Writing With Goals & Deadlines

Time and time again I fall back into the pit of procrastination; daydreaming about writing. It stays there. It’s so easy to just sit there and wait for the heavenly inspiration that rarely shows instead of facing the harsh reality: if I want my stories to be done I have to work hard and write on a regular basis, get some routines and work towards reasonable set goals and deadlines. Without it – a work schedule that is – I will never be done with my life’s work.

I am one of those writers who likes to plan, carefully plot the majority of a story before starting to write. All of that is done and has been for a while now. I do write in the word processor Scrivener as it helps with said planning and it’s easy to add synopsis’s, notes and comments. The software also has a function which sets up the project goals. At the moment I have it set up with a goal of 17500 words by the end of this month. As it has a built in calendar you can check a box which then calculate the amount of words you need to be writing on selected days of the week in order to reach that goal. My daily goal with every day of the week selected sums up to 1140 words a day, with deadline day included. If I write more than that it goes down for the remaining days. if I write less, it goes up. Simple.

Sure, this is only one part of many in my project but by dividing the project into smaller pieces it becomes a lot easier to handle. And not so frightening. Small steady steps are good. The tortoise will win over the rabbit.

I don’t think that goal is unreachable. A quick counting means that I have to write about 3 pages a day, depending on formatting. And nowadays I have plenty of time as I have begun working nights with extremely short hours giving me pretty much time to write from lunch-time all the way to about 11 pm. And I still have the weekends.

Back to writing I guess…

The Importance of Reading

Is it important to read as a writer?

I have no expertise in this topic but I do find it interesting and I yet have to understand the WHY.

This is a common topic and discussion. Pretty much every established writer says to us aspiring writers: “read a lot.” How much is a lot? A book a week? More? Less? I do understand the reasoning behind reading as one who wants to write themselves – technique; plot build up and resolution; inspiration and ideas and so forth. “Learn from the masters”, they say.

When it comes to technique I can see the benefits of reading as this study most likely will help you find solutions when it comes to structure of sentences to create a certain feel, the use of words. Furthermore, technique might be involving presentation of characters and environments and how the writer have proceeded to make them realistic and fit well into the overall story line. Technique is what makes the idea real and realistic.

Studying technique I would say is important but does that really mean you have to read a lot? I’m not sure…

Then we have the idea that if I do read I might become influenced in a bad way and “copy” others. We borrow all the time from everything around us and turn it into something new, something that is yours. I am one of those who are afraid of copying someone else’s works. Or rather: I am afraid of someone saying my writing reminds them of another previously published work. On the flip side, when I have created a story from scratch and later on find that someone else has already created “that story” I get kind of happy, especially if that person is well known.

I do not read much at all. I would love to read – at least that’s what I tell myself – but I end up doing something else instead. I tend to be more of a writer who experiment based on an idea of the form of a sentence. I then read it all out loud and if I like it I keep it. In many cases they get revised several times before I move on (I edit while writing). This is my approach to writing – experimenting with the use and order of words. Sometimes inspired by the notion of versification even though I rarely follow the rules of certain verse.

So back to the question – is it important to read a lot? If we rewrite that sentence we could get: “it is important to read.” That I can agree with. But now we have another topic, one about reading in general. I do read, books about grammar and verse and how to analyse a story and so forth.

So now I will turn to you, my readers, to fill in the blanks of this post. What’s your thoughts on this topic with reading a lot? Does it really matter? (except for the learning of a language).

Wishing for something new

For the longest time. Actually, almost ever since I started writing somewhat seriously, I’ve been working on a story I call The Gardener. I never seem to be able to get away from it and every new story idea I have is in some way connected to The Gardener; be a chapter, scene or a side track telling the background of a character or situation. To be honest, after more then ten years since its first inception I am now beginning to get sick of it. Somehow I think this is partly the reason to why I am not writing that much any longer. The spark, enjoyment of writing, is sort of dead. Even so, The Gardener never let go of my mind. Always present.

There would be a great joy in writing something new, the one thing that is not part of The Gardener and once again feel motivated and inspired to keep producing carefully chosen words to form neat lines. I’m not sure what that story is even though I have plenty in store still not written. Those are not really new. I want something new new.

I have no real clue of where to start such journey or even if I am able as of now to start one. I do like the idea of “write what scares you” but that shit is scary…

Mega Novel Project

Some of you who have been following this blog for a while might be familiar with my story series by the name The Gardener. It’s still in the works, and as far as I know it will be so for the time being.

Here’s the “problem”: It’s to big and what I write in the opening chapters echoes in the ending of the entire story. So I always goes back and forth “fixing” little things here and there, planning and doing story layout and so forth. What’s even more “problematic” is that I have, by accident or not, intertwined The Gardener with another somewhat large story of mine, a story that will for the time being remain unnamed as I am not ready to reveal its title. But this merging of the two stories opened up for a third.

What I have ended up with is three novel series where each of which will consist of – if the story line stays as it is now – 10 novels at about 1000 pages each. This makes me feel like I am getting nowhere…

There’s a lot more to this but which I like to keep somewhat close to my chest as for now. But I fear that nothing of what I write today can or will be attempted to get published until the rough draft of the final chapter has been written. That will be, if I make sure to write on a daily basis, 30 years in the future with my current writing speed.

I’m going to die before I am done with this shit!

The positive thing is that I have a fairly decent organisation around my scripts, notes and time-line. Scrivener is perfect for this large work and since a few weeks ago I bought Aeon Timeline which helps me a lot when it comes to keep track of when the different event is happening.

Work versus The Life of a Writer

Just as most other writers out there I am one of those who as of yet can not pay my bills through my writing. That means finding something else that brings money in, which in my case is a regular 2 shift job at in the wood-industry; a sawmill to be more precise.

In the grand scheme of things it’s all fine and the work is not necessarily bad, not when you start caring about the product you are making and care for the details. Making a good job and focusing on getting better at what you  do also helps getting the boredom of doing the same (or similar) tasks all day long. Of course there are those days when getting up from bed in the early morning to head to work is tough.

And then there is this thing with balance. Steady work means steady income but it comes at the price of less self-time and less time for writing. Often when I get home from work in the afternoon I am to tired to sit down and write and I end up wasting the hours before bedtime or I do a little plot-planning and structuring of existing chapters/scenes etcetera.

I don’t feel like I am getting anywhere. Like I am stuck. This makes me somewhat frustrated and even if I look at my life, what I have and the possibilities I have I can’t get rid of the feeling of being bored, tired and pretty much sick of everything around me. I find myself wishing to disappear and start over someplace else. I really don’t want to be another one of those who get stuck at a boring regular work and then forgets about the dreams and the endless possibilities that could come with it.

I don’t have the tools for it. Or, maybe more accurate, I don’t know where I have put my tools to deal with it. So I stumble along…

The other aspect of things is inside a question I often ask myself: how important is writing for you? I’d like to say: without it I would have no reason to exist. Is that true? I’m not sure but I do know that if I don’t write for a few days or weeks I get really weird and somewhat depressed and secondly, I think about stories and plots and lines all the time.

So for me writing is really what I live for these days but, as mentioned earlier, I have a real struggle finding (read: taking) the time to write and do actual work on my projects. Recently I did quit my role as chairman of a theater and in doing so I did also leave everything else at the theater. It sucks as the theater was my second home and I loved that place but I had to take something out of my life in order to make more room for the other things: writing. Quitting my job is not an option as I need the income.

Planning does not make shit happen. Only I can make shit happen. My life is in my control and it will become whatever I work the hardest for.

Polyphasic Sleep Pattern – Update 3.0

A while ago I went headfirst into the ideas behind Polyphasic Sleep and thought that it could be of great help as I have had-and still have-troubles with my sleeping; mainly I sleep to much.

After I had taken a look into the many different variations of this sleep-system I decided to give the Everyman a try, with a small modification to suit my work schedule. Said and done I went for it. I did fail with a massive sleep five days in; missed a complete workday and completely messed up the continuation of this sleeping schedule.

So what happened after that catastrophic failure? Well, I got in touch with the healthcare service through work and now, after the “initial talk” I will be seeing a doctor to take some basic tests to rule out any kind of low nutrition, minerals, vitamins or whatever. After that, who knows… I was told that I might be sent to a specialist, a psychiatrist of some sort to really get down into the deep with my sleep problems.

As it stands. Everything is going fine until one day-seemingly random-I fall asleep for twenty-four hours or more. My guess is stress-related issues that I am not aware of as of yet. We’ll see how things pans out. It would be lovely to get a hold of my sleeping and get rid of those super long sleeps.

So for now I will continue my life as if everything is fine. Sleep like a “normal” person and just hope I can find the “problem” with help from doctors and the likes.

The Writing Process – Family or Writing First?

Family or Writing first?

This post is as much a tool for myself - to get an overlook of what I need to do in order for me to come back into the groove - as much as it could be of some help for other writers out there, like yourself. It can always be good to take a step back and have a look at "how am I doing?" because in time one tend to get a little off track, distracted by, as an example, the Internet Of Things.

What I have tried to write here is a help to get your writing going (if you lost it) or pushed even further if you already are going somewhat strong but could need a little push for that little extra.

See it as tips and not a template as everything are different from writer to writer.

1. Introduction

We have all been there, down the alley that holds nothing but locked doors and the key is nowhere to be found. You stumble around looking for it. We blame someone else for hiding it, having lost it. We blame outside forces for taking up all our time so we have non left for the creative art, like a “regular” job. It’s easy to blame someone or something else for one’s inability to sit down and write that next piece that haunts the mind around the clock.

In fact, the key to the locks are in your pocket, it has been all the time. All you have to do is reach for it. It’s as simple as that. Yet it can be difficult. The difficulty, as I see it, is: as soon as you reach for that key and unlock the doors you have no more excuses to not write. It’s now all on you – as it has always been – but this time around it’s definite.

Surly you can open the doors, have a peak inside and decide to lock them again and put the key back into your pocket and return to whatever else you might do with your life and feel your soul decaying with regret.

That should not be an option! I have done it, many times and I feel as bad every time I do it.

In the light of this I have decided to make this post, as a guide not just for myself but for others struggling with their writing process. I like to call it Writing Process as in my mind it includes so much more than just “how you write”; it’s the creative space, the mindset, time of day, consumables etcetera.

2. Different Writers – Different Setups

We all have different preferences. Some call them self night owls (myself included) but that does not mean I am the most creative at night. Certain writers like public spaces while others hide in the attic. Some booze them self while others are happy with just coffee. There is no right or wrong, just the perfect setup for your creative personal self.

The problem lies in finding this creative space, this perfect setup (if there’s even such a thing?).  First you need to get the key from out of your pocket and unlock the door. Try this space out – rearrange the furniture’s, change the mood of the space with lightning and fabrics, experiment. You might think you love a certain way and that’s the way it has to be, but if you are like me – stuck – you might want to reconsider and try something new. New is always good as it brings opportunity to learn.

As I said earlier, I consider myself a night person but in fact I write the best in silence of the early mornings before sunrise, accompanied by a freshly brew of coffee. I discovered this by chance when I accidentally woke early and decided to get up, which is uncommon for me to do, the get up part.

If you are stuck I recommend you to make big changes. The worst thing that could happen is that you find new sides of yourself, and that’s not so bad.

Here’s a small list of things to consider:

  • Time of day: a fresh mind might be helpful even if you are tired.
  • The Workspace: A dedicated home office might be good. Some prefer the closest coffee shop, others the kitchen. We all have our preferences.
  • Sounds: You like complete silence or some background noise? From the TV, a radio, music? Maybe people chattering away, a podcast?
  • Consumables: Coffee, tea, alcohol, snacks, cigarettes? Nothing? A combination?

3. Loved Ones and Using the Space

This is a tough one. Creating the perfect home office for writing might seem like a hard nut to crack but in fact all you have to do is to dedicate a space, stuff some furniture’s, fabrics and lightning in it and you are pretty much set. Rearrange or replace if something does not work. Simple.

But to use the space for what it’s designed for. That’s a lot different. It’s easy to escape to the space and just sit there and think about writing, a means of escape from whatever haunts you in the outside world. That will certainly ruin your creative space and turn it into a nothing-room and you will once again be back at square one – a locked door.

Learn from my mistake: I used my creative space as an excuse to get away which ultimately lead to the destruction of my relationship with my now ex-girlfriend.

Every time you enter your newly creative space whether it is a home office, the kitchen or the coffee shop down the street, go there with the pure intention of writing and nothing else. Surly, one might have to access the kitchen outside of writing but you know what I mean, right? Be true to yourself about this. Everyone will thank you for it in the long run, most importantly you yourself.

This is important: Don’t get to selfish. If you have a family, a girlfriend/boyfriend, roommate – whatever. Include them in your process and the search for your ultimate creative space. They need to understand! I can not stress this enough. THEY NEED TO UNDERSTAND and you need them to understand, otherwise they will not be able to respect the privacy you might need and so they will turn into a distraction you will want to get away from. It will harm you and your loved ones.

So to conclude this section, here’s a few bullet points to consider:

  • Actual space: create (or go to) your perfect space with the pure intent of writing. Otherwise – stay away!
  • Get family in on the ride: make them understand and respect your writing space and process.
  • Be determined: Do what you need in order write.

4. Creating Routines

For me personally this is one of the hardest things in life. I suck at creating and maintaining a solid healthy routines whether it is sleep, food, hygiene, cleaning and dishes or when I write. It’s basically a mess.

I sometimes promise myself to start being determined, to be disciplined in my writing and I end up planning away day by day and by the time I am done I am overwhelmed by the facts: there’s not enough time to make it by set deadline. I end up stressed about it and can’t focus on what’s important: writing. Hence, I fall behind even further.

To battle this I intend to make new and healthy routines and get back into a functioning something. It’s all good to write down all the different aspects of your life and find a pattern of how stuff works, what you need to change so you can reach the set goals and deadlines. But it only works if you stick to it. Which requires discipline and determination. Yes I know I am repeating myself but this is consciously done as this aspect of a functioning existence is key to make great progress with one’s writing.

Get rid of distractions as soon as possible for they will destroy you from the inside like cancer.

As part of battling this laziness – if you will – I try to get somewhat dressed up. It make you feel like as you are heading to work, putting your mind into a time-to-work-state instead of a lazy-day-in-the-couch. This particular action works well – at least for me – when I have a dedicated writing space to go to. But there’s so much more one can do: eat at regular times of the day; take breaks at set times; having a end-of-day time.

To go further. I am almost always distracted mentally by the mess I live in, with undone dishes, a pile of dirty cloths and a home in desperate need of cleaning. I’ve had other distractions like my chairman position at a theater, which I now have ended to give myself some more space for my own creative time. Social Media is also a big distraction. Mostly YouTube, where I can end up wasting hours until the day ends and I realize I have done nothing noteworthy and I go to bed with a mind filled with thoughts of all the things I should have done, need to do and disappointed in myself for letting this distraction take control over me once again and how it need to stop.

This part – creating routines and breaking bad habits – might possibly be the toughest part for a lot of writers out there. But there’s hope and it comes with determination and discipline.

And here are a few more bullet points to summarize this section:

  • Dedicate time: a couple of hours a day throughout the week. Be resonable with deadlines. 2000 words a day might not seem so much but in reality, it can be overwhelming.
  • New routines: Make a list of all the things you need to change in order to get the time and space needed. Stick to it through think and thin. Check them off as you get along.
  • Clothing: to dress in something other than a jumpsuit as if you were to head to a meeting might help.
  • Distractions: Just get rid of them!

5. Make shit happen

Everything’s fine so far. You have your space. New routines are taking shape. The family is with you all the way. Now it’s time to get down to business – make shit happen.

Easy? Yes it is, if WRITING is what you live for! Or maybe not so easy. It’s like with all lines of work. You have your days when you just want to stay home and do nothing. And those days can exist and might have to exist for the good days to be meaningful.

How could you be happy(or know that you are) if sadness did not exist?

But writing is an artform that requires nurture and lots of hard work, many hours of ripping the hair and gallons of coffee (or whatever you prefer to drink). If you respect it and treat it for what it is: a daily job, even if it’s beside another one and does not pay any bills (yet). And as with any job you need time off, a free weekend, vacation and leisure days and you have to take them, but not overdo them. Be resonable.

Another aspect of the Writing Process, which could easily be it’s own section, is the two-faced approach: rough drafting first or write and edit simultaneously? We are all different here. I mostly rough draft when writing but before each new writing session I read through the previous part I’ve written and while doing so end up changing a few things here and there before continuing. I find that working for me as it brings me up to speed, as I can sometimes forget details that might be important for the continuation.

What are you waiting for? Time to get bussy writing…

  • Respect your own art: treat it well. Nurture it.
  • Allow yourself Zero-days: a none writing leisure day.
  • The approach: Editing while writing or Write first and edit later?
If you found this post inspiring and helpful, please feel free to share it, like it and comment on it. If you did not, please tell me what I did miss. What could I change?