Tag Archives: improvement

Resolute in Resolutions

A lot of what goes on in the last few days of the year revolve around resolutions. I can’t say I haven’t heard anything, because I’ve heard more about New Year’s Resolutions in the past weeks than I have in the past few months combined. For good reason and obvious reason.

One very resounding thought I’ve heard that strays from the rest, however, is to ditch the resolution altogether.

Resolutions, ultimately, are goals. They’re something to strive for, something you want to do, something you want to happen in that year. So in January, it’s no surprise that the gym is packed full, because people are trying to reach weight loss goals and get toned and in shape by the time that they really want.

If there’s something I learned the hard way, it is that goals take time. The quicker something is done, the easier all of that work can be undone, because your mentality then becomes, “I can just do it again in this amount of time and be fine.” So you put it off and do things that are more enjoyable, because you know you can make up for lost time. You do the things you shouldn’t, and further yourself away from the progress you made.

These things take time. Don’t give up what you want to do, unless you’ve realized you want to do something else. Whatever it is, even if you lapse, don’t just stop. Don’t count yourself out completely, because there’s always going to be time.

If not now, when?

Just because it’s so many days past the first of the year does not count you out, either. Shaping better writing habits, filling notebooks, finishing a novel, writing a poem a day, or whatever it is your writing goal for the year may or may not be,  starts when you want it to. You do not need to measure your success by the year and how much time there is of it left. In the end, the goal of goals, of resolutions, is to improve your life, from that point on, and not just for the year.

One of my personal preferences when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions is to stick with it until it’s done. You repeat that same resolution until you’ve reached it. If you decide it’s not what you want, then you can drop it, but pick up a new goal to help you get to work on that passion, or dream, or idea.

When it comes to writing goals, or any, really, and you find they’re daunting and intimidating as ever, pause, look at the work load. Shave it down, make it possible for you to keep up in the beginning. The only way you get to where you want to be, is by building a strong foundation to stand on.

Let’s take daily writing, for example. What’s the wordcount you want to achieve daily? Or is it simply to write something, anything, every day? As you go on, you find what you really want, and what you think counts more. Write fiction every day, or a blog post? It doesn’t have to be targeted, if it’s easier for you to achieve, writing is writing, after all, though eventually, you might find yourself targeting what you want to write most.

This happens with a lot of things. As you get better, stronger, or more frequent, you figure out where your problem areas are or what you want to focus on, and it shapes what you do.

That’s the other thing about resolutions, you can’t expect to do the same thing over and over. As you change, so does your routine! It’s a good thing! Change means you’re dynamic, you’re making progress!

And you don’t have to have big resolutions, either. They can be small. Small is not a problem– some people go all out and adapt to the “go big or go home” philosophy and end up burning themselves out before they even really give themselves a chance. Taking on something you know you can accomplish is the first step to being able to tackle bigger things without even realizing it.

Don’t let anything drag you down. When you look ahead at what your dream is, you need to see that there’s a journey to it, and it starts with a step, however weak or strong it is, but it is everything that you put into it. So whatever your resolutions or goals are this year, don’t forget to be kind to yourself while you start the path of progress.

I’m certainly rooting for you!

-The Novice Wordsmith

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Compression Calf Guards and Performance

I know the title is a little odd, but stick with me on this one.

I’ve been considering this post since I got my compression calf guards early this month. The reason being for that is mostly because I try constantly to make links between running and writing. They’re so similar to me, one because they’re both such great passions of mine and two because they seem so obvious (probably because I work through them both so often).

Out on a run (unsurprising) today, I thought about it again. I ditched the guards because it was short and I had very little desire for big effort. Today it was running to run and help boost how I’d been feeling all day, and putting on the guards is like shoving my legs in tight clothing that I desperately want to wear.

After three years, I’m finally making bigger improvements in my endurance, and that’s in thanks to the guards, because they help block out the pain and make it much easier for me to push without worrying about splints or aches. I’m able to focus on speed and distance instead of my condition and forget everything but my feet on the pavement and my swift movement down the road or up the hill.

Every thing is different. Every skill and talent, every hobby you pick up or class you look into, it’s all got fundamental difference, but in essence, some of it can come to be very similar. What’s similar is the broader parts, like getting ‘gear’ to help you improve.

Which does work. Some things will help your performance in a lot of ways, but another thing I realized in the past few weeks of thinking about this topic was that, really, there is no “compression sleeve” equivalent to writing.

A lot of the time, the only things that help you improve in writing are location, what you surround yourself with visually and audibly, and the kind of inspiration you seek out. It’s about the journals you fill and the programs you use and the music you do or don’t listen to. The other writers you read, the books you immerse yourself in, the worlds you dive into day after day, hour after hour, because you cannot get enough and you don’t want to.

It’s organization or lack thereof. It’s in your head and your hands and less about bells and whistles than it is about expanding on the basics.

All of them will always have one very central thing in common, though, and that is the love, dedication and effort you put in to that work, to get better, to see yourself achieve what you know you’re capable of, to reach your dreams and to be more and more each time.

Some hobbies can take more money to help you get better, others only need you to see things differently. There are no limits, only what you put in front of yourself.

Mental blocks are the worst, and some of the hardest things I’ve ever had to overcome. There’s still one street I run down that I can do easily one way fully, but coming back up it is the worst task in the world because of how I visualized it when I was still a beginner.

Today had been a big eye-opener in this case because, without the sleeves, I nearly ran the entire length of my route without stopping, which I haven’t ever done before, though I’ve been getting closer lately.

We remember where we’ve had a tough time before and it sticks with us. The best way to break through is to go a different route completely. Freshen, liven, and see what you can achieve when your head doesn’t think that you’re doing the same thing. Do something new, and throw in something positive about it, and see how far it takes you.

This goes for everything. If you’re having a hard time with a chapter or story or trying to get something out specifically, you will remember how hard it was before. Changing tone or perspective can make a world of difference.

I’m still trying to tackle that street every chance I get, to make it through as far and as fast as possible, because maybe then, I can overwrite the negativity I wrote in so early.

What I see a lot of when it comes to mentality and running and writing is that it’s all in what you say to yourself. Can you see that you can do it, or are you telling yourself that it’s impossible? Do you know that you have it in yourself, or are you making sure you don’t? It’s easy to short yourself, but look for the more optimistic side of things, even if you don’t believe it at first.

For so long, I wasn’t sure that I could even do much of anything with my writing. After getting a hard conversation out of Friend about my writing and the habits I had with it, I was resigned either to shrug off the idea of writing as a career choice or taking it head on and trying everything I could to make it.

A year later, I sat back with Friend at my side in a resort and was on my way to a journey to 100k words in a month, after writing almost daily for four months, and making so many stories I was immensely proud of at that point.

Getting a little more off topic, I had another friend who told me she thought that achieving her dreams was a stupid ideology and that it’s impossible. Maybe it’s my own personal experience that leads me to believe that you can with hard work and dedication. Maybe I’m naive and haven’t had enough negativity thrown into the mix to keep me down and out. I was convinced at one point, too, that I’d never find a job, and felt completely trapped, but that changed, too.

Perspective is everything, sometimes. Whether you need help from gear or programs, or just a fresh scenery, you won’t always be stuck.

– The Novice Wordsmith

Big-itis

When I was younger, the most intimidating thing for me was writing a novel. I always thought I couldn’t commit or I couldn’t spend that much time, or effort, or put something together that was an intricate, good story.

And now, I have Big-itis, both in the form of finding so many different ideas to create into novels instead of short stories, or to work on long-term, and in the form of running so long with my writing that I’ve barely reached the beginning meat of the novel’s rising action and it’s the halfway point of the month.

Part of it is inflation: I wanted to reach wordcount so many days that had been so badly off and struggling for me that I just drolled on and on without a care in the world and racked it up. I indulged in detail where I could have summarized, and I put in action where I should be just moving forward. So now my main character has had two physical problems happen to her and she hasn’t even gotten on the road yet… Not to mention that I just realized, a love interest hasn’t even been introduced.

It is easy to get caught in this loop. Inflating until you hit where you need to be is a good way to get the obligation done for the day and move on to other things. The other part is lack of motivation, or creativity for the day, stalling out and not being so certain where to go next.

I have a friend who was going to write in a certain style, of extra detail with every little moment, just to get wordcount. When the goal feels far away and you don’t feel like you can reach it, sometimes the first thing to do is just to add until you get there instead of letting your head run wild and coming up with new plot ninjas or something to keep the story running, or to stop it.

It sort of defeats the purpose sometimes, of writing daily. It gets you to sit down and commit, but sometimes when all you do is throw words at it, are you really making much of an improvement?

Don’t let Bigitis catch you! Give everything extra thought, keep those gears turning and continue to drum up new and innovative ideas to get the characters talking. Filler should only be there in case of an emergency, sort of like a swinging door; it can be there, or it can’t. You can even keep it from swinging back in one direction by taking it out later, in revision.

The story, however, needs you to keep writing in a productive direction. Don’t let it down! Bigitis can only take you so far!

-The Novice Wordsmith

PS: Happy Hundreth Post! Woo!

World Building, World Sharing

So I “bought” (it was actually free, as a gift for being an Amazon Prime member) a book yesterday, and I finished it today, and what I noticed is that, when you read that much, you immerse yourself totally into that universe.

Whether you liked the story, where it takes place sticks with you, good or bad. Depending on how much you like pieces of it, you might find yourself wanting to write in it, taking the world that someone else built and creating in it. Though the world itself isn’t originally yours, you see so many possibilities within it and can’t help but run wild.

This happened a lot to me when I was starting out, but I never created my own worlds. I was always too scared. I had a friend who would prattle on about the language he was creating for a world he made up months ago, the maps he was drawing out, and just how immersed he was in the whole thing. And I still remember that feeling of embarrassed intimidation, that I wasn’t as good as he was and that I could never get that far with something as he had.

It’s funny when I look back on it now, because I’ve found myself thinking of languages and certain barriers to consider in a huge, wide universe, and I drew a map for a world I was working on just a few weeks past… Then again, it’s been over ten years now, and I’ve come quite a ways from the beginning.

Even a decade later, though, I still find myself wanting to write in someone else’s universe, though I know I’m wholly capable of being original and doing things on my own. The difference lies in indulging someone else’s creation, which I do with Friend a lot. He and I have created a lot together, and on the other hand, he created a universe I took over.

There’s just something about a steampunk-feel world of wizardry based on materials (paper, rubber, plastic, metal) that I just can’t get enough of though. (Just in case you were wondering the book is The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg ) It’s hard not to have the possibilities spring up on you where you go, “OH!” and want to write. Hell, I’ve felt this way for several different things, and I think that’s when you know the setting or the story has really clicked with you.

Creating on your own is something that takes time. We start off standing, and then we can walk, and then eventually we progress into running. Some people start off making their own worlds, but the quality is what changes the most. It goes from simple to detailed and flourishing. Wordsmith at 12 couldn’t come up with a universe half as beautiful as  Wordsmith at 24 did.

And there’s something I think of every time I bring this up, progress and improvement: an album someone put together of their drawings from when they were a kid up to the point they were at the time of the posting. You can see how someone gets better from the beginning to the latest point. It’s just remarkable, to me, I love seeing that. The same goes for writing; you can see how your style develops over time, and things you miss and place in on purpose.

I was one who started worldbuilding in another world. And then I just stuck to someone else’s worlds until I wanted out, to make something for myself, and really expand and create on my own in ways that I couldn’t with the pre-established ones.

Don’t ever be afraid to dabble in someone else’s world (provided there’s consent and copyrights aren’t being violated and all the legal nonsense doesn’t get involved…), and there’s nothing wrong with staying in that world until you’re comfortable making your own. And if you’d rather not make your own, that’s perfectly good, too.

Go at your pace, seems to be the message throughout a lot of my posts, I notice. Go at your pace, do what you enjoy, and chase down every piece of creativity you can find in any way you like. Can’t go wrong there.

-The Novice Wordsmith