writing, writing tips

Micro Goals and Writing

I was recently listening to an episode of my favorite writing podcast, Write Now with Sarah Werner and she was talking about “The Slog”. The slog is a real thing, and 2020 has been the kind of year that brought it to the forefront for a lot of us writers.

Throughout the pandemic I’ve been posting tips and other ways to help writers keep a routine, manage stress, and other ways to help keep a little bit of creative output going. It’s been extremely difficult, especially for those extraverts among us who are “re-fueled” by being out in the world around other people. I even succumb to it towards the end of summer, and had a pretty big gap in posts here for some months. My writing output also suffered during this time.

I’m still deep into editing the final draft of my next novel. I managed to finish the manuscript earlier this year, but then I simply ran out of gas. My writer’s group has kept me accountable to continue reading and critiquing the work of others, which is wonderful. However, even that wasn’t getting me through my own “slog”. It was this recent episode of Sarah’s podcast though, that really let me put a name on what I was going through. It seems like such an entitled, aristocratic problem to be trapped in one’s own writing, but here I am anyway. #SorryNotSorry.

Over the past few weeks I’ve managed to climb my way out of this hole though, and what worked for me was something (admittedly silly) that are referred to as “micro goals”.

Micro Goals and You

So, what is a “micro goal” and how does it work? Do you need a self-help book from Barnes&Noble to use them? No. You don’t. You also don’t need to watch any YouTube videos about them, because I already did that for you. Spoiler: They are all way too “self-help-y”.

Micro goals take advantage of human nature and our natural psychology to form habits. When we’re in a rut, or find something new, our natural inclination is to get super excited and do it a lot. Then over time we “plateau”, lose interest because it’s not as shiny, and eventually let other things take priority.

Earlier this year I went whole-hog into finishing my manuscript. It left me creatively drained, and I have been letting writing take a back seat to everything else that isn’t writing. Where the micro goals come in is rather than me saying “edit 10,000 words a day”, I set a goal to “edit 10 words a day”. The goals are so ridiculously small that they cannot fail. I can edit ten words in less than five minutes. I simply have no excuse not to open my MS on my phone and edit for the day. The trick is the consistency.

It’s been weeks now, and some days I’ve edited ten words, but other days when I have time I’ve edited quite a few more. Even a whole chapter one weekend. But the key is I’m back to working on my novel in some capacity every single day. No exceptions.

I’m not claiming they are a cure-all, but using micro goals to set a habit (or get back into one) has been effective for me. It gives you a small feeling of accomplishment each day, which helps alleviate getting down on yourself about not working on your writing, which as we all know can just make you write even less.

If you’re in your own “slog” you may want to give them a shot. Just make sure whatever micro goal you set, it is too small to fail, and ideally takes under five minutes a day to accomplish. Maybe they can work for you too.

Are you in “the slog” on a writing, or other creative, project? Has this crazy year sapped your creativity? Let me and the rest of my community know in the comments if there’s anything that has helped you to stay creative during these strange times.

article, writing tips

Balancing Creation and Consumption

pexels-photo-355863

“You cannot create when you are consuming.”

Pragmatic writing advice if I’ve ever heard it.

It sits at the opposing end of the spectrum from “read widely” and “refuel your creative tank”, which are also widely accepted as good advice for authors.

I’m still deep inside the second rewrite of my dark fantasy novel, and prioritizing it against other creative pursuits. I wrote a post a few months ago about writers having other hobbies, and I still stand by my opinion that two hobbies is the “right number”.

Finding Balance

Further prioritization of  limited time has found me exploring  how to balance pursuits that create versus consume. It has meant letting go of some things that I used to enjoy doing, but honestly can’t justify devoting time and resources to anymore.

Video games were the biggest sacrifice on this list. I used to be an avid gamer, and I still love gaming, but the industry seems to have moved in a direction where the games became huge time sinks. I can’t justify putting 25-60 hours into something that, while it may grant a feeling of accomplishment, doesn’t create any sort of tangible creative product.

25-60 hours is a lot of writing. That is short stories, revised chapters, posted submissions, or even a few rolls of film on a photo shoot or two. These are efforts that create, or at least advance, a body of creative work. It’s why in January I made a “silent resolution” to stop buying new games.

Making Art

It’s a matter of creating your own art versus consuming that of others.

I stopped purchasing games to throw into an ever-growing backlog for the same reason I let go of trying to voraciously speed read through my TBR book pile. I had become obsessed with trying to consume “all the things” and it was stressful and detrimental to my creative process. Anyone who can afford an internet connection is lousy with entertainment choices these days, and there seems to be a strange quasi-guilt emerging with it. Is that FOMO? Is that why Marie Kondo is so popular on Netflix?

Maybe I’m becoming more aware of my own mortality, but the older I get the more I desire to establish an artistic legacy. Adult responsibilities always seem to get in the way of creative time, so it makes those free hours even more precious. However, you can’t be creative all the time. That is a sure-fire recipe for burn out. So it requires balance.

A Process

The balancing of creative output and what I’ll pretentiously call “artistic consumption” is a matter of scheduling, routine, and determination. By creating an intentional routine, I’ve learned that I write far better in the early mornings, when my brain is still energized and fluid with ideas. Once I’m burnt out from the day, I can relax in the evenings with a book out of that TBR pile for a couple hours. It’s a process I’m always refining, and in other odd moments I eek out submissions, the occasional blog post, or a little promotion.

I’m curious what other authors do to balance their creative output versus consumption of media and art. No matter what your process is, I think it’s a good problem to have. The luxury of available means and ability to hone a craft is still a valuable commodity in our fast-paced, modern world.

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Writing in Your Books is Good Fun

image of Herzog book
image credit: LitReactor.com

If his soul could cast a reflection so brilliant, and so intensely sweet, he might beg God to make such use of him. But that would be too simple. But that would be too childish. The actual sphere is not clear like this, but turbulent, angry. A vast human action is going on. Death watches. So if you have some happiness, conceal it. And when your heart is full, keep your mouth shut also.

It’s Friday, and I’m ripping this incredibly controversial topic straight from the headlines.

It’s a dispute that can destroy relationships, families, and book clubs.

The question at hand?

IS IT OK TO WRITE IN YOUR BOOKS?????

My answer?

YES.

I actually like to look back over highlighted passages that spoke to me, as well as jot little notes in the margins of stories to capture my in-the-moment thoughts on them. I use the “highlight passage” feature on my Kindle regularly.

Plus, when I purchase a used paperback, I actually like finding highlights and notes from the previous owner. In a way it makes me feel like that particular copy is more special and has a bit more to tell than it’s mass-pressed brothers and sisters.

David Cranmer over on LitReactor agrees with me.

Change our minds.

re-blog, writing, writing tips

The Power of Verbs

I’m a big proponent of writing exercises and writing prompts. This post from Deborah Lee Luskin is a great example of how verb choice can alter and determine the tone of your writing.

Live to Write - Write to Live

Power of VerbsVerbs are the engines that power your sentences.

Here’s an exercise that will help you learn the power of verbs.

See if you can make the following paragraph more interesting by changing the verbs. Challenge yourself to show this narrator either speeding through her day or dragging through it by the verbs you choose. If you like, post your revision in the comments below.

I got up this morning: I got dressed I got coffee and a bagel when I got gas. I got the news on the radio, and I got the mail on the way down the hall to the office. I got through my email before my ten o’clock meeting, but I got a phone call from a client so I got to the meeting late.

After the meeting I got through the HR about my health benefits, because I got a bill for my last…

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creative writing, flash fiction, publishing, writing

“Slay The Beast!” New Microfiction Published

dragon

Hey everyone,

My new piece of microfiction,  “Slay The Beast!”, was published and you can read it here for free on 50-WordStories.com

I’d like to thank Tim from 50-Word Stories for picking it up, and I’d encourage all my readers to check out his site. It’s an awesome project, and if you write micro or flash fiction I’d also encourage you to submit something. It’s a fun craft challenge trying to articulate a story in EXACTLY fifty words.