Productive Prerequisites

With NaNoWriMo rapidly approaching, I’ve been taking daily digital wanders around the blog-o-sphere and Twitterverse to see what all the other writers are up to. One such fellow writer (and blogger), Daniel Koeker, recently wrote this post about the little things that he requires in order to be productive.

That got me, of course, thinking about the things that I require in order to be productive. The list that I came up with explains why I regularly have a hard time getting my brain to buckle down and write.

inspiration1. Comfort
I can’t write at all if I’m uncomfortable. That means sitting at a desk is pretty much out of the question. I have to be curled up on the couch or snuggled up in bed with a dozen pillows. If it’s chilly I need a fuzzy sweater or blanket. This is a major thing for me and is reason that I’m so peeved that my laptop’s battery is kaput and needs to be plugged in all the time. I thrive from being able to pluck up my laptop and snuggle in wherever I can be most comfortable.

2. Quiet
I’m not talking about ultimate silence here…just a reasonable level of quiet. I can work to music or even a television show, but if there are people trying to talk to me or distracting noises like a phone ringing or the neighbor mowing their lawn, I completely lose my train of thought. Even better, it seems to take me ages to get that train back in the station. My mind is just that easy to wander.

3. Nothing else to do
If that sounds impossible…yeah, it pretty much is. But basically the more other stuff I have to do, the harder I find it to concentrate and be productive. I’m the kind of person who sets out to write a chapter and instead ends up doing the dishes and going through my closet for clothes that don’t fit anymore. It depends on the number of things on my mental to-do list, but I find it very, very difficult to be productive at one thing (say, writing) when I know I have three dozen other things that I need (or want) to get done.

Other than that, for the most part, I don’t require a lot in order to be productive…just a desire to be so and a bit of willpower.

Make that a lot of willpower. >.>

What about you? What do you require in order to be productive?

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 25

It’s (more or less) official; my job is over and we’re all headed home after this shift. I’m not too depressed about that because it means I get to go home and enjoy the summer with my family, and there will definitely be more work in the future. That said, I have to inform you that the last week of a job that you know is over is absolutely painful. I’ve been spending my time scanning documents that have to be saved and transferring over changes that have been made between the master books and the working copy books, and it is unbelievably mind-numbing. At this time one week from now I may be a drooling puddle of goo on the floor.

Cheery today, aren’t I?

Okay, let’s get on with it then, shall we?

Health and Body Image Goal

I’ve been eating pretty well, I can tell you that. I don’t know if it’s sheer willpower or if my stomach (the organ, not my flab-belly) has been shrinking and I’m just not as hungry as I usually am. I have been scoffing on peanut butter cookies in the evening (OMGSOGOOD), but aside from that I’ve been eating good foods and decent portions of them.

On the exercise front I can’t claim as much success. Believe me, I do want to be going for my zombie runs, but I’ve been a little gun-shy since last Thursday. That morning I got up to go for a run and before I made it out of the building I almost doubled over with pains in the gut. I ended up nearly sprinting back to my room and staying there the entire day. I still have no idea whether it was a stomach bug or food poisoning, or what, but I’ve been a little nervous about venturing too far from a bathroom ever since because I still don’t feel quite right. I know I have to buck up eventually though, so tomorrow I’m going to try running on the treadmill in the ladies gym (which is only about thirty seconds from a bathroom) and see if I can’t build my confidence back up.

Editing Goal

I’ve regressed back to the days of getting nothing done…dammit. I do plan on doing some editing before the end of this shift, I swear, but I’ve gotten a little caught up in the writing aspect, as documented below.

1,000,000 Word Goal

This week I rediscovered a little thing called 750Words.com. It’s nothing fancy, just a daily challenge to write approximately 750 words on your personal section of the site, but there’s something strangely motivational about it. In three days on the site I managed to rack up over 8000 words alone. All together, through a variety of blog post planning, writing exercises, and a little bit of good old fashioned freewriting, I managed to write 13421 words this week, which if I’m not mistaken makes this my best week yet this year. Not too shabby, hmm?

I hope to focus more on writing (and editing) in the coming months while I’m temporarily out of work, and I plan to use 750Words.com for a little boost of motivation. You should check it out…it’s very simple, but it somehow makes you want to achieve the goal. I’ve joined the monthly challenge for July, and I hope to have more success with that than I had with Camp NaNo. ๐Ÿ™‚

Until next week! Ciao!

Actually, this explains a LOT…

As you know, last week it was my birthday. I got a couple of nice presents, but one of them isn’t in my possession yet because it has not yet been purchased. You see, my husband suggested that he would buy me a new bathing suit for the (hopefully) coming summer. I’m not usually the kind to spend much money on such a thing, so he thought I could pick out a really nice one for a change. I loved the idea, but here’s the thing…if I’m going to get a really nice bathing suit, I want to look good in it. So on Saturday night I gritted my teeth and decided that this is it: I’m restarting Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution and this time I’m sticking to it.

Sunday morning started a bit askew, since little missy was up in the middle of the night, which resulted in all of us sleeping in until almost 10 am. But I gritted my teeth, and after a healthy breakfast of whole wheat toast and boiled egg whites, I headed downstairs and did workout number 1. I then attempted to go about my day without resorting to any of the mindless snacking I’m famous for, while waiting for my meatloaf to finish cooking and anticipating the fact that I was going to have to measure my portions to keep from eating twice as much of it as is smart.

So you see, my day was full of willpower. Painful, frustrating willpower. And that got me thinking about something I once read in a Cracked.com article. At the time of reading the article I raised my eyebrows a bit and doubted the reality of the claim, but on Sunday I did a bit of Google research and lo and behold, it looks like it’s true.

Willpower is a finite resource.

I know, I know, it sounds like an excuse, right? But apparently there have been a lot of studies done on this idea, and so far it’s holding water. It looks like the more willpower you use in one area of your life, the less you have left for other areas. In other words, you might struggle all day to keep yourself from snacking, and actually manage it, but then when it comes time to do your exercises you just can’t seem to work up the willpower. It’s not entirely your fault…you haven’t got any left. This explains why you can feel so good about yourself early in the day and happily resist temptations, but later in the day you crash and start (for example) devouring everything in sight.

So does this mean we’re all doomed to failure because we can’t keep up the willpower thing forever? Of course not, although it’s definitely going to make things more difficult. Willpower (apparently) is like a muscle. It needs to be exercised. So the more willpower you are able to exert today, the easier it will be tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. It’s likely to be a slow process, but in the meantime you have to figure out how to dole out your willpower as necessary. If resisting snacks and treats all day depletes your stores so that you can’t bring yourself to exercise later, figure out how to let yourself have a little something, thereby saving that bit of willpower for when you need it. It’s a delicate balance, which in itself probably uses up willpower.

In fact, you know what? It’s not a delicate balance; it’s a vicious, circular cycle that makes me want to punch walls.

*cough cough*

Anyway, I guess the point of this post is that I need to work on my willpower muscle. I’ve worked up great levels of determination before and used up all my willpower after a week or so, and I don’t want that to happen this time. I want to succeed this time because dammit, I want to look good in a really nice bathing suit! Is that so wrong? ๐Ÿ˜›

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 13

Technology is a wonderful thing, you know? Here I am, on a bus on the way back to camp from a long day at work, and I’m listening to music on my iPhone while typing up an accountability post on my tablet with my bluetooth keyboard. My coworkers are getting a good laugh out of it, but to hell with them. I’m multitasking!

Okay, I may be feeling a bit looney this evening, so let’s get to the important parts so I can get this post scheduled for the morning and enjoy my evening trying to make up for several nights in a row of poor sleep.

Health and Body Image Goal

As has become a tradition, I have to admit that I’ve been a very bad girl this week. Since I arrived at camp for this shift I’ve polished off a fair number of sweets and no fewer than two (large) bags of chips (with cream soda to accompany). I haven’t even been bothering to put together half-decent lunches for myself…I’ve been snagging the pre-portioned containers of spaghetti and ham-and-cheese sandwiches. I’ve been bypassing the salad bar and healthier stir-fry meals daily because, let’s face it, I’m lazy and I have no willpower. Neither have I been getting any kind of exercise because of the aforementioned laziness and because if I want to also get a decent amount of writing in I would have to give up sleep. If you were reading the beginning of this post you know that I’m not sleeping well anyway. Why is that, I wonder? Am I stressed? I might be stressed.

Anyway, I made a decent effort today and ate better at least. I stil had the spaghetti, but I had yogurt and an orange for breakfast and somehow refrained from indulging in the nanaimo squares that I (for some goddamn reason) took to work with me today. Are you proud? You probably shouldn’t be. I don’t deserve pride, dammit! When I can report self-discipline for at least 7 days in a row, then you can be proud. Stow your pride for later.

Editing Goal

It’s not much, but I finally have something to report. That is, I’ve been looking over my previously edited pages, refamiliarizing myself with my manuscript. It’s not editing in the strictest sense, but I’m pretty much caught up, so any day now we should see some real progress, I promise.

1,000,000 Word Goal

As mentioned in my special post on Sunday, I’ve begun participating in Camp NaNoWriMo as of this morning. I’ve set myself a word count goal of 30,000 which, while not as ambitious as I would like to be, will bring me up to 100,000 words so far this year (if I’m successful). For my first day I’ve manged to write a little more than 1000 words so far, which is right on track. Wish me luck, and if you’d like to join me at NaNo Camp (it’s never too late!), take a swing by the website. My username for all NaNo events is Toreshi.

As for my weekly wordcount, I actually had a pretty damn good week, if I do say so myself. Not my best, but much better than the last three weeks (in fact, almost as much as the last three weeks combined). I wrote a total of 7435 words, which came from a combination of scenes for Parallels, a bit of blogging, and a few writing exercises and prompts that I tried out over the last two days. As a matter of fact, one of those prompts may very well turn into a full blown work in progress because it’s been pretty fun to write so far. As much as I would like to plow on and finish Parallels, I’ve been having a major blockage as to where to go next, so I’m thinking I might use Camp NaNo as an excuse to try a few new things, get the juices flowing as it were. Maybe I’ll even share some of what I end up with on Fiction Fragment Fridays. Look forward to it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Accountability Tuesdays Week 4

We’ve made it to another Tuesday and that means two things:
1. I’m currently mid-flight on my second of four plane rides that are bringing me back out to Northern Alberta for 14 more straight days of work, and…
2. It’s time to hold myself accountable again. Booooo….

Okay, enought flitting about. Can’t put it off forever.

Health and Body Image Goal
I will say this…my 14 days at home are not good for the waistline. There are just too many opportunities for treats at home, things I can’t have when I’m in camp. Garlic fingers and pizza, fried pepperoni, chocolates and cookies, and way too much soda. It is really quite terrible on the willpower, of which I already have very little. Can you guess where this is headed? I felt pretty decent when I got home for my turnaround,ย  but after two weeks of fatty snacks and sitting around the house playing with the baby I’m not really in a great way. On that note I’ve got some plans for this shift that involve the use of a set of toning bands and a lot of loose-leaf tea, so here’s hoping for a better outlook next week.

Editing Goal
Should I just hide my head in shame right now and be done with it? You guessed it, I still haven’t so much as glanced at my manuscript yet. I know, I know, I’ve been a very bad author. But, but, my printed copy is in the luggage right under my feet, and I swear it will end up in my hands – along with a good red pen – sometime this week. I promise.

1, 000, 000 Word Goal
I didn’t get as many blog entries written in advance as I was hoping this week, but I still wrote a bit, so let’s count it up. It looks like I only wrote blog posts this week, but I did manage to pluck out 4812 words worth of them. Still not up to snuff, in my opinion, but actually better than I thought I had done, so I guess I’ll give myself a little pat on the back for that. Additionally, since it’s almost the end of the month I thought I would share that I have thus far written a grand total of 20774 words this year. Thats nowhere near the count I need per month to reach my million word goal, but it’s about 20000 words more than I probably would havd written had I not made the goal. So, huzzah, I guess!

Stay tuned for next week’s accountabilities! Maybe I’ll write some love scenes for February. โ™ฅ

“Aim for the top-right corner!”

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnaginโ€™s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

36. Goal setting

That’s a little hockey joke up in the title of the post, in case you missed it. ๐Ÿ˜›

If there’s something I think we can all agree on, it’s that goals are important. Without goals we cannot advance, we cannot attain. It could be something as simple as wanting to pay off a loan sooner. Without actively making the decision to set that goal for yourself, your loan will stay exactly where it is. By setting the goal, by choosing to want something better, you’re taking the first step in setting yourself up for attainable advancement.

The problem with goals is that most people don’t understand how to make a proper one. Most people set themselves up for failure by creating goals that aren’t well thought out. Common issues are creating a goal that is too broad, or too ambitious, or that neglect to take important personal factors into account. For example, take the common goal of weight loss:

Too Broad
“I want to lose weight.”
This goal is about as broad as you can get. Think about it for a moment…how are you going to lose weight? Are you going to eat less? Different kinds of foods? More vegetables? Less fats? Are you going to exercise? What kind of exercise? Running? Spinning class? P90X? And what about the fine details? How much weight do you want to lose? How fast? Neglecting to narrow down your goal leaves you open to far too many possible points of sabotage. You might exercise your ass off, but neglect to monitor your eating habits and thus fail to accomplish anything. You might lose weight, but not as fast as you had hoped and find yourself discouraged enough to give up. If you figure out all the details ahead of time, and stick to them, you’re much more likely to progress.

Too Ambitious
“I want to lose 15 lbs in a month!”
It should come as no surprise that setting goals that are too ambitious (in other words: damn near impossible) will also set you up for failure and disappointment. In this example you would have to do something very extreme, and probably very unhealthy, to reach your goal, since a healthy and plausible rate of weight loss is about 1 lb a week. If you set yourself a goal that is so ambitious that there’s no way it’s actually going to happen, you’re just going to end up frustrated that you can’t achieve it.

Neglect to Attend Important Factors
“I’m going to lose x-lbs by cutting out all sweets and soda.”
This is actually a half-decent plan at first glance. Most people take far too much sugar into their bodies, so cutting that out would almost definitely result in some form of weight loss. But in this example the goal neglects to consider the repercussions of the intended actions. Presumably the person who set the goal consumes a large amount of sugar, if they believe cutting it out will help them lose weight. What’s going to happen when that sugar stops being consumed? Many people don’t realize that sugar is no different that many drugs. It’s addictive, it gives you an artificial “high” in the form of short-term energy, and cutting it completely from your diet can cause withdrawal symptoms. No, I’m not kidding. Aside from all that, do you actually have the willpower to cut out all sugar? Is this plan going to succeed only in making you miserable? Because misery is absolutely not conducive to a successful goal. When determining the details of your goal you have to take into account the consequences that may occur and your own personal ability (really, really take a good look at yourself here) to deal with the limitations you’ve set for yourself.

These three factors can be applied to a goal of any type. If we’re looking at a writing goal, they definitely apply. You can’t be too broad (“I want to be a writer even though I have absolutely no plan and don’t know what I want to write!”), you can’t be too ambitious (“I just got an idea for a novel and I’m totally going to have it written and published within two months!”), and you can’t forget to consider possible consequences and personal ability (“I’m going to get up an hour early every morning to write, even though I already only get about four hours of sleep a night!”). Ignoring these factors will set you on the path to failure, and failure will set you on the path to disappointment, depression, and a little thing I like to call “I Give UP!” syndrome.

Set goals for yourself…just remember that not all goals are equal and very few are easy to attain.