Impatience and Run-away Days

Do you ever have one of those days when all you want to do is run away?

Flowers in my garden – a good place to run away to.

For my birthday a few weeks back, my husband bought me a brand new laptop. It was unexpected, sweet, and quite lovely – it’s so much faster than the old one. It also came with sample games pre-installed, which were surprisingly addictive. I don’t like computer games. I am generally quite disciplined … except for, it would seem, last week.

Or today. When I’d actually reduced my word count with some light editing as I re-read what I’d written, but then stubbornly continued to bounce up from the seat to do everything BUT just write, like I was supposed to be doing, like I’ve actually reserved time to do since my parents take the kidlet to give me some peace and quiet.

Eventually, I did get some writing done (some 4151 words, though I think it would have been more if I hadn’t deleted so many before I actually started the count).

So, back to you: do you ever have one of those days where you just want to run away from work, responsibility, everything? Disappear into meaninglessness?

Today was one of those days, so I thought I’d give you five tips on how to defeat them – and actually still get work done – without making yourself crazy. It worked for me today, so maybe it will work for you too.

1. Offer yourself a future award that is only to be enjoyed after the work is done. (Yes, it’s childish, but it still works.)

2. Place said-reward where you can see it when you’re working. I put my tiny chocolate bar on the corner of my desk – beware not to put chocolate too close to the computer as they have sometimes been known to melt when the laptop exhausts it’s fan.

3. Take note of the time you have begun. Promise yourself you will remain in the chair for at least an hour. It can be exactly an hour to the second – but an hour (or whatever length of time works best for you.)

4. Open your work, and force yourself to start typing. Especially on a day like this, no deleting – this will simply become a new excuse not to create new work. JUST KEEP TYPING (or whatever else it is you’re working at).

5. Follow the path of the story and your inclination today. Remind yourself that editing, rewrites, additions and deletions are for another day; today you are just getting new words written without judgment. Continue in this process until either your allotted time runs out (if you still want to run away, allow yourself to do so after this time, and reward yourself for actually working – yes, it’s just one of those days.)

What I discovered was that although a part of me certainly still wanted to run away, another part of me hadn’t noticed that my allotted hour had run out about an hour before, and I was still working – and things were going well. Was the writing as great as some days? As easy? No. But that’s okay, because at least I did my writing.

So, try out my five steps, see if they work for you. Any others work for you? How do you get yourself working and keep yourself motivated on the run-away  kind of days?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

No, You Aren’t Perfect: Or, Are You Open To Critique and Criticism?

Let’s start off by stating the obvious (or what should be obvious): YOU ARE NOT PERFECT.

Okay. I got that out of my system. Thanks. So here’s the thing: if you’re human, you’re imperfect. Thus, what you create is likely to be imperfect, too. This does not mean it’s without value. It is still worth trying, always worth trying – rather, we must try ever harder to obtain the closest thing to perfection, all the while recognizing it will get better, but it will never actually attain perfection.

Now, I get that as a writer or a creative person – or anyone who has created anything – that your creation is kind of like your child, if you will. It came out of your ideas, plans, and may have actually been shaped by your two hands. But your hands – being imperfect – and your mind – ditto – it could probably stand some improvement. Sometimes, as mere mortals, we may not be able to see the need for improvement, or the creation may have reached it’s highest zenith, but for the most part, it takes awhile to get there, and quite a few edits and revisions before it did.

So, are you open to those suggestions? Are you willing to see that your project isn’t perfect, but that with some work, it will get better?

I hope so. Because personally, I believe the greatest artists and creators are those who are willing to have a clear vision and idea of what they want, but are also open to the idea of improvement – whether it springs out of their own self-criticism, or out of the constructive critiques of others. Let me state that again in case I was unclear: your vision of the perfection of the project, where you wanted it to go / be, is always extremely important and central … but, sometimes the actual realization of said project still has a distance to go.

This is something that frustrates me because I’ve worked as a freelance writer and editor, and working with fellow writers, I know that some of them are more open than others to actual constructive criticism (ie, please read: some don’t want any kind of criticism at all, only blind praise). Indeed, there is a balance: you can’t always take everything someone else suggests to heart and change everything – if it’s not true to you or your original vision, only you will know that. And a critique should include both positive comments and suggestions for change. However, sometimes we get so close to our projects we can’t see them clearly any more and we need outside, clearer eyes.

I am a writer who craves a good critique. As a critique partner, I think I’m probably pretty strong-minded, and if I have an opinion, I will share it – but always with the proviso that it’s to be taken or discarded as the original author sees fit. Maybe that makes me a bad critique partner, I don’t know. But I only give what I’d love to receive: an honest opinion and a detailed critique that took time and care to prepare. All I want is to help / improve whatever I’m critiquing, knowing full well it is only my opinion.

Whatever the case, I know how hard it can be to realize that what you thought was perfect is not (okay, I may have some trouble with that … I critique my own work very harshly to try and keep improving it, and never see perfection). And I also know that it can be hard to know which opinions to take, which to ignore. Sometimes someone can be on such a different wave-length that you would never see eye-to-eye, and this may not be the best opinion for your to take … or it may be just what your story needs. Only you, “your gut,” and the inner vision you must retain for the project will ever know that.

So, are you open to critique and criticism, or is your “baby” too precious for that?

Thanks for reading, have a great week, and I’ll step off my soapbox now. 🙂

Fear: Are You Holding Yourself Back?

Let’s face it: very few of us are fearless individuals leaping without thought into whatever the world sets before us. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us are afraid of lots of things – and I’m not just talking actual phobias. I mean the kind of fears that keep you up at night and which are intrinsically connected with your responsibilities, duties, and loved ones. Will you be able to pay the bills this month? What if something happens to you or a loved one? How will you protect your children?

I’m a worrier, and I think I probably come by it naturally – my grandmothers were / are both worriers, as is my mother. And a certain amount of fear is probably all right, so long as it doesn’t paralyze you. But therein is the problem: there is a line after which the fear is no longer protecting you, but insulating you – even from good things.

Writers certainly don’t have a monopoly on fear, but we do seem to be pretty familiar with it – maybe it’s playing with “what if” all the time that creeps into our everyday thoughts. Whatever the case, if you actually want to make money as a writer – or succeed at most anything, really – there will come a time when you have to face at least some of your fears. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of criticism, and perhaps even fear of success.

Fear of success? Doesn’t seem to fit up there, does it? And yet, I have met writers who seem to be afraid of success. Some too who have given up just a smidgen too soon – as though afraid of the success which lay ahead of them.

Now, like I said, I’m a worrier by nature. But I also know that a little fear may be healthy, and too much fear is suffocating. If you start spending all your time worrying about the “what ifs” of rejection, criticism, critique, success, fame, failure, and whatever else could be ahead, you’ll stop short and never go anywhere. Here’s the thing: you will be rejected. You will receive criticism, and not everyone will like you or your work. BUT, some will. And most importantly, YOU need to believe in and like your work. It is worth fighting for. It is worth trying to get right, even if it takes oodles and caboodles of edits and rewrites and you just want to burn the whole thing and never even look at another word again.

So, by all means, set yourself some limits and rules to keep you safe … but make sure you haven’t built yourself a cage. Because you were meant to soar, and you can only do that if every so often, you shake off the fears weighing you down, spread your wings, and take to the sky.

Is fear protecting you, or smothering you? How do we recognize that line?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

Note to Self: Acquire Psychic Powers to Aid Ultimate Success

As usual, it was the end of the month last week, which meant it was Query Week (indeed, it does appear to require capitalization, since it’s become an “event” for every month so far this year – if you’re interested, I sent out 5 new queries). Anyway, as my brain is mush after personalizing and following all the minutiae of rules required by every different submission process, it occurs to me how handy it would be to have psychic powers.

How lovely it would be to know exactly what it is you’re supposed to do, which day to send out which query for which work, who will absolutely love it, etc, etc. So – forgive the brain mush – but here’s my list for the week:

10 Reasons It Would Be Wonderful To Read Minds:

  1. No more fights with your spouse or significant other (although I suppose you couldn’t use the excuse “Well, I’m not a mindreader” anymore – you’d have to keep on top of things).
  2. You would always submit the right proposal / letter / piece of work to the right person.
  3. You would know what day to submit on – when they’d be in the mood for you.
  4. No more worrying about how someone’s doing: you’d just know.
  5. Lower telephone bills:  instead of calling to find out how someone’s doing, you could just check with a little mind reading magic.
  6. You’d always know where everyone was all the time, and what their plans were. Who needs GPS or status updates?
  7. Dark secrets could never sneak out and surprise you – you’d have known about them months ago.
  8. You could always be where and when you’re needed most.
  9. No more heavy research to decide who / what is best for you: you’d just know that too (along with everything … that might be a different super-power, but oh well).
  10. No more guessing, praying, or worrying about a delayed response / no response / never finding success: you’d have already sent the right work to the right person on the right day: everything would be peachy.

Okay, so obviously my brain is more mushy than I thought. Enjoy your super powers for the day (and yes, I know there would be a dark side too, but let’s just ignore that for now, hmm?) So, what other advantages can you see to have psychic powers? How could they help you succeed?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.