest problem with this prompt. It’s selfish. Not that we should do things that make us miserable all the time. No. I’m a huge believer in making changes in your life so you can pursue your dreams. But really, tons of life is things that just aren’t fun but need to be done. It’s called being an adult.

I did take away something from this. I read an article a few weeks ago (I wish I could remember where) on making to-stop lists. It was in the context of work and I thought it was a good idea but then forgot about it because I didn’t act on it. So I took a minute today and made myself a very short to-stop list to hang on my door. A few things I need to cut out of my life.

Stop

  1. Hitting the snooze button more than once in the morning. If you don’t like when you are getting up then change the time. Stop lying to yourself and pretending that you are getting up earlier than you really are.
  2. Watching your Netflix que before you have worked on your novel. Writing is more important than Firefly or Live Free or Die Harder. And no, you won’t get to it later. You will be tired and go to bed instead.
  3. “Window Shopping” with your wallet in your pocket. Leave it in the car. If you are actually shopping then call it shopping and stop pretending it’s something else.

See the theme? I lie to myself all the time. I tell myself things that I know aren’t true but half believing them makes me feel better. But I can’t grow, can’t change, if I’m always feeding myself easy little lies so that I don’t have to confront the truth about myself or my behavior. These areas need to change.

I’m back, though I never meant to go

In starting a blog about the art of learning to fail well I have failed. As you may have noticed it’s been some time since my last post. That’s because the very day I fell behind on the schedule I had made for myself my inner perfectionist came out to play and insisted that I quit, since I’d already messed things up anyway.


Of course, I argued that it was fine and likely no one had even noticed. Certainly true. Then I made the critical mistake. Instead of jumping right back in I decided to take another day before I posted, take a little more time to think of something good. And, of course, the next day was too busy and the next I didn’t think about it….


In the spirit of this blog I found 3 lessons this failure has taught me.


1. I like to jump into the deep end of projects. No baby steps for me! This has been both a advantage and disadvantage in my life. I’ve had some great adventures and experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything because I pulled a Peter and went for a walk. “Jump, then Look” had served me well in some areas of my life. On the other hand, I do tend to take on too much or give up on projects because I feel completely over-whelmed. Lesson? If it’s an adventure, a once-in-a-lifetime event, or just something crazy fun or short-term then jumping in with both feet can work. But if it’s going to be a long-haul, or a bedrock habit I’m trying to build into my life, then it might be better to take things a bit more slowly in the beginning.


2. It’s easy to drift away when there is no accountability. No one else knew what my posting schedule was supposed to be so no one noticed when I didn’t make it. So when I felt no one noticed I was right. Not much motivation there. Lesson? Accountability is good. I’m going to be posting a minimum of twice a week now. If both posts are on Saturday night you’ll know lesson 3 was in full effect.


3. The Resistance is strong in this one. If you’ve never read “The War or Art” by Steven Pressfield I’d recommend you find a copy. The book was not what I was expecting when I read it but it changed the way I look at my writing, and other areas of my lfe as well. Most of all, he names the reason I don’t write- Resistance. With a capitol R. Resistance is a tricky beast, and clever to boot. It’s the same sort of idea that Seth Godin talks about, the “lizard brain”. Lesson? The things I want the most are the things I am most afraid of of failing at, which means they are the things I am most resistant to attempt.


An example- Knitting is fun. However, I have no major dreams that involve knitting, nothing is riding on my ability to do it well or succeed at it. Failure at knitting costs me nothing but a little time. Therefore, Resistance doesn’t show up when I knit. I can fail and fail and fail again and though it is frustrating it isn’t a big deal. There is no fear of failure in making a scarf. Writing, on the other hand, is very important to me. I want to succeed, I have dreams and hopes and plans riding on that success. This makes writing trigger an immense amount of Resistance. When I fail at writing I don’t just feel like I’ve failed, I feel like I am a failure. Worst of all, it feels like my dreams are being threatened and I hide. When I write poorly it feels like a big deal, and there is much fear of failure.


This makes Resistance extraordinarily valuable. It shines a light right on the things I value most, on the things I want at the deepest level but am afraid of going after because trying and losing seems more painful than simply longing.


Now that I have a more reasonable posting schedule, accountability, and have recognized my Resistance as a sign that this is something I should pursue I am ready to begin again.


And I’m going to turn the tables-


Is there an area in your life that is important to you, where you are striving to reach a new level or gain a new skill, but that you find yourself consistently not gaining ground because you just don’t do the work? Have you considered the idea that it might not be laziness or a lack of self-discipline (the 2 attacks I toss at myself the most often) that is holding you back but rather that it might be fear? Does that change the way you go after those goals?

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