Big Goals, Little Goals

Rather than actually writing, I thought I’d come here and write about writing!

A curious thing happens to me on days off where I stare at the computer and refresh various social media sites in some sort of attempt to amuse myself. Hours go by. The sun sets and I feel that I have utterly wasted another day at home.

Today, at least, I’ve had Dabble open. I corrected a typo. I did not write anything new, however.

I have previously discussed with my therapist my difficulty with motivation. Logically, I understand that Motivation, much like Inspiration, is a fickle friend and it’s best to learn how to begin things without either of them. My therapist suggested I set myself a small task, and one of two things would happen: having completed the task, I would feel a sense of accomplishment. Then perhaps, the fact of having gotten started might give me the momentum to continue on past my initial goal.

If that doesn’t work, it’s no big deal. At least I would have accomplished the lesser goal I set for myself.

NaNoWriMo sets out a rather intimidating objective: 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s easier done when broken down: 1,667 words per day. Write every day. Write even if you’ve fallen behind, or skipped a day, or aren’t where you feel you should be.

Side note: “should” is a terrible word, and anytime I use it I feel my rebellious spirit telling me that “should” is made-up and I can do whatever I want.

So here are a few hundred words about my struggle to create momentum, and now that my fingers have limbered up, it would be a shame not to continue typing away. Even if I don’t break 1,000 words, at least I will have written today. Even if I don’t win NaNoWriMo, I will have a pile of words that I didn’t have in October. That’s something to celebrate.

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Outlining

I took the plunge and did the first step: outlining my novel as a subdivision of five parts. The decision to label them explicitly within the novel will come later. For now, they are a way of organizing my work into distinct acts. Of course, anything can change as I go on.

Now I’ve given myself the task of fleshing out each part with “chapter” outlines. I’m identifying key scenes and the events surrounding them, and will probably only go this far in the outline process. The rest will be narrative linking them, and I will get into the whole of determining how much goes between each major point as I go along.

I have to keep reminding myself that the most important word is ROUGH: this is a first draft and I don’t need to get hung up on refining things. I need a framework, a skeleton. I will sculpt the muscles and the flesh at a later time. I need raw material to work with.

For the moment, I’ve got two out of five parts “fully” outlined. Not bad for just past halfway into the month. I’m doing my best to give myself incentives: do some work in a cafe, or bring home a bar of chocolate I won’t open until I reach my daily goal. (Dark chocolate, sea salt, believe me it was WORTH it.)

I feel happy with my progress so far, and each consistent bit of work I can put behind me makes me more confident that I can keep going and accomplish what I set out to do. I’ve also decided to outline in a notebook I can carry around, and type up the result in Scrivener when I’ve completed it. I should take to keeping it in my bag; I was on the way home from an appointment earlier and wished I’d had the chance to stop at a café and work there. At least I got it done at home.

Let’s give this another shot

Oh, look. The second update in twelve months! Shocking.

So, what’s new? I’ve got a job that actually gives me decent benefits, including insurance, so I’ve been seeing a therapist on a regular basis for a while now. She’s helped me iron out some of the wrinkles in my romantic life, and we’ve recently turned our attention to other goals. We’ve discussed writing in a few sessions, and my propensity for making excuses to keep my ass out of my chair.

One of the excuses is that my apartment is not what I want it to be. There is no separation, so the same space where I play games and watch Netflix is the space I’m meant to use to write. Naturally, there are worse obstacles, and I can overcome this one with a bit of discipline.

My therapist and I discussed momentum, and how that begins with a single, simple action. She suggested I set a goal for myself that is easily achievable, and then the fact of having completed a small task will likely lead me to go further and do more. For instance, rather than say I will plant myself in my seat and write another novel, I will set myself a goal to outline the first three chapters. Easy.

That’s what I’m doing here. I’m setting myself a goal to outline a few chapters of a novel. The grand scheme is that I finish an outline before the end of October and throw myself into NaNoWriMo 2017, but I’m not focusing on the bigger picture here. I’m looking to get some momentum going by taking that first, tiny step. The rest should follow.

 

August goals

Talkin’ ain’t doin’

Here it comes: actual, concrete goals to hold myself to. I’ll have to start with arbitrary numbers as I get back into the swing of things, and adjust as I go along. Naturally, I’ll try to push myself harder.

In terms of writing, I’d like to have a new novel outlined before August is up. That gives me three weeks, so I’ll set myself a goal of ten chapters outlined per week.

Revision is a little harder. I’m due for another reread of Yggdrasil to see what needs editing, cutting, and where new material needs to be fitted in. I can manage a reread in one week, then a second look over another week to target problem areas.

Of course, I’ll want to make hokey index cards to put on my corkboards to illustrate my progress with these goals. It helps to have them there, staring at me at all times.

I’ll be back next week with updates on my progress!

 

The schedule is working, mostly

 

My schedule is going very well so far! I’ve embarked on week three of my couch-to-5k program; it remains challenging without being impossible. I haven’t been as diligent as I’d like in terms of music or writing, but it feels good to have something back on track.

I did give the ending of Climbing Yggdrasil a good look. It’s rushed and a bit sloppy, and certain elements come out of nowhere. This last will be fixed by a major edit, that idea of tying together a couple of suggestions into something new. I’ve printed out my chapter outlines and made some notes, now all I have to do is open up Scrivener and start changing things.

I like the idea of little exercises, though. Something apart from the main project to keep my fingers flexible. I also like the idea of getting a bit more interactive with readers, so I’m putting a form here where I encourage you to submit a one-word prompt. I’ll take the three that interest on inspire me the most and come up with a short (500 words or so) piece stringing them together.

Planning the future

There is a fine line between allowing myself time to set my life back in order and loafing around. It is useless to wait for things to fall into place while I play Final Fantasy XIV for hours and hours on end. While it is acceptable to work on one thing at a time, actual work must be done.

There are several things that I want to keep in more or less good condition if my life is to be a happy one. When I run out of motivation or energy, work is the only one I can really seem to keep going, and only thanks to necessity; I screw up work, I cannot afford to eat. Yet there are many other important elements that add up to a good quality of life: getting enough sleep, maintaining a clean home, a healthy body, continued creative expression, and I could go on.

plan 2015

I’ve selected four of these areas that I’ve been neglecting: cleaning, exercising, blogging, and playing guitar. Notice “writing” is distinctly absent from the list, more on that later. I’ve already done a mad blitz in my room, vacuuming while a load of laundry washes downstairs. I even moved my bed away from the wall to vacuum underneath it, and briefly considered rearranging my furniture; that can wait until another time.

Jogging was the easiest to schedule. The couch-to-5k program I’m following calls for three days a week with rest days in between, so before work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday is perfect. This has been the plan since the new year rolled around, but I’ve been lax in getting to bed at a decent hour on Sunday nights, and once Monday is skipped, it’s all-too-easy to put the whole thing off till next week.

For blogging, I’ve always favored Thursdays. I’m going to work during the week to have a post queued up to go live on Thursdays at 6:00pm Eastern (GMT -5:00). Voilà! Here’s the first of many more to come!

Music should be often enough that my fingers retain their calluses. It’s so annoying wanting to play guitar a little more but having to stop because of the pain. Pain caused by my own negligence, adding insult to injury. I really enjoy making music and I think some new songs would help me get back into it with gusto.

Writing is a little trickier to plan. I’ve decided that Climbing Yggdrasil is coming out this year, and to do that I have to make some major content edits. My sister asked some questions, my friend Jess made some suggestions, and between what they said was a brilliant idea that ties up a few dangling threads and changes the shape of the story for the better. This makes it a bit difficult to say, “I want to have five chapters a week edited!” I suppose a good starting goal would be to identify which chapters need to be changed and where new content needs to be fitted in. For this week, my writing goal is to reread Climbing Yggdrasil paying special attention to this.

Come back next week to hear how well this worked or how it all fell apart!

A new year

2014 was definitely a very interesting year for me. The majority of this blog happened in 2014, and although the latter months of the year saw a sharp decline in my posting (sorry!), I haven’t forgotten how useful this can be as a motivational tool. Naturally, one of my resolutions for the new year is to update more regularly, write more often, and get more done than I did last year.

I can only use the excuse of “my life changed” for so long. It’s time to establish a new, healthy rhythm that sees me working on what really moves me, getting my stories out there. I need to turn Climbing Yggdrasil into Climbing Yggdrasil; somehow, it doesn’t seem appropriate to italicize the title until the damn thing is out there, published, where people can get their hands on it and rip it apart.

new year thumbs up

I believe I can set three concrete goals without placing the bar out of reach:

  1. Publish Climbing Yggdrasil
  2. Finish the rough draft of another novel (Project Destiny, mayhaps?)
  3. Post regularly (weekly, at least) to this blog

Some vague goals would include read more, write more, branch out, experience new things, etc. I’ll be back soon with news. Until then, Happy New Year, everyone, and may it be better than the one before.

NaNoWriMo derailed

Who would have thought beginning a new job at the same time as NaNoWriMo would be difficult?

I wrote nothing November 3rd and 4th; my training at work, while not difficult, was so full of facts that I had no mental energy by the time I came home. No writing. I hatched a clever plan to carry my laptop around and take the train home. Sure, it would take a little longer to get home in the evening, but I’d have a solid hour to hammer at the keys. It worked, I managed an average of 1,700 words each night on the train, and this while still fiddling with my cell phone.

Then, tragedy struck. On November 14, I turned 28.

… and the tragedy is that I fell ill during my birthday supper. This started five straight days of fever, and painful swelling in my mouth. On day 5, I got myself to a clinic where the doctor told me I had an abscess and prescribed me antibiotics.

Needless to say, those fever days saw me write not a single word, and though I am currently much recovered, I am rethinking my strategy from here on. It’s too late for me to make a mad dash to the finish with NaNoWriMo, but a daily writing habit would be a good thing to keep going. My laptop is heavy, and I do get a sense of pride from handwritten words on the page. My biggest complaint last time was that I can’t write as fast as I’d like (i.e. for NaNo purposes), but isn’t slow and steady better than nothing at all?

Plus, this gives me an excuse to go to Essence du Papier downtown and splurge on a gorgeous, new journal.

Another good idea would be to return to a regular updating schedule. This blog is almost a year old now, and though I have had very long periods of consistent updating, I can hardly say I’m at 100%. The last pieces have fallen into place with my changing life, there are no longer any excuses for letting things slide. Time to buckle down.

Destiny-oriented goals

I managed to not write a single word for Destiny last week. Granted, I covered lots of ground on Yggdrasil and wrapped up my second draft. This is perhaps the danger of running two projects at once: one may get casually tossed aside so that the other can make a huge leap forward. Since Yggdrasil is now on standby until I get a new proof to attack, this week’s goals are much simpler:

goals 2014-07-21

Lots of work on Destiny to make up for having tossed it aside last week. I cannot afford to lose any momentum here, I need to keep moving forward and get this story to some sort of suitable ending. I can’t start this thing over anymore, unless it’s to revise a first draft. I’ve got a good head start, and I’m ready to build on it.

Goals for this week

I bought my goals notebook with only the best intentions. Then “the road to hell,” yada yada yada, and here we are. Goals remain an excellent motivator for me, and so I am redoubling my efforts on that front.

goals july 21

My goals for this week include finishing the second draft of Climbing Yggdrasil (as well as the blurb), making some serious headway on Destiny, and keeping this blog up-to-date with my latest goings-on. I put a sticky in my notebook so that I can write tally marks for those goals with low numbers as I complete individual tasks.