Monday, June 25, 2012

Happy Blogiversary - a.k.a. Lessons Learned

The blog is officially a month old today. And while I haven't blogged as much as I would have liked to, I'm still happy. It's lasted much longer than others and I still have a long list of things I would like to talk about. I just need to continue to work on my time management and prioritizing.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I've been busy lately and that's part of what's kept me from blogging. That's partly true. The last couple weeks have been very busy in great ways and the couple weeks before that, not so much. But I'm happy to say that my work in progress is actually in progress and I'm pumped to keep plugging away at it. I love the story and my MC is alive and well in my head. So even though the first couple weeks weren't entirely productive, I'm still grateful for the time because it did still get me to a more productive time.

Throughout my month of mostly being productive, I've learned a few personal truths and I was reminded of some lessons that I've previously learned but clearly needed to experience again. And I'd like to share. So here we go:

1. Procrastination and Distractions are both a blessing and a curse: use them to your advantage to recharge and motivate. 

I'm a natural born procrastinator. I don't really know why but I often have a hard time motivating myself to do something with my life. And distractions often become the focus of my time and energy even though they're mostly fruitless. But sometimes they're necessary. Over the last month, I've tried very hard to walk the line of being focused and motivated but I've also allowed myself to indulge in some less than productive activities. And while I had to make sure I didn't spend all my time on those activities, the time I spent indulging was still useful in the big picture. In the last month I redecorated my office and created a wall-o-inspiration. Combined I think I spent maybe 3 days total on both projects (and I'll post some before and afters later). I tend to be a perfectionist about the smallest and most ridiculous things. So I didn't allow myself to go too crazy on this project. But I did allow it in general and here's why: when I was done, I felt refreshed and motivated. I had a fabulous new(ish) office that I couldn't wait to start writing in and I had some inspiration right in front of my face in said office so I could always look to it if/when I needed a boost. Even though the projects were not necessary, they did help me to recharge my creative battery.

The flip side to that is what I've been doing all day. I've been tooling around on itunes for hours looking for new music and going through my own library all in the name of a writing playlist. While this is great in general and I very much do find inspiration in music, I feel I've taken this activity much too far -- as usual. I'm still working on finding the balance between temporary distraction that is still overall productive and just plain procrastinating.

2. Reading is great when used in moderation.

I've also done a lot of reading over the past month. Which is great! I don't remember the last time I devoured that many books in such a short time frame. But it's also a problem. I don't remember the last time I devoured that many books in such a short time frame because it's not often I have the time to do so. And while it was thoroughly enjoying, it took a bit too much time away from the writing. I am a firm believer in the adage that you should read and read and read if you want to write as it will only make you a better writer. And I also agree that you should focus a lot of energy in your desired genre. And that's exactly what I did. Just a bit too much.

On the flip side, I was entirely moved by some of the books and completely inspired to work that much harder at my own writing in the hopes that I could one day produce something as powerful as what I'd read. And I also spent a lot of time reading books on the craft of writing -- some more helpful than others. But if it weren't for one of those books, I wouldn't have the majority of my overall plot structure on my WIP. Which means, I doubt I would have even gotten around to starting it because I still didn't know where I was ultimately going with the story. So again, I'm still working on finding the balance but I can only be grateful for the time I've spend reading this last month. At the very least, if I couldn't be writing, reading was far more productive than watching TV.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff.

As I've mentioned, this isn't my first blog. I've had others on differing topics all with varying levels of failure. And I firmly believe the one reason why this blog is relatively successful (at least compared to its predecessors) is because I told myself from the very beginning not to sweat the small stuff. Don't worry if you can't always blog. Don't worry how many days have gone by between posts or how many pages views they've gotten or how many subscribers you've picked up along the way (which is zero by the way). Just keep plugging away. And that's what I've done. And because I haven't forced myself to blog when I didn't want to, it doesn't feel like work and I'm still eager to do it. I still have lots more to say, even if I am just talking to myself out here.

The same goes for my WIP. Sure I set goals and wish I was further along. But as long as I'm still ultimately getting somewhere, that's good enough for me. This is something I'm constantly telling myself. And not just in my writing life but in my day to day. And I feel like it's something that everyone could use at one point or another. I tend to get derailed and deflated at the slightest set back. But reminding myself not to sweat the small stuff helps me remember that it's okay. Progress is still progress regardless of the amount and even being stagnant from time to time is still better than going in the wrong direction. It helps me to remember to pick up and carry on.

4. Don't force it.

In the same vein as #3, I try not to force it. Now this may be more beneficial to me because of my personality and not necessary the best prescription for anyone, but I find it helpful. I have to work to keep my motivation and to keep positive. I need small, regular, attainable goals so that I can see my progress and use that to move further. Yet, they can't be too firm so that I feel defeated if I don't make it to one of my goals. (Have I mentioned yet that I'm a little whack a doodle character?) But the point is, I can't force it. And in general, that's pretty true for anyone. Banging your head against the wall isn't going to get you anything but a headache. You can't force it. Sure you need to be persistent but when push comes to shove, at least for me, you gotta know when to pick your battles.

5. Never take your eye off the prize.

This is almost a personal mantra. Because I know I'm quite stubborn and sometimes needy, I allow myself the occasional indulgence. Sometimes it's a bit more than occasional. But that's okay as long as I don't forget the bigger picture. I try to visit the world of my story at least once a day. Even if it's just talking out a problem or situation for a few minutes in the car. I try to spend a little piece of each day with my characters so I can easily enter their world when it comes time to write. I also try to take any opportunity I may get to develop my story, on paper or just in my head whenever I can. And that helps to balance out my weaker moments where I'm less than productive. But as long as I never forget my dreams and goals, as long as I never forget the story within me that I feel bound to tell, than I'm always heading in the right direction.

Those are a few of my rules to live and write by. How about you? Are there any other rules that help you meet your goals? Or rules you have to keep your sanity? Feel free to leave them below.

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