Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ego Depletion and The Act of Writing

Yesterday, I got off work at 7:30 AM. I rode my bike straight home, changed into workout clothes (I just got these new capris from Old Navy tall and I was so excited to try them out!), and busted out a grueling hourlong workout. Then I had to immediately shower and hop into my car to make it to brunch on time with my Geek Girls. The menu looked so freaking delicious, and I was starving, so I ended up ordering two different dishes. I was also the first one done eating, eek!

Strawberry rhubarb compote on pancakes, and shrimp cake eggs benedict! Yummmm.

Later, I boogied over to Starbucks to get some writing done. I am really serious about finishing my draft of novel 6 this month, so I needed to get a lot done. I ended up ordering one of my usual drinks (venti skinny caramel macchiato), but this time I got some whipped cream on top. As I slurped down the deliciousness, I was able to bang out over 1000 words and finish a scene that had been fighting me for days. I got a text message that some girls from work were going out for Thai, so I headed out with them. After I got home from that, I made a detour over to Moo Time Creamery, where I ordered a brownie doused in ice cream.

Soooo delicious, although I couldn't finish and this morning I have a tummy ache.

What was going on with me?? Why all the over-indulging?

Ego depletion, that's what. This is a pretty widely-accepted theory (although not unanimous) about how self control is somewhat like a muscle. Using it a lot fatigues it, making it harder to continue to use it! (Although frequent use of it also strengthens it.) So making good choices about doing my workout even though I was exhausted and it was early, and actually getting done a good chunk of writing that was giving me trouble ended up making it that much easier to make bad choices like whipped cream, extra pancakes, and a mouth-watering brownie!

Which isn't an excuse, of course, but no one is perfect all the time. I don't regret a thing! I'll just be a little more mindful today that finishing the scene I'm working on should be celebrated with a long walk on the beach and a mug of tea. =)

Five days left in July, five scenes left in novel 6...I've got some work to do!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Struggle

I have written before about the somewhat odd relationship I have with both working out and writing. They are two things that I love, that I constantly strive to make part of my life, that help calm my mind and order my thoughts...and that I absolutely hate doing.

I was thinking about this today, as I sat on my comfortable couch, scrolling through random internet pages (damn you, StumbleUpon!), and trying to convince my lazy ass to get up and move. I did, eventually, and although my workout was long, sweaty, and painful, I was so glad I did it. Hm, what else does that sound like?

Not every writing session is painful, of course. If it was, I'm not sure that I could ever do it, no matter how great the end result. But just as there are some workouts where it feels like I've got 100 extra pounds strapped on my back, there are many times when every word feels tortured out of me. Yet even at those times, it is important to keep going. That is what I tell myself when I'm struggling up that hill, for one more rep, or just a little bit of extra speed. It's also what I tell myself when a blank page is staring me down, when my characters just won't do what I want, when my dialogue is unconvincing,  and when my plot seems dumb and an ending hopeless.

There are two main ways I motivate myself when I am working out (or, more likely, when I am trying to convince myself to start a workout, because isn't that always the hardest part?). One is the immediate reward. If I do the workout I planned, then I get that swell of endorphins and that I can-do-anything feeling of accomplishment. Is there a moment quite like standing there, chest heaving, sweat dripping down your nose, knowing that it's over and you kicked ass? And that's just the immediate reward. The other motivator is the long-term goal. If I workout today, and tomorrow, and every day (with proper rest and recovery, of course), I'll get that body I want.

Not me. Yet.

So it also is with writing. When I get writing done, I feel like I've done something. I'm a real writer, and even if what I wrote is crap, it's still an entirely new creation that has never before existed. And when that happens today, and tomorrow, and every day (except, you know, I'm human, so maybe not), I'll make those novels that I will be proud of. Every writing session, I climb a little bit higher on the mountain. Does it have a summit? I don't know. But I'll never stop trying to find it.

Coincidentally, I started writing this post earlier today, and saved it. A little later, I was looking through my feedly when I came across this post on Storyfix. This video is exactly what I'm talking about! The same thing that drives elite athletes (and not elite athletes!) is the same thing that drives writers. We have that deep need that will never be sated unless we do our very best or die trying. How does this not make you want to knuckle down and pound out that last paragraph or just one more push-up? Welcome to the grind!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Novel Format

I have a proposal for a new form of book. I think it's going to be a hit!

These new books would start out just like current novels. At first, you wouldn't even know that anything was different. You would be drawn into a carefully developed world, with realistic characters playing out their lives' drama against a sweeping, deep history. This would pull you along, page after page, until about three-quarters of the way through what a "normal" novel would be.

Then the real twist would come. Instead of all the bother of reading through an ending, with boring conflict resolution and denouement, there would be a short synopsis of how everything wraps up. In a paragraph or two, the author would give you a quick sketch of who lives, who dies, and how the protagonist succeeds (or fails, depending on the flavor of the story).

It's a perfect solution!

And there was much rejoicing.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

June 2013 Wrap-Up

Another month has come and gone! I don't know how it happens so fast. They seem so long when they are happening and then BAM. Gone.

Between the training team and ORSE, June was just as bad for writing as I was afraid. With my little retreat, however, I was able to make up some ground and finish the month a bit ahead of schedule. While it was spread over fewer days than I planned (I had 22 non-writing days in June), I did come up with 9,684 new words for my novel.

That means that going in July, I have a new goal. Not a wordcount (although I'll use wordcount to track it, since it is easiest), not a writing days goal (although again, I'll track that just to see). No, my goal for July is as straightforward as it will be difficult: to finish this draft of novel 6.

That's right. It has been over a year in the making now, and it is time to tie it up! According to my outline, I have 2.5 chapters to go. That will probably end up being about 10k words, which is totally doable in a month. Especially a month that I will be in-port with a relatively light workload at my actual job.

Percentage of wordcount goal met: 129.1%
Percentage of writing days goal met: 81.8%

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Retreat!

(Sorry this post was delayed while I was out at sea again!)

The retreat was amazing. I only wish I had the means to do it more often! Unfortunately, at that rate, I'd just be paying for this book to be written, which is not exactly a long-term strategy. So I'll just have to splurge every once in a while when I really am feeling that I need it.

I had to run some errands so ended up getting to the B&B about 20 minutes late (precious writing time gone!), and then of course they had lost my reservation. I was almost done filling out the paperwork again when they found the original one, so that was a lot of fun. But still, it was before 4 PM by the time I got my laptop set up, put on my pajama pants, and started cranking.

At first, it was just like any other writing time. Then I got to the point that I would usually stop, and instead I had to just push through. And do that again. And again. Finally, my stomach would not be ignored any longer, and I headed out to grab a salad from a nearby fast food place. Of course, that ended up taking a while since my quick Googling had neglected to inform me that this fast food place was in a busy mall food court.

Back to my writing hole, I devoured the salad and kept churning through the scenes. I had just returned from an at-sea period in which I had gotten a little sleep-deprived, so I had to call it quits from exhaustion before 10 PM. Still, in less than 5 hours of writing I had put down over 4k words. I set my alarm for 7 AM so that I could get a few more hours in before check out at 11. It was hard to get into the writing before breakfast--I am not much of a morning person--but I managed, which made the breakfast taste that much better. I returned to the room and powered through the last two hours. That morning I put in about 3 hours for about 3k words.

El Primero Boutique Bed & Breakfast

So in only about 7.5 hours of writing time spread over two days, I managed to write 7,097 words! That may not sound like much, but that is more than I wrote the entire month of May. It also propelled me into the last section of my book, and restored some of my passion for the story. I even started playing around with new plot bunnies in my head while I was falling asleep!

All in all, the mini-retreat was a huge success for me. I can really see the light at the end of the tunnel on this draft, now!