Tag Archives: motivation

Push and Shove

Reminder to self and followers: There is such a thing as pushing too hard. Stop doing it. You’re going to effing hurt yourself.

Sometimes, all it really takes is time off. Though you may not want to let your fingers rest on the keys or put the pen or pencil away, or even tuck the sneakers and exercise bag away, it is, at some point, going to be best that you do.

Relax.

As my own experience has taught me, shaped by perfectionism, completionism, and competitive spirits, as well as a fresh and lively fear of failure, you can go too far. You get sick or your head doesn’t work as well, creativity is down, but when you have a streak staring you down that you haven’t broken, and a chance to keep it going, you can become a slave to regulation and forget that you’re human. That you need time off sometimes to recoup and get better.

The story can wait. The words will come. Do not force it. The road is always going to be there, the gym, the laptop, the journal. The only person you are disappointing by not doing it that day because you know you can’t, is yourself.

When I was younger, on a swim team and at conferences, a popular phrase I’d hear is, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” I used to be kind of gray on how I felt about it, but recently, a friend has shown me that it’s the devil. It’s a clever way to force you past your limits and get you injured. The same can hold true for your writing, absolutely, but in different ways.

Stick with me…

On paper somewhere, post it notes or a notepad on your computer, an idea is sitting there waiting to be had, and you love it, you fell in love, which is why you had to write it down. Except, right now, you can’t get motivated, but you told yourself you’d do it, so you start…

Stop. It’s going to feel strained, your writing, your language is going to look like it’s not all there, like your heart isn’t totally in it, and it’s not, is it? When you throw yourself into a pit that you don’t have the strength to climb out of, you trap yourself.

And the hardest thing I’ve had to teach myself is that it’s okay to fail. That it’s okay to stop for the day and let it slide. Don’t let it become habit, but let yourself move on to something else, and come back when your heart reaches for it. Like I’ve said in The Fires of Passion Part 1, and Part 2, if your heart is in it, it’ll be easier, you’ll know what turns and hooks you want to put in, you’ll dig in deeper and put your all in it.

I had a huge lesson smack me in the face about the time that I started this blog. That failure is a part of life and I need to stop running myself through when something doesn’t live up to my expectations. Or it doesn’t exceed expectations, or something disappoints me, or I don’t do well at all. To step back and say, okay, I’m okay with this.

I have gotten better, but Rome wasn’t built in a day and I have a long way to go. When you can see what you have or haven’t done in hard numbers, it becomes more difficult to give yourself a pass. You hold yourself accountable, you hold more against yourself, and you simply don’t let yourself off easy. It’s harder to relax.

Completion is most difficult because you see that you haven’t done something and you force yourself to do it all. I once did exercise on a day I knew was not good for it because I had taken rest days through the week already, and made myself sick for the majority of the day. April Camp Nano was struggled through and I forced myself to finish a chapter and put it in the book when I absolutely hated what I came up with.

Then you have the inspirational crap you see all day, on Facebook, on Tumblr. I personally see a lot of, “Suck it up and keep going,” not verbatim, but to that effect, and I’ve gotten to a point where it pushes me to get off my ass.

It is okay to stop. It is okay, natural, human nature, to feel frustrated and stuck, because it happens, but you know, at least you should, that it will not always be like that. Sometimes, you’re just not going to be able to write every single day, your head won’t be in it, you’ll have decreased motivation. It will happen, and it is okay.

I guess in a lot of ways this is a reminder to myself. Another step forward in seeing what I’ve been doing to myself and forcing myself, in better ways, to relax. To breathe, and to see that I’m human and sometimes, I can’t always do everything.

Progress is gradual, and slow. If running and writing have taught me anything, that would be it. You’re going to hate some things you put out, but someone else might love it. So write on, or feel free to stop. Pause. Recuperate. Breathe. Pushing yourself isn’t always going to be best or wisest. You know yourself and your body and your limits and your brain best, you make the rules, but don’t cut yourself short when you know you can do more, when you’re capable.

My favorite piece of advice I’ve had to myself is that, hard work looks ugly. It’s not all smiling models, it’s gritted teeth and tongues sticking out in thought, it’s hunched over the keyboard and hair a mess. It’s natural and normal and life. Don’t let the pictures fool you. Sweat. Pour your soul in. Let it out, unleash, and without hesitation.

Just be careful of overdoing it. It’s possible.

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

Morning Time, Writing Time

Instead of writing, I’m contemplating it, and instead really wanting to faceplant. After going to bed too late last night, and then tossing and turning for another half hour, I finally got to sleep, only to be woken by my dreaded alarm clock.

Part time work is not stressful or that big of a deal, but every other weekend, I work 12 hour shifts on Saturday and Sunday, as a receptionist. So, I have a lot of time to kill where I’m waiting for stuff to happen or nothing is happening and I’m left to my own devices. Such in this case, writing, working on a blog this morning, and, when I have a particular amount of inspiration and enthusiasm, getting through prompts and stories and chapters of novels.

Yesterday, that was difficult, and that alone was hard for me to swallow. Having all that open space to write is usually enough of a motivator that I get my claws into something and don’t let go until it’s all finished.

Today that’s made more difficult by the lack of sleep I got. And the headache that’s dull and pounding at the side of my head. Though, I know that I don’t need to write every day, but it’s such a habit now that every day I don’t do it, it just feels odd. It feels wrong not to be working on something… But, just as well, forcing something isn’t going to make it happen any easier, smoother, or better.

Sometimes, it’s just better to leave it, if you’re not feeling it. And instead fantasize about beds and pillows and quilts.

-The Novice Wordsmith

Guest Writer: Write Anywhere, Write Everywhere

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed doing this past week with the Wordsmith is just exploring the world.   It’s one thing to sit at home, with Google search at your fingertips, and Wikipedia at your beck and call, it’s another to actually just _go_ places to see them with your own eyes.

Despite having a laptop computer that I do all of my writing on, I still carry a notebook with me anywhere I go, whenever I can’t bring the laptop; it is full of hastily scribbled ideas, notes on things I’ve found, and sketches of fanciful things, along with phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and outlines of novels and short stories yet to be.   I try not to miss a chance to write down an awesome idea, lest I forget it by the time I get home.

Anything and everything you see can be put into a novel somehow.   From the most ordinary objects to the breathtakingly beautiful (or incredibly tacky), to little bits of trivia and history tucked away in corners of the world that don’t always advertise themselves very well.

Then there are those chance events that you encounter in your journeys; live people doing the unexpected,  fellow storytellers able and willing to swap stories, and moments of serendipity — there is no other word for it sometimes.

None of these things will likely happen to you if you remain in your ‘writing space’, content to see the world only through someone else’s eyes.   Text and photos on a web page do not do some things justice.

But is it necessary, you may ask, to go travel anywhere where you plan on doing things on location?    Some of the greatest writers believed so.   While you don’t absolutely have to take a one month vacation to Borneo to write about it, you can’t go wrong with choosing to make your next vacation a writing excercise anyway, wherever it might be.

The world is about textures, smells, feelings, sounds, and local foods you can’t get at home.   It’s unusual happenstances that required the unique combination of ‘right time’, ‘right place’ or occasionally ‘wrong time, wrong place’.    Even unpleasant experiences can be rewarding in their own right — if you survive.

Moments of serendipity are the lifeblood of any adventure novel, no matter what the genre you might be writing in, you can adapt the reality to fit the unreality.

For example, Wordsmith and I visited a museum that had a lot of gold rush mining exhibits and other artifacts of the 1850’s.   A stained glass window of St. Patrick  rescued from a demolished church is destined to find a home somewhere; its sister window had a pair of ornate keys in its display that definitely will become part of a mystery novel.   Meanwhile, the high-pressure hydraulic mining nozzle outside will have a place in a science fiction novel for futuristic mining purposes, while the docent’s recounting of what water wagons (and also where the origin of the phrase ‘on the wagon’ came from)  will likely come in handy in our next steampunk novels, perhaps.

All of this came from a single day, a single ‘hey, what about this place’ and a journey that started by asking not just ‘what if…’  but also ‘when.’

Not all of us are so lucky to have a traveling partner, or a mentor, or a means to get away from it all to see things that are, in fact, ‘away’.   But the truth of the matter is that anyplace that is ‘out’ is some smaller or larger degree of ‘away’.

And every ‘away’ game makes you a visitor in places that are at least passing strange, near or far.

So take a journey, and have a listen.   Maybe stay awhile and make some new friends.   I ran out of business cards today, letting people know I appreciated their time that they shared with me, and offering up a bit more of mine if they ever found a need to share another story.

Don’t just cultivate memories in photos you rarely look at again.  Choose to experience people, places, and things, and tell their story, no matter how imperfectly reproduced or turned into a variation on the theme, and you’ll start understanding that everything you do is a story of its own.  To bastardize a quote from The Lion King:

“Everything your life touches is your realm — of personal experience, that is.   You just have to learn how to be king of it all.”

Walking Around the Writer’s Block

The irony of this post for me right now is that I’ve spent so many hours trying to figure out how to write it, if I should, and if not, what should I write instead. For that reason, it’s a perfect candidate, and I’ll use it as an example.

There are plenty of reasons why one gets writer’s block in the first place. It’s a lack of motivation in what’s up next, it’s apprehension for tackling it initially, or it’s not knowing what to do or say, if the style you’re using is the right one, or if your word choice could use work. It’s worry, either too much or not enough, not being excited enough about what to do or not having enough of an idea of where to go.

For me, I have to have an outline of where I’m going, I have to have a clue. When I finally sit down, I want to know where the words are going to take me, to see the outline, to know how vague it is and what kind of limits I have or don’t have. Sometimes, giving me carte blanche  is overwhelming, and other times, it’s like giving me a playground and telling me that I don’t have a curfew and that it’ll be bug-free after the sun goes down.

I have the pleasure this month of writing a story with my best friend for the Camp Nanowrimo* event. The problem here is that we’re two totally different writers when we have a month of daily writing ahead of us. He’s what you’d call a “panster,” or someone who writes the story as it comes to him, and I have to have as much organization and outlining as I possibly can. What happened in the beginning of the month was that I stalled out, to a point, that when the clock started, where I usually start sprinting, I walked at a light pace, because I didn’t know what was ahead of me.

My comfort level is such that I find a block, a halting point, when I don’t know where I’m going. For others, especially my friend, it’s no problem. Though I’ll admit that as soon as I had a basic starting point, I went with it, and we have yet to fall into a huge plot hole (thankfully).

Other signs of writer’s block definitely include feeling like writing is a chore. When it gets to that point, look for other ideas of how to handle the situation that you’re dealing with. What is the character going through, is there a better way to do it? Is there a way that would be less detrimental, is the difficulty in the fact that you don’t like the idea, or because you’re not sure how to start it?

Getting overwhelmed is easy, too, if you have a huge project ahead of you. Such in the case of exam week, “I have so much to do, I think I’ll go take a nap.” Take the nap, though, relax, and try to break it into smaller segments, do what you can to make the big thing less scary, so you can give it a hug and keep moving through the story.

One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was just starting to get more serious about writing was to “just write.” I was originally very worried that I wasn’t going to be able to put visualization to what I had in my head correctly, and I shied away from writing for a long while for that reason. The best thing to do is to get it out any way you can, even if it’s small, a short scene with a couple of lines of dialogue.

In example; I’d had a scene in my head from January that kept prodding me. The problem with getting it out was that there was nowhere to go with it. It was a simple scene of one character saying something to another in a desert, but what made it stand out was the intensity between them, and what brought them together.

What I graced over lightly earlier was that my issue with finally getting this post out was that I couldn’t figure out what to say. I didn’t know how to say it or what sort of tone was going to be appropriate. I tried to make a very flowery entrance work for a couple of hours, and then promptly gave up for something more casual. I’m mostly certain people would rather read something by someone who speaks in a way they can relate to than someone who goes on in the most poetic way possible. Which, by the way, is the furthest thing from natural for me on a regular basis.

Whatever your poison is, there’s an antidote for you, whether it’s finding other ways to go about your scene or scenes, taking a break, or pushing forward. All it takes is a little effort, and some desire to keep going.

– The Novice Wordsmith

* Camp Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) is an event that takes place in two months out of the year, in spring/summer, dedicated to revisions and writing whatever your heart desires, you set the goal. http://campnanowrimo.org