Too Many Challenges

28 05 2010

Note to self: When you’ve just managed to wrap up one semester and are working toward planning a new one, it may not be the best time to take up yet another challenge. Especially when you’re working toward filling three other challenges you started…

Okay, so the Page-A-Day Challenge is not going spectacularly for me. The first sign of imminent failure should have been that I couldn’t focus enough to stick to one writing goal. And yet, I felt compelled to keep trying. My second sign of failure should have been that there were many days when I realized I hadn’t written my page for the day but was getting ready for bed, so I would sit down and quickly write anything that came to mind just to get my page done. Working toward mediocrity is generally not a sign of success–especially when you add it to other little red warning flags. And then yesterday it happened: I forgot to write a page. Hmm… That doesn’t necessarily mean “failure” in the strictest sense–after all, I did write in my journal, and I took lots of little notes throughout the day. But my focus is shifting too fast for me to keep up with it. I usually am overly wrought by the thought of failing at something, but lately I’ve started to embrace it for its deeper meaning. Failure: it’s the predecessor of success. I think you have to first fail in order to eventually succeed. I think I have to fail some challenges to better understand what challenges will work for me. I mean, what’s the point of succeeding at every challenge in life if you don’t learn something from those successes and those successes turn into mediocre expectations of yourself?

It’s interesting to me how one challenge can really get me going and working toward a final goal while others can leave me feeling like I simply took on too much–even when the challenge wasn’t all that pressing. One friend and I were talking about the depression (or, in my case, hermitage) that follows the conclusion of a stressful work-filled period in life. I like her take on the situation: Humans are meant to work in cycles (some people believe these cycles follow the phases of the moon). We need to better learn ourselves to figure out when our productive times are so that we can better make use of our “down times” to gather strength and necessary knowledge to make our productive cycles as productive as possible. Does that make sense? Right now is not a productive time for me, but I find myself working little bits on things that will–very shortly–become major projects for me. I’m just waiting for my next cycle of productivity. I’m not procrastinating–I’m percolating. I’m getting things in order, I’m jotting down notes, I’m using daily life experiences to better inform what eventually will be major decisions. I guarantee you that my down time is not spent staring at a wall or passing my time doing absolutely nothing. I find that my down time is geared toward (sometimes unconsciously) doing things that will help me in the future. For instance, right now I’m going through a down time with writing. Yet I’m reading more than ever. I’m reading books I’ve been wanting to read, I’m reading books that are similar to the one I am gearing up to write, and I’m participating in rating submissions on WEbook that are in my writing genre. In other words, I’m forming a bigger picture so I can better situate my writing when I am ready to write.

I know there are writers out there right now yelling, “But writers should write every day–not just when they feel like it!” I don’t know what to say beyond, “That just doesn’t work for me.”

While lamenting one failure, I can celebrate a different success: I had joined WEbook’s Page to Fame by submitting the first page of my completed manuscript and after many ratings… my page has been elevated to the next level by readers! Woo-hoo! For any writers out there working toward getting published/finding the agent for you, I highly recommend submitting to Page to Fame. It’s a good way to gauge whether readers of your genre might want to keep reading after that first page.


Weronika Janczuk’s Page-a-Day Challenge

27 04 2010

Weronika Janczuk has started a month-long challenge on her blog and is eschewing word counts in favor of committing herself to writing a page a day. Of course, if she’s on a role, she won’t stop writing at the end of one page–the goal is to get at least a page and see what happens from there. The link to her blog post is here:

I’m intrigued by her challenge and think I could use some motivation. Because I write in Scrivener, the concept of a page is harder to define, so I’d very nearly have to rely on word counts to make sure I’m getting somewhere around a page (anywhere from 250-350 words, depending on the length of the words I’m using). BUT I still like the idea of lowering expectations so that the daily goal doesn’t seem as daunting. That also seems to work better than time limits–the past few days, I’ve made it a goal to write for 30 minutes a day, but then I didn’t know whether or not to include the time I spent brainstorming or outlining as part of my writing goal. It got me working on my story, but my story didn’t grow in words those days… A page a day would allow me to write a little, spend extra time on planning and/or brainstorming, and revise my other novel in the process.

Like I said, I find her approach intriguing, and I’m thinking about signing on for the challenge. I’m going to think about it first, though, because I’m a little burned after not making it through my last challenge that I signed blindly on with (ScriptFrenzy).

Adventures and Insecurities: A writer’s props

31 03 2010

Tomorrow is April 1. I don’t care that it will be April Fool’s Day–in fact, I think the last time I pulled an April Fool’s Day prank (or had one pulled on me) was in high school. To me, April 1 would be just like any other day … Except this year, I signed up for ScriptFrenzy, which means tomorrow will be the first day of writing my very first screenplay.

I’m nervous even though I have no expectations for my screenplay beyond its length. To be a winner of ScriptFrenzy, I will have to write 100 pages, so 100 pages is my goal. My goal is not to become a famous TV screenwriter, though in my wildest dreams, I do see the pilot I’m going to be working on as a successful TV show. I’ve chosen to write a pilot for a TV show I’ve wittily named “The Profs” about a group of professors in a department. The show will feature those professors as they live their daily lives and navigate academia (including all the departmental politics and dealings with students). For anyone who knows my background, you might be saying, “Shocking” with a bit of a sarcastic voice. This screenplay will be pulling on some of my own experiences of being a professor as well as the “horror stories” I’ve heard from colleagues about past jobs and interviews and what not. I’m excited about writing it, but again, as a first-time screenwriter, I have no expectations going into the month of April. If you’re doing ScriptFrenzy, too, my username is joiedelire. I’ll take all the writing buddies/support I can get!

While my brain is mostly preoccupied with writing up some last-minute characters sketches for ScriptFrenzy (as well as familiarizing myself with CeltX, the screenwriting program I’ll be using), I’m also going through a bit of a panic attack about another writing project: my first completed novel that I finished last year. Since August, I’ve been trying to find an agent (unsuccessfully), and I’ve entered the manuscript in a writing contest (again, unsuccessful), and all the failed attempts are starting to eat away at any confidence I had built up in myself and my manuscript. I entered the first page of my manuscript in the Page-to-Fame on WEbook (an amazing resource for writers), and every day–I can’t help myself–I go into my profile and check my submission’s progress. Right now, it’s doing okay. Which should make me feel better, but I don’t. I’m afraid to make any predictions about whether or not it will make it to Round 2 (where I would get to submit the entire first chapter), and I’m even afraid to hope for that admission into Round 2. My confidence is a yellow ball of string being batted around by a large cat named Insecurity. One minute I’m feeling okay (and possibly even better than okay) about my future as a writer; the next minute, a giant paw reaches out and bats me around until I don’t know how to feel anymore.

From what I understand, every writer goes through these periods of insecurity. Yet when I’m in the midst of an insecurity attack, I feel alone. Desperately alone.

I feel alone right now, so I’m forcing myself to put that aloneness out there online for the world to see (should the world stop by and read my humble blog). I can imagine there are readers out there who will stop and read this and think, “I know just how she feels.” Being able to imagine that makes me feel a little less like a solitary figure and a little more like a part of a community.

Challenging Myself

9 02 2010

I signed up yesterday for Script Frenzy, which begins April 1.  As a participant, I have 30 days (i.e., the month of April) to write 100 pages of a script.  Mind you, I have no idea what I’m doing–I’ve never written a script, nor have I ever really considered writing one before I started thinking about joining the Script Frenzy challenge.  So why am I doing it?

The hardest part of writing for me is writing dialogue.  I tend to feel the dialogue from all my characters ends up sounding the same–I have a hard time finding individual voices for my characters.  Because dialogue is hard for me, I’m terrified of writing scripts: Scripts are entirely made up of dialogue.  But what are fears for if they’re not for facing down and conquering?

A writer friend of mine said she was also considering Script Frenzy, so I decided if she could take the plunge, I could, too.  After all, I’m not shooting for the best script ever–or even a script I’d want anyone else to see.  My goal is to simply complete the challenge and know that I can grow through trying new styles of writing.

Plus, a cool side effect of the challenge is that I get to try Scrivener‘s screenwriting side of its program.

When Life Interrupts Writing

2 12 2009

In the middle of the NaNoWriMo fever, I found that I rather enjoyed sitting down to write and having writing as a part of my daily life.  And so I did what I tend to do in those situations: I made a resolution of sorts.  I told myself that when NaNo was over, I would continue my daily writing so that I could continue my progress toward a finished (and eventually polished) novel.  Four days after meeting my NaNo goal, I can say that I’ve managed to write about 500 more words.  That’s it.  Five hundred words in four days.  Not only have I been slacking there, I’ve also been slacking on my blogging and Twittering and all those other socializing things I had set up for myself.  Why?  Because life got in the way.  When reality hit once the writing adrenaline bug died down, I realized that I have a lot of other things that need my attention right now.

As a professor, the end of the semester is a hectic time–no matter how well I prepare myself for the end of a semester, the work piles up and gets dumped onto my desk all at the same time.  My office is a nightmare, with piles of papers covering pretty much every surface but the floor (thankfully, I’ve managed to keep that clutter-free. . . for now), and that nightmare is a direct reflection of what my brain is feeling about now.  Every time I sit down to relax, I’ve got a mental list running through my head that won’t turn off and let me just be.  I’ve tried the trick of writing down what is running through my head to get it out, but that only seems to make it worse.  Once I’ve committed a to-do list to paper, I feel pressure to pay attention to it.  At least if it is just in my head, I can be in denial that I have less than a week to finish all that grading, write final exams, hold extra office hours for student appointments, and write that paper I’m presenting next weekend at a conference I’m totally unprepared for.  That’s not even mentioning family obligations.  In short, I’m busy and feel I’ve got every excuse I could want to slack off on writing for the moment.

And yet . . . And yet I have found that I miss writing.  I miss sitting down at my computer and letting my mind open up to fill the blank page in front of me.  Just writing this post is putting me at ease–watching the white box fill with words makes me happy.  What makes me shake my head at myself is that I know writing is fulfilling for me, yet I walk away from it during times of stress to do far less fulfilling things: watch TV, stare at a wall with a blank expression in my eyes, mindlessly eat chocolate and cheesy poofs–you know, the normal stress relievers.  My original resolution didn’t exactly work out for me, but I’m optimistic that if I keep trying, I’ll eventually stick to my goal.  My new goal, which I’m sharing publicly to add that little extra push to succeed, is to write for at least 30 minutes every day.  I don’t even care what I write–just as long as I write.  For my sanity, I need to continue trying to fill white spaces with words.

If you, too, know that you need to write to keep what little grasp you have on your sanity but find that life often gets in the way, I’d be interested in reading about what works for you to keep on track.  When you barely have enough energy to stare blankly at a wall, how do you force yourself to do something–anything–productive?  I honestly don’t know how I crawl out of my energy-less funks; it just seems that one day, I realize I have something to do, and I do it.  I’ve been trying to figure out what tip(s) I could offer my readers from my own life, and the only one that comes to mind isn’t exactly a secret: If you want/need to get something done, get off your butt and do it.  I find once I start being productive–even in little spurts–I’m more likely to get other work done, too.  It’s like Lucille Ball once said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”  She made the point that people who aren’t busy most likely aren’t busy because they aren’t getting things done.  She’s right; the more I take on, the more I get done (even if what I’m getting done isn’t directly related to what I’ve taken on).

Now that I’ve written and allowed my brain to settle for the night, I think I can go lie down and drift into a peaceful sleep.  Writing: it’s free therapy.