Tag Archives: Pep Talk

Is it the end nigh?

This Friday will be the 21st of December 2012, or as the Mayans knew it; 13.0.0.0.0. In the Mayan calendar there are no dates past this auspicious or apocalyptic date, which has led many to believe that the world will end (which was as good an excuse as any to take the day off work as far as I was concerned). Others believe it will be a new awakening of the human spirit.

This potential end of life as we know it gives us a great excuse to reflect on what is important to us; of what are we most proud? Most ashamed? If we could set something right, what would it be? What do we wish we had completed, or spent more time on, or with? What do we wish we had said?

If the moon does not turn blood red on Friday night (that’s the first sign) and the earth does not shake from its core, then what will you do to celebrate the continuity of life?

Perhaps this potential end is a good trigger to get us thinking of new beginnings? Armed with our regrets and achievements from the past we can begin to plan for a better future.

It may be that Friday is our Last Day living life as we currently know it, but maybe that doesn’t have to be a bad thing? Maybe on Saturday, if we awaken to a sunny new day instead of a cataclysmic world of cinders, then maybe we will put that second chance to good use and focus on creating more of those proud moments for when our end of days really does come.

So I wish you all luck, stack your tins in the pantry, get plenty of bottled water and don’t forget the headache pills and candles. Whether it is Christmas or Armageddon it will all come in handy, and there is nothing wrong with hedging your bets.

Willpower

I think a large number of writers suffer exactly the same problem that I am often lamenting about in here, a lack of progress. We call it different things; procrastination, laziness, lack of motivation, lack of time, competing priorities and even writer’s block. All these things we know we need to take ownership of, but they all come down to one thing, willpower.

The non-fiction book I’m reading at the moment is Maximum Willpower by Kelly McGonigal, and even though I’m only half way through reading it, I would highly recommend you get your hands on a copy. For anyone who is not getting what they want to do done, or if you keep doing something you no longer want to do, this book can really help.

There are so many tips and hints, exercises and honest self-appraisals in here, but perhaps the one that has helped me the most (so far) is the suggestion that next time you want to ‘spoil’ yourself, act as if you will do that thing every time for the next week. So in my case, if I want to just sit in front of the TV and relax after work, I have to ask myself ‘would I commit to doing that every night for a week?’ Suddenly the impact of that action on my long term goal has a lot more weight. If you consider every sabotaging act in this same long-term-effect way, you suddenly find yourself working more toward your goals, and less in favour of treating yourself.

Obviously I’ve tried to express in one paragraph what Kelly McGonigal takes a whole chapter to get across, so if what I say doesn’t make sense to you then read the book. But seeing the impact on my writing productivity from doing the willpower exercises and being aware of my willpower lapses when they happen, just in this week, has made me realise how important willpower is to getting where you want to be. Goal setting alone is not enough.

Whether you want to write a novel, quit smoking, eat more healthily, progress in your career or simply stop watching so much TV, mastering your willpower will make all these things so much easier. By understanding how your brain works in these matters you can minimise the pain of making a change. Don’t believe me? Try it.

Kelly McGonigal Maximum Willpower

Writing tools

When setting yourself up as a writer there are many things you convince yourself that you need to be properly prepared to write. Some are actual needs, like a computer, some are more nice-to-have needs, like a room of one’s own. But there is one thing that I think many writers overlook; the ability to touch type.

I learned to touch type using a free tutorial that came with my computer back in 1995. It felt like a long, slow process, but after forcing myself to do it several times a week for about ten weeks I one day sat down at the computer and something just clicked. Suddenly my fingers knew where the keys were even when I didn’t. If I looked at the keyboard I got lost, but if I looked at the screen, or even out the window, the words came out just as I had thought them.

This has been invaluable for my creative process. When I hand-write my ideas my hand can never keep up, and I have been known to forget what the end of the sentence was going to be by the time my pen got there. But sit me at the computer and my fingers lag only marginally behind the sentence that forms in my head.

If you are serious about your writing I cannot highly enough encourage you to learn how to type without looking at the keys. I know a lot of you are probably pretty fast and think you are too old to learn new tricks, but the benefits far outweigh the effort in my experience, and even when you have long breaks away from the keyboard you never seem to forget how to type, you might just slow down.

Just as an aside, it has also been ridiculously useful at work, but that was entirely a by-product or my desire to write.

So use one of the many free online courses, sign up for adult education classes, or check out the software that came with your computer –whatever you think is going to work best for you. Touch typing is like any other skill you learn, it feels awkward when you start, but eventually you end up doing it without thinking.

Give it a try, your writing will thank you for it.

Million dollar ideas

In one of the many self-help/motivation/entrepreneur books I read a while back it said that everybody has at least one million dollar idea a year, but most of us ignore them. By this it meant each of us comes up with an idea for something that if built and marketed could easily net their creator a million dollars of profit.

While I’m sure there is no real science behind that claim, I can’t help but think it is true. You just have to look at those just do it kinds of people who have started four multi-million dollar businesses by the time they are 21 to know it is obviously true for some.

I got an idea for an app the other day which I am sure would make millions, it is just working out how to develop it that stopped me following it up (for now). I constantly have ideas for new novels, which I diligently write down in my stories to follow up one day notebook (really, I should say collection; there are five notepads full of ideas now). Could one of those be a previous year’s million dollar idea?

I wonder if in today’s immediate gratification world if we aren’t just a little too lazy to set ourselves free sometimes. Sure, I’ve finished a couple of novels (which will now never see the light of day) but when all is said and done, I really could have at least ten unpublished novels by now if I had applied myself over this past decade.

Do you have a million dollar idea, writing or otherwise, that you never followed up? Imagine if you did follow it through to the end. Imagine how much better the world might be if we all did?!?

Freedom requires discipline

This weekend I got to hang out with a writer friend and talk about writing at great length. One thing that writers are always really good at is talking about writing –even if they are not so good at actually doing the writing.

She gave me the quote I’m using for the title of this blog and I wanted to share it because it really resonated with me. At first glance it seems like a contradiction; how can discipline lead to freedom? Discipline seems like the self-imposed removal of freedom, but there’s the key, SELF-imposed. You are free to exercise your own discipline, or not as the case may be. 

If you want the freedom to write, to get that publishing deal and put out the novels that are in your head, then you need to find the discipline to write them. Easy really.

So tonight, I’m going to exercise some self-discipline and get some writing done!

Will they steal my idea?

Something I’ve heard many times from new and would-be authors is the fear that if they send off their work to a publisher or magazine that work will be ‘stolen’. Obviously this fear can prove quite damaging to your writing career given that no-one will actually buy your writing if you never give them an opportunity to read it!

Before I feed any paranoid ideas around this by giving you some tips about how to protect your legally binding copyright, let me first explain why a publisher, or at least a reputable publisher, will not steal your writing.

The writing community is generally pretty tight-knit, even if they don’t physically get together and catch up (which most do, and I highly recommend) they are always connected through email, Twitter and blogs. So if any publisher were to ‘steal’ an idea or piece of work, everyone would know about it, and pretty quickly too! So do a search on your prospective publisher and see what people are saying about them online. Places like duotope and ralan also provide a commentary on what a publisher is like, so use these resources.

For major publishers I would suggest you do not even need to do such a search. There is nothing a publisher would like more than to discover the next fantastic author. A publishing house is also not looking for a great story, they are looking for an author with longevity who can provide them with many stories. So if they see merit in your work they are more likely to sign you for a three book deal than try to lift your idea.

But if this still isn’t enough to convince you, this is five years of your hard work after all, how can you protect your copyright? One of the most basic ways is to save it to a disk or flash drive, seal it in a letter (a line of continuous sticky tape across the top, but under the stamp is a good seal) and post it to yourself. The post-mark of the postal system is a legally provable date. A more modern way (which I am not sure if it has been used in court but would probably have a lot of weight) is to email the attachment to yourself, which will clearly display the date*.

I know there are a lot of places that charge you money to register your copyright, but the fact is that the moment you write your piece you are covered by copyright. All you need to do to protect that copyright is to prove you wrote it first. You don’t need to spend lots of money to register it.

One word of warning for the paranoid before they project their claims of injustice; just because the place you sent your novel to releases one with a similar theme soon after they reject yours does not mean they stole your idea. Often similar themes come through at the same time, so don’t assume they stole your idea. You probably tapped into the collective unconscious and wrote a similar story, after all, there is no such thing as an original idea.

*Please seek legal advice on this matter if you wish to use it. I do not have any legal qualifications and as such cannot give legal advice.

100 Words a day

Who would ever have thought something so simple could work so well?!? Yes the target has only been to do 100 words per day, no that will not get a novel written by the end of the year, but YES it does get me writing, and isn’t that what this is all about?

So far the least number of words I have written in a day is 124, the most; 1,493. All up this week I have managed over 3,000 words. All this just by trying to make 100 words a day. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t tried it myself (and had the spreadsheet to track and graph it, of course).

Three days I needed to do my 100 words after climbing into bed for the end of the day. I was so determined to reach this tiny little goal that I easily motivated myself to leave the light on just ten minutes longer. Once I even had to write on the back of an envelope because I couldn’t find my pad and the enthusiasm was severely lacking to go looking for it, but at no time did I think it was too much to attempt.

100 words per day is so unbelievably doable! And more than 75% of what I have written was usable stuff. I even dusted off an old novel and managed to plough through, past my dreaded chapter 5.

If I can do this for a month I might even form the habit of a lifetime. No matter how busy life gets or how many other deadlines I have, I think I should always be able to make these 100 words; three or four paragraphs, fifteen lines on my little bedside pad. I might just get some of these novels finished yet…

Leaving something behind

It was a very sad week this week for my family. My grandmother passed away after 90 amazing years of being active and social and always exploring life. She packed a lot into those years so while it was sad to let her go, it was great to rejoice in the memories of the adventure that she had lived.

Naturally, as I’m sure we all do when faced by the realism of our own mortality, I thought of what I would be leaving behind. The song of a hundred unfinished stories filled my head and I realised that I really am wasting too much time. I know I have finished and published some stories, but next to the ones that are partly written, I can promise the best is yet to come!

I know last week I talked of well wasted time, but the truth is, much of my time recently has been wasted in front of the television, and much of that television was reality TV (house buying, house renovating or racing around the world). I can’t help but think these reality TV shows are just a poor substitute for doing it yourself? And if I’m honest with myself, I have collected enough material on these subjects now to satisfy me for life.

It’s time to do.

I think it will be harder than my chocolate-free months, but I want to give up all reality TV between now and New Year; documentaries, news, renovation anything, all gone. If it didn’t employ a writer of fiction to create it, I am not watching it. I know that sounds like I’m not cutting my options by much, but there are only a couple of fictional programs I like, so most of my evenings will end up being TV free.

If I want to leave behind more than a dent in the lounge then I need to start getting up off it and sitting at the desk instead. And I will also be turning off the internet, there is more reality TV on the net to trip you up than there has ever been on TV.

No more excuses, my writing starts again now!

An important waste of time

I’ve written about writer’s guilt before; the feeling that any spare time spent doing anything other than writing is wasted time. I suspect most driven people in any pursuit, be it business, the arts, or anything that requires a lot of time probably feel the same.

But every now and then you get a reminder that not all frivolous actions are wasted time.

I have been lucky enough to be much closer to my family in the last 12 months after over 16 years of living out of the state (and sometimes the country). My writing has certainly suffered over the last year, but my relationship with my family is stronger than ever.

You can’t just order that up and get it delivered. It takes time. And sometimes that time feels like it is being wasted. Long chats over the dinner table and sitting watching a favourite TV show with those you love can be very rewarding, even if they leave you with no words in the novel bank. They are also moments you will cherish when you no longer have the opportunity to slip into them at will.

Remember, everything is material when you are a writer. The way I see it is that I’ve just spent a lot of time on research this year. And I’m very at peace with that.

Word count this week: zero.

Stuff

Okay, I’m going to get a bit existential here, but do you ever wonder why we want so much stuff? Every day we get catalogues pimping lost of shiny, colourful new stuff, and we bring bags of it into our houses, bought both on-line and in person. Our houses are overflowing with stuff, but we still need more.

Don’t you wonder if maybe, just maybe, what we actually have is an emotional gap that needs filling? And because we are so time poor or so stressed we try to plug that gap with stuff instead of substance.

I wonder if I spent more time writing and less time trawling websites to get the right price for that vital stuff that I need, then perhaps I wouldn’t actually need so much stuff?

After all, the stuff of today is generally the landfill-clogging waste of tomorrow, but I know my words will be cherished, even if only by me.