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, review, writing

Best Software for Socially Distant Writer’s Groups

My writer’s group is finally back on track!

After a few months hiatus, we’re meeting regularly again and it feels great to have the encouragement and accountability. The only difference is we’re not currently meeting in-person due to the ongoing pandemic.

We’ve experimented with a few pieces of software for our critiques and meetings, and I wanted to spend a few minutes outlining some software we’ve been leveraging, along with Pro’s and Con’s.

Continue reading “Best Software for Socially Distant Writer’s Groups”
writing, writing tips

A Writer’s Guide to Coronavirus Quarantine Life – Part 2 (The Reckoning)

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Still Inside…

Years ago, I wrote a story about a group of people stranded in a desert town, dying from unseen radiation poisoning, and trying to figure out where they fit into the plan of the world.

It seems strangely relatable now, minus the radiation and mutants.

It’s been roughly six weeks since I wrote my first post about writing while under the Coronavirus stay-at-home orders, and in that time I’ve mostly managed to keep to my routine. There have been slip ups, and low points, but overall I am managing.

I continue to adhere to the exercise regiment each morning when I wake up to early morning silence. I’m also trying to eat plenty of green vegetables and other healthy food, and take in deep breathes of fresh spring air, weather permitting. New England has had a cold, generally raw spring befitting the situation. No Murder Hornets though. Not yet anyway.

What I’ve Learned

  • Creativity is fickle – No matter what kind of routines you adhere to, this bizarre scenario is just mentally & creatively exhausting. With all the new roles roles people have begun taking on as caregivers, teachers, and remote-employees, plus the economic stresses, it all compounds to take a toll. If you’re a writer, go easy on yourself. I beat myself up a bit over an “empty tank” a few weeks ago, but after some conversations with peers realized many creative people are stifled right now. Even my WordPress Reader feed is a bit sparse these days!
  • Creativity is important – Writing is a mental health exercise for many people. Losing the glow of that creative spark can be distressing, even if it is temporary. That’s why I say it is OK to be upset about writer’s block, or whatever creative endeavors fuel you, even if they seem “trivial” compared to what’s happening in the world right now. If it’s important to you and helps you stay sane and healthy, then it is important. Don’t let anyone minimize lack of creativity as insignificant.
  • Creativity comes back – Don’t think that once it is gone it’ll never return. It will. I’ve found that on better days I will get a quick burst of inspiration. Sometimes it gets triggered by the aroma of a new coffee (I have so many flavors to buy and try) or intense sunshine on a clear morning. Whatever it is, I capitalize as much as I can. One week it was a single sentence, another it was 5000 words in a day. I just go with it when it shows up. The only thing that remains consistent is that inspiration strikes at the most inconvenient times, just like it did in the “before times”.

If you’re out there reading this I hope you are safe, well, and making the best of your particular situation. This will all end eventually, and when it does I look forward to drinking coffee in book stores and going to author events again.

-BLD

article, writing tips

A Writer’s Guide to Coronavirus Quarantine Life

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Life, Disrupted

By now we realize that Coronavirus has disrupted nearly everyone’s daily lives.

Whether you are self-quarantined, or just social distancing, it can be very tough to keep your creativity and writing output up. It seems counter-intuitive. Writers all over the globe are exactly where we should be right? In front of our keyboards. But any combination of health & financial stress, working from home, caring for children, and home schooling is absolutely disruptive and exhausting. It can make you just want to curl up into a ball and not write or do ANYTHING creative at all.

I’ve been home for about two weeks now. When I received my work from home announcement, I thought whoa, so much writing opportunity! and I was completely wrong. I wasn’t even able to utilize my usual lunch breaks to get words in anymore. This combined with feelings of anxiety and even mild depression from isolation (I’m one of those weird extrovert writers) tanked my output. This past week however, I carefully managed a routine, and it has helped quite a bit. My word count is up, and most importantly, so are my spirits. Here’s what I’ve been doing. Everyone’s situation is different right now, so these may not work for you, but I hope they might help some of my readership out.

Continue reading “A Writer’s Guide to Coronavirus Quarantine Life”

announcement, article, guest post, writing

Do You Want To Guest Post?

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Would You Like to Expand Your Audience?

As part of my “2020 Blog Resolutions” that I mentioned here, this year I’m looking to have more bloggers featured on this site via guest postings. Guest posts are a great way to expand the audience of your blog by getting writing in front of a new audience that might not be familiar with you.

While re-blogs are great, they don’t have the same level of intimacy and intention that a well-crafted guest post does.

To that end, if you’d be interested in writing a guest post about

  • Writing (Writing Tips, Writing/Author News or Trends, or just relatable author struggles)
  • Books (Book reviews, genre news, or “bookish” trends)
  • Film photography (news, reviews, fun camera stuff with some featured images)

I’d love to have you on the site. Even if you’ve never written a guest post before, I’m happy to have Suburban Syntax be the first place you try. Feel free to email me here at bdauthor@outlook.com or message me via WordPress or on Twitter.

Need Some Content?

If you like my stuff and are looking to temporarily ease the burden of creating content on your own blog, let me know and I’d be happy to write a guest post for your site if we can find a topic that is a good fit. See the above bullets for the type of content I generally focus on.

Here’s to a great 2020 of blogging and I hope to hear from you!